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Wild Warmup: Minnesota at Carolina

Eric Staal returns for the second time to Carolina

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

Who: Minnesota Wild (43-19-6, 92 points, second place, Central Division) at Carolina Hurricanes (28-27-12, 68 points, seventh place, Metropolitan Division)

Puck drop: 6:08 p.m. CT

Watch: FOX Sports North; FOX Sports Go;  Wild Watch Bar locationsNHL.TV

Listen: KFAN 100.3 FM

Follow: @mnwild; GameCenter


At the rink

The Minnesota Wild will complete its longest road trip of the season on Thursday when it plays the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena in Raleigh. 

The Wild is 1-3-0 during the first four games of its five-game trip and will try to get back in the win column for the first time since last Friday against the Florida Panthers.

In doing so, the Wild would continue one streak that has lasted all season; the Wild has not lost three consecutive games in regulation at any point during the 2016-17 campaign.

"For the most part, it's been pretty consistent [this season]," said Wild captain Mikko Koivu. "Right now, we're trying to get back at it and get back on the right track. We're trying to live in the moment and get ready for the next one, improve as the team."

Minnesota will look to celebrate a couple of milestones with a victory on Thursday, as defenseman Ryan Suter will play in his 900th NHL game. Forward Eric Staal won't reach 1,000 games until Sunday, but is making his second trip back to Raleigh after playing in more than 900 games with the Hurricanes over 12 seasons.

Coach Bruce Boudreau will also be behind the bench for the 750th time. Boudreau, who has the highest winning percentage of any coach in NHL history (minimum 200 games), has posted a record of 452-211-86 in 10 seasons with Washington, Anaheim and Minnesota.

"Believe me, I've aged. Seems to be one week per year I've aged," Boudreau quipped on Wednesday. "It's interesting. I hadn't realized it had been that many games."

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Nino Niederreiter - Eric Staal - Charlie Coyle

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund

Zach Parise - Erik Haula - Jason Pominville

Chris Stewart - Tyler Graovac - Ryan White

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin - Nate Prosser

Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

HURRICANES

Sebastian Aho - Jordan Staal - Teuvo Teravainen

Jeff Skinner - Victor Rask - Elias Lindholm

Jay McClement - Derek Ryan - Patrick Brown

Joakim Nordstrom - Lucas Wallmark - Lee Stempniak

Jaccob Slavin - Justin Faulk

Noah Hanifin - Brett Pesce

Klas Dahlbeck - Matt Tennyson

Eddie Lack

Cam Ward

The opponent

The Hurricanes are in the middle of a three-game homestand that began Tuesday with a 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Islanders. It followed an eight-goal outburst the previous night in Brooklyn, where defenseman Jaccob Slavin posted his first career hat trick in a four-point night. Justin Faulk and Jeff Skinner each posted two goals in the game as well. Skinner is the club's leading scorer, posting 23 goals and 54 points this season. Rookie Sebastian Aho is in the midst of a breakout campaign, scoring 20 goals and tallying 38 points after being selected in the second round of the 2015 NHL Draft. Carolina has at least one point in six of its eight games this month, posting a 3-2-3 record over that span. 

Connections

• Wild forward Eric Staal was drafted by Carolina in the first round (2nd overall) of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft and collected 775 points (322- 453=775) and 678 PIM in 909 games in 12 seasons (2003-16). He ranks first on the Hurricanes all-time list in short-handed goals (16) and shots (3,033), second in goals, power-play goals (105), game-winning goals (47), assists and points and ranks third in games played.

• Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal is the brother of Eric Staal.

• Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk is a native of South St. Paul.

• Hurricanes defenseman Matt Tennyson is a Minneapolis native.


Down the stretch they come

Minnesota plays its seventh contest in a stretch where its final 20 games of the regular season are played in a 35-day span (March 5-April 8). The stretch includes four sets of back-to-back games and no more than one day between games. Starting Thursday, the final 14 contests are in a 24-day span.

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