Who: Minnesota Wild (42-16-6, 90 points, first place, Central Division) at Tampa Bay Lightning (30-26-9, 69 points, fifth place, Atlantic Division)
Puck drop: 6:38 p.m. CT
Watch: Fox Sports North; FOX Sports Go; Wild Watch Bar locations; NHL.TV
Listen: KFAN 100.3 FM
Follow: @mnwild; GameCenter
At the rink
Following Tuesday night's loss to the St. Louis Blues, Wild players, to a man, said they were disappointed in their start to the game. It set the tone, as the Blues scored the game's first goal then locked it down from there, scoring an insurance goal in the third period of a 2-1 win.
Now, on the front end of a five-game road trip that begins tonight in Tampa, the Wild realizes a quality start will be crucial, especially against a Lightning team battling for its postseason lives in the Eastern Conference.
Tampa begins the day four points behind the New York Islanders for the second and final wild-card position.
Video: Bruce Boudreau Pregame at Tampa Bay
"Just being mentally self prepared. I think it took a period for us to wake up [against the Blues]," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "We'd given them so much confidence, they were in a zone and played really good the rest of the game."
In an effort to get a better start, Boudreau juggled two of his lines again, this time looking for better balance.
The Eric Staal and Mikko Koivu lines remain unchanged, but Martin Hanzal will now center Nino Niederreiter and Ryan White while Erik Haula will skate with Jason Pominville and Charlie Coyle.
Boudreau said it wasn't an indictment of how anybody was playing, but that he wanted to use the Hanzal line as a secondary shutdown group, especially against the Lightning, a club with two potent offensive lines.
"We pretty well went back to the San Jose game. We played so well that game," Boudreau said. "We've gotta start trying to get combinations and leaving them together to get accustomed to each other.
"I'm always trying to get balance. If we're using Marty as a secondary checking unit, then this makes sense."
In five games with Minnesota, White has moved up and down the lineup, starting with Staal on the top group in his first game, while also getting fourth-line minutes the past couple of games.
"I just try and go out there, work hard and do the things that make me successful," White said. "I think if we're all out there doing that, it goes a long way on a team like this. It doesn't matter where you play, you've gotta play the same game, play simple and work hard."
Defenseman Matt Dumba re-joined the team after remaining back in the Twin Cities yesterday as he continued to battle an illness. He's not 100 percent yet, however, and will not be in the lineup tonight.
Here are the projected lineups:
Chris Stewart - Eric Staal - Zach Parise
Mikael Granlund - Mikko Koivu - Jason Zucker
Nino Niederreiter - Martin Hanzal - Ryan White
Charlie Coyle - Erik Haula - Jason Pominville
Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Gustav Olofsson - Jonas Brodin
Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba
Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov
Adam Erne - Vladislav Namestnikov - Jonathan Drouin
Alex Killorn - Brayden Point - Yanni Gourde
Gabriel Dumont - Cedric Paquette - J.T. Brown
Victor Hedman - Jake Dotchin
Jason Garrison - Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn - Andrej Sustr
Posting a 2-2-0 record since the start of March, the Tampa Bay Lightning is in the midst of a three-game homestand when it hosts the Wild on Thursday. Nikita Kucherov leads the Lightning with 28 goals and 63 points. Defenseman Victor Hedman has 43 assists this season and is second with 55 points. Goaltender Ben Bishop was traded to Los Angeles; goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy has posted a 14-13-6 record with a 2.64 goals-average and a .915 save percentage. Tampa Bay is currently four points out of the Eastern Conference's final wild card spot.
• Lightning forward J.T. Brown hails from Burnsville and won a national championship with the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2011.
• Tampa Bay assistant coach Todd Richards spent two seasons behind the bench as Minnesota's head coach from 2009 to 2011.
Minnesota begins a five-game road trip, its longest of the season. The Wild played just two road games (Feb. 28 and March 2) over the past 29-day span (Feb.8-March 8). Despite being tied for third in the NHL for fewest road games played this season, the Wild is second in the League with 43 road points, ranking third in road victories (19-7-5). Since the beginning of December, the Wild has points in 17 of its past 19 road games (15-2-2).