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Wild Warmup: Minnesota vs. Boston

Wild and Bruins conclude season series Thursday in St. Paul

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com
The Essentials
Puck drop: 7:08 p.m. CT
Watch: FOX Sports North; FOX Sports GOWild Watch Bar LocationsNHL.TV

Listen: KFAN FM 100.3

Follow: @mnwild; GameCenter


The Opponent

The Boston Bruins are playing the final game of a three-game road trip in search of its fourth consecutive victory overall. Since losing the the Wild 5-0 in Boston on Oct. 25, the Bruins have won seven of their last 10 games, including five of six away from TD Garden. Boston was without forward David Backes and goaltender Tuukka Rask when these teams played last month, but both are back and playing at a high level. Rask is 10-1-0 in 11 starts with a 1.54 goals against average and a .945 save percentage. The Bruins' leading goal scorer, David Pastrnak, will not play because of an injury.


Connections

• Wild forward Charlie Coyle is a native of East Weymouth, Massachusetts, and played college hockey at Boston University.

• Wild defenseman Christian Folin played two seasons at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

• Backes, from Spring Lake Park, played three seasons at Minnesota State University and was an All-American for the Mavericks in 2005-06.

• Bruins goaltender Zane McIntyre, who hails from Thief River Falls, played three seasons at the University of North Dakota. 

• Bruins forward Dominic Moore played in 40 games with the Wild over two seasons between 2006-08.


Coming and going

The Wild welcomed defenseman Marco Scandella back to the team portion of practice during a quick morning skate on Thursday. Scandella isn't eligible to return from his lower-body injury until next Wednesday when the Wild hosts the Winnipeg Jets, but his presence is certainly a good sign that he could be ready to play as soon as he is able.

"He's in really good shape right now," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "It's really encouraging that he's there and gets a chance to actually have a few practices to really test the ankle, pushing off when there's other guys on the ice. So that's good."

Heading out of town is Joel Eriksson Ek, who was assigned to Farjestad BK, his team in Sweden. Because Eriksson Ek didn't surpass the nine-game mark in the NHL, he did not burn the first year of his entry-level contract.

After scoring a goal in his NHL debut and averaging a point per game over his first handful of games, things weren't quite as easy for Eriksson Ek over his final few appearances.

Still, at 19 years old, the rookie made quite an impression on Wild coaches, who believe he has a bright future in Minnesota, one that could begin on a full-time basis as soon as next season.

"We want him not to play 10 minutes per game, we want him to play 20 minutes per game," Boudreau said. "It's for his development; he'll come back next year 10 pounds stronger, knowing what the League is about, knowing what he has to do even more so than he did this year. I think he's going to be a real good player."


At the Rink

Minnesota will be trying for the regular season sweep of the Bruins on Tuesday, but knows it will see a much different team than the one it defeated at TD Garden last month.

In that game, the Bruins started third-string goaltender Malcolm Subban, who was seeing his first NHL action in two years. Three quick goals got Subban out of the game and the Wild coasted to an easy victory.

With Rask and Backes back in the lineup, as well as a cranky Bruins bunch that certainly remembers being shut out on home ice, Wild forward Charlie Coyle said he expects some considerable pushback on Thursday.

"I don't think they're too happy with the way they played," Coyle said. "We're going to see a much better team."

It will be the first time the Wild have faced Backes since he signed in Boston on July 1. The former Maverick captain has played in 38 games against the Wild through the years as a member of the St. Louis Blues, scoring 12 goals and 23 points while accumulating a plus-8 rating. 

The veteran forward added some much-needed size and grit to a Bruins forward group.

"We've seen him enough to know what he brings," Coyle said. "He plays tough, physical. He's a big guy out there. He brings that physical presence."

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Nino Niederreiter - Eric Staal - Charlie Coyle 

Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund

Jason Zucker - Erik Haula - Jason Pominville

Zack Mitchell - Tyler Graovac - Chris Stewart

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin - Christian Folin

Mike Reilly - Matt Dumba

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

BRUINS

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Riley Nash

Ryan Spooner - David Krejci - David Backes

Matt Beleskey - Dominic Moore - Austin Czarnik

Sean Kuraly - Tim Schaller - Jimmy Hayes

Zdeno Chara - Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug - Adam McQuaid

John-Michael Liles - Colin Miller

Tuukka Rask

Zane McIntyre

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