Without the services of Zach Parise and Nate Prosser on Saturday, the Wild's lineup, which has remained the same in each of its past two games, will see a few changes against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Christoph Bertschy will make his NHL debut on Saturday, and wear number 47. In 12 games for the Iowa Wild this season, Bertschy was tied for the most points with six, the most goals with two, and the most assists with four.
"I'm pretty excited," Bertschy said. "Obviously a little bit nervous, but pretty excited for the game, and hope it's going to be a good game."
Bertschy said system wise, Minnesota and Iowa are pretty much the same, which will make the transition easier. Head Coach Mike Yeo got an opportunity to watch Bertschy throughout training camp.
"He had a pretty good camp, I thought he got better as camp went on, and I've been told that he's been doing a really good job down in Iowa, and he's been their best, most consistent player there," Yeo said. "He's got skill, but what I do like is he's a real competitive kid from what I've heard, and what I've seen so far."
Bertchy, who spent the past four years playing with Bern in the top division of the Swiss League is in some respects still getting acclimated to elements of the North American game.
"The surface is smaller, so obviously you have much less time, but last year with Bern in Switzerland we played a pretty North American-style hockey, so system-wise it wasn't that big of a deal," Bertschy said. "The surface is causing most of the problems."
A Swiss native, Bertschy said he is comfortable at his locker stall to the left of countryman Nino Niederreiter, and with Thomas Vanek to his right, whom he said he could speak German with.
"I didn’t expect [a call-up] that soon, so yeah, it's pretty shocking, but I'll try to do my best, an don't be too nervous," Bertschy said. "I called my family yesterday evening, so they're pretty excited for me."
Expected back in the lineup on defense is Christian Folin, who has been a healthy scratch the past four games.
"It was pretty tough," Folin said of sitting out. "When I was playing, I was playing some pretty good hockey, and it's up to the coaching staff to make those decisions, but you have to make the most of the opportunity you get, and I'm really excited for tonight."
After practice on Friday, Yeo said Folin would face a stiff test right away against a quick, skilled Lightning team.
"That will be good for him as far as how he jumps back into that pace," Yeo said. "One thing that's real important when you play against a team like that is your execution, and he's a guy that can help us with that."
Yeo also said on Friday independent of the challenges the Wild faces without two regulars is that Minnesota needs to play better than it did on Thursday against the Nashville Predators when both Parise and Prosser sustained injuries.
"Hopefully we get to a situation where we can just kind of roll the lines, and everybody is on top of their game, and we don't have to make a lot of switches," Yeo said after morning skate on Saturday. "The main focus has to be on our team game.
"That's number one how we're going to have success, and number two, that's how you're going to build chemistry with the guys that you're playing with."
Parise and Prosser Updates
In General Manager Chuck Fletcher's words: "All things considered, in terms of knee injuries, it was the best-case scenario."
Parise has a sprained MCL in his right knee, and will be evaluated week-to-week. Fletcher said it's a bit different than Justin Fontaine's injury, which is why it’s difficult to give more clarity on the timetable for Parise's return.
"It certainly isn't months, it's not days, but he'll clearly be out this week," Fletcher said. "Next week, we'll have a better feel for how the recovery is going."
While Fletcher said the Wild has the depth and versatility in its lineup to deal with injuries, there's no replacing Parise
"You don't have a player in Iowa you can call up that can just put on Zach's jersey and go out and play the same role," Fletcher said. "Players can move up, and Mike is going to try some different things, and we'll see what works."
Prosser has an injured back, and Fletcher said he is day-to-day. The injury was sustained after Prosser took a crosscheck during the game on Thursday against the Predators.
"We're fortunate there," Fletcher said. "He's sore, but hopefully it won't be too long."
Here is the Wild's projected lineup:
Jason Zucker – Mikko Koivu – Nino Niederreiter
Charlie Coyle – Mikael Granlund – Jason Pominville
Thomas Vanek – Erik Haula – Christoph Bertschy
Chris Porter – Ryan Carter – Jordan Schroeder
Ryan Suter – Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin – Matt Dumba
Christian Folin – Marco Scandella
PREGAME HAPPY HOUR
Start Saturday's festivities a little earlier with our pre-game happy hour, from 4:45pm - 6:45pm, on top of the box office at Xcel Energy Center.
Two full bars will be serving Anheuser-Busch beers, liquor and Chankaska wine, as well as 20oz bottles of soda and water as you gear up for tonight’s match-up against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Popcorn, chips, and candy will also be available for purchase.