The Minnesota Wild should have two New Year’s resolutions: get healthy and earn wins in close games. The club can’t really control the former, but will get a chance at the latter to start 2015 against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.
First from the infirmary, defenseman Jonas Brodin will re-enter the lineup tonight after missing the two previous contests with an upper-body injury. The blueliner said that he’s “100 percent” and feels like he hasn’t missed much time. He has been skating for the past three days. Brodin said that the hit from Winnipeg Jets defenseman, Grant Clitsome, was “my bad” because he fell as he was taking the hit.
Forward Jason Zucker, who has missed the last three games with an illness, is a game-time decision. The forward got sick the day after Christmas and lost nine pounds. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said “if” Zucker plays, he’d be eased back into action. The wing skated yesterday for the first time since getting sick. The forward said the worst part of the illness were the body aches. However, speaking to the media after the morning skate, the wing sounded like he’s ready to return tonight.
“I’m feeling good; I’m ready to go,” Zucker said.
The club recalled Tyler Graovac from Iowa this morning, and he’ll be in the lineup if Zucker is unable to go. Minnesota will be without the services of Brett Sutter, who missed the team’s morning skate with an illness.
After being a healthy scratch for two games, Erik Haula will re-enter the lineup tonight. This morning he was centering Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter. Haula said that he wants to bring a hard-working mentality into 2015. He was more upset at himself for not playing up to the level that he’s capable of.
“It’s not about me, it’s about this team and that’s the focus: whatever everyone can do to make this team better,” Haula said. “Guys who can get the job done are going to play every night.”
Yeo said that Haula participated in a few conditioning skates while he was out of the lineup. The team’s bench boss wants the young forward to increase his compete level and use his speed against Toronto.
“I’m not asking him to go out there and score three goals tonight,” Yeo said. “I’m asking him to be a factor in the game in a positive way and help our team find a way to win a hockey game.”
The Wild looks to start winning the close ones in 2015. To close out December, the team was downed in five one-goal games and twice lost by two following empty-net tallies.
“That’s one play—that’s one guy making a difference in a positive way through the course of the game,” Yeo said.
Goaltender Darcy Kuemper will get the nod in net. It seems like the netminder has been trending upwards following a couple of tough outings after coming back from the illness that is running trough the team. He’s limited opponents to two goals in each of his last two outings.