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Wild Warmup: Minnesota at Vancouver

Tuch set to make NHL debut for Wild as it continues four-game road trip

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com
The essentials

Who: Minnesota Wild (33-12-5, 71 points, first place, Central Division) at Vancouver Canucks (23-22-6, 52 points, sixth place, Pacific Division)

Puck drop: 9:10 p.m. CT

Watch: FOX Sports North; FOX Sports GOWild Watch Bar Locations; NHL.TV

Listen: KFAN 100.3 FM

Follow: @mnwild; GameCenter


At the rink

Minnesota Wild forward Alex Tuch will make his NHL debut against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound forward from Syracuse, New York was the club's first-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.

A big key for Tuch on Saturday will be finding a groove early to settle down his nerves. Playing a smart, simple game will help, and that has been the advice given to him from coaches and his veteran linemates, Zach Parise and Eric Staal.

And as big a moment as the game will be for Tuch and his parents, who arrived in Vancouver on Friday and will be at Rogers Arena tonight, it's one that is special for the guys that get to play with him as well.

"When you've got a guy [playing his first game] on your line, you just want to make it as easy as you can for him," Parise said. "Talk to him a lot and try to simplify everything. Just play and relax; try to get him to relax as much as possible and enjoy it. It's always a special game."

Parise said he vividly remembers his own NHL debut as a member of the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 5, 2005 against Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Parise scored one goal and added an assist in almost 16 minutes of ice time.

"As teammates, you're always excited for a guy making his NHL debut," Parise said. 

Wild coach Bruce Boudreau also remembers his NHL debut, 40 years ago, when his Toronto Maple Leafs played the bruising Philadelphia Flyers. 

"I was just happy to play the Philadelphia Flyers and get my head beat in. But I was happy to do it," Boudreau joked. "When you're in the NHL, that first game is a game you remember forever."

Video: Bruce Boudreau pregame at Vancouver

For Tuch, he said it could take a shift or two, perhaps a touch of the puck or even a mistake to help calm the nerves a bit. 

"It'll always be a little nervous feeling," Tuch said. "The first couple plays, I can settle in and get a little confidence under my belt. You never know, it could come at me quick. But I hope it's just making a good play right away."

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Zach Parise - Eric Staal - Alex Tuch

Mikael Granlund - Mikko Koivu - Jason Zucker

Nino Niederreiter - Erik Haula - Jason Pominville

Chris Stewart - Tyler Graovac - Charlie Coyle

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba

Mike Reilly - Nate Prosser

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

CANUCKS

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Loui Eriksson

Sven Baertschi - Bo Horvat - Alexandre Burrows

Markus Granlund - Brandon Sutter - Jannik Hansen

Brendan Gaunce - Michael Chaput - Jack Skille

Alexander Edler - Troy Stecher

Luca Sbisa - Chris Tanev

Nikita Tryamkin - Philip Larsen

Ryan Miller

Jacob Markstrom


The opponent

The Vancouver Canucks lost 4-1 to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday in their first game back from the All-Star break. Vancouver secured a 5-4 win over Minnesota on Nov. 29 in the only other meeting of the season between the clubs. The Canucks are led by All-Star forward Bo Horvat, who leads the club with 14 goals and is tied with Henrik Sedin with 32 points. A balanced team offensively, Vancouver boasts six players who have at least 10 goals and 10 assists in its lineup.


Connections

• Wild assistant coach Darby Hendrickson played 27 games with the Canucks in 1998-99. 

• Wild goaltending coach Bob Mason played in six games with Vancouver in 1990-91. 

• Canucks forward Markus Granlund is the younger brother of Wild forward Mikael Granlund. 


Rebounding in style

The Wild has posted regulation losses in consecutive games just once this season (Nov. 1 vs. Buffalo and Nov. 5 at Colorado). Minnesota's 12 regulation losses this season are tied for second-fewest in the NHL. The Wild had nine instances of at least two consecutive regulation losses last season, its 33 regulation losses ranking 13th in the NHL.

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