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Wild Warmup: Minnesota at Winnipeg

Two-game road trip begins Tuesday against Central Division rival Jets

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

Who: Minnesota Wild (40-14-6, 86 points, first place, Central Division) at Winnipeg Jets (28-29-6, 62 points, fifth place, Central Division)

Puck drop: 7:08 p.m. CT

Watch: FOX Sports North; FOX Sports GoWild Watch Bar locationsNHL.TV

Listen: KFAN 100.3 FM

Follow: @mnwildGameCenter


At the rink

Wild forward Tyler Graovac will play his fourth game in four nights on Tuesday when Minnesota opens a quick two-game road trip against the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre.

It's a feat rarely accomplished in professional hockey but one the Wild will need Graovac to pull off effectively. A combination of trades, waivers and mumps has forced the decision, as coach Bruce Boudreau said after Minnesota's 5-4 win on Monday, "I don't think he has much of a choice."

Boudreau said he advised Graovac to stay off the ice on Tuesday morning, and he did. But despite a grueling travel schedule that has sent him from Chicago to Des Moines to St. Paul and to Winnipeg, Graovac said Tuesday would likely be his easiest day.

"I'm not traveling today," Graovac said. "Most of these other days, I was traveling on the same day. I got a good stretch in this morning. I feel good."

Graovac said he has played four games in four nights before, during his final season in juniors with the Ottawa 67s. It was a good opportunity then, he said, because he was trying to earn himself a contract with the Wild.

Now, he's trying to earn his spot with Minnesota. 

"That time was one of the best times of my life because there is nothing really I'd rather be doing than being able to perform and have an opportunity," Graovac said. "Every game for me is an opportunity and when I feel the way I feel, you look forward to it and it keeps you going."

It helps that Graovac has been playing well of late. He scored four goals in two games with Iowa over the weekend, including a hat trick in Sunday night's game. On Monday, he earned his first NHL assist on Jason Zucker's tying goal in the third period.

It was a long time coming for him, as teammates had started to give him grief over his long assist drought. Monday marked Graovac's 52nd NHL game. 

"The assist was pretty lucky," Graovac said. "But if I can just continue to play that way, continue to build, then hopefully I'll keep getting rewarded."

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Nino Niederreiter - Eric Staal - Jordan Schroeder

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund

Tyler Graovac - Martin Hanzal - Charlie Coyle 

Chris Stewart - Erik Haula - Ryan White

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin - Matt Dumba

Marco Scandella - Christian Folin

Darcy Kuemper

Devan Dubnyk

JETS

Nikolaj Ehlers - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler

Mathieu Perreault - Mark Scheifele - Patrik Laine

Shawn Mattias - Adam Lowry - Joel Armia

Chris Thorburn - Nicolas Petan - Drew Stafford

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien

Josh Morrissey - Ben Chiarot 

Mark Stuart - Paul Postma

Connor Hellebuyck

Michael Hutchinson


The opponent

Like the Wild did Monday, the Winnipeg Jets will return from their bye week when it hosts Minnesota. The Wild's win over the Los Angeles Kings moved teams coming off the bye to 8-14-4 this season. Tuesday's game marks the beginning of a six-game homestand for the Jets, who will try and run their points streak to six-straight games. Winnipeg went 2-0-2 on a four-game trip before its bye. Defenseman Jacob Trouba will sit out the final game of a two-game suspension levied Feb. 19 for a hit against the Ottawa Senators.


Connections

• Wild assistant coach John Anderson spent two seasons as head coach of the Atlanta Thrashers from 2008-10 before the franchise relocated to Winnipeg. 

• Acquired in Sunday's trade with Arizona, Wild forward Ryan White is a native of nearby Brandon, Manitoba.

• The Jets have three Minnesota natives on their roster, including captain Blake Wheeler (Plymouth) and defensemen Dustin Byfuglien (Roseau) and Mark Stuart (Rochester).


Winner, winner

Minnesota is 15-3-2 following a loss of any kind this season, including nine straight wins. The Wild has posted regulation losses in consecutive games just once this season (Nov. 1 vs. Buffalo and Nov. 5 at Colorado). Minnesota's 14 regulation losses this season are tied for the 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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