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Wild Warmup: Minnesota vs. New York Rangers

Wild will try to right the ship at home

by Devin Lowe / Wild.com
The essentials

Who: New York Rangers (44-24-3, 91 points, fourth place, Metropolitan Division) at Minnesota Wild (43-20-6, 92 points, second place, Central Division)

Puck drop: 6:08 p.m. CT

Watch: FOX Sports North; FOX Sports Go; NHL Network; NHL.TV; Wild Watch Bar locations

Listen: KFAN 100.3 FM

Follow: @mnwild; GameCenter


At the rink

Martin Hanzal will likely crack the Wild lineup tonight after missing three games with a case of strep throat.

Hanzal skated with the team on Saturday morning, along with defensemen Christian Folin and Gustav Olofsson, who are both out with upper body injuries and could see playing time in the week ahead, though not tonight.

The last time Hanzal played was when he tallied an assist in Minnesota's 7-4 win over the Florida Panthers in Sunrise.

"I skated yesterday for the first time. I was a little low on energy, but I felt better today," Hanzal said after the Wild's morning skate Saturday at Xcel Energy Center.

Hanzal's return comes at a time when Minnesota is in need of a spark after losing its final three games of a five-game road trip and winning just once on the swing. With Hanzal in, Tyler Graovac will be out of the lineup Saturday night, as will Ryan White. Jordan Schroeder, whose speed will match up nicely against a quick Rangers team, will be in.

"I just think it's the consistency. There's some games we come in, we've said, 'Man, [White is] great.' And then other games, we go, 'Oh man, what happened to him?'" said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau when asked about the switch. "I told him today it has nothing to do with the way he's playing, it's just [that] we want more speed in the lineup."

Video: Bruce Boudreau Pregame vs. New York Rangers

If there's anywhere the Wild is most likely to right itself, it's at home, where it's statistically been one of the best teams in the League. Minnesota's 23 wins at Xcel Energy Center are tied for the most at home in the Western Conference, and its nine regulation losses on home ice are tied for second-fewest in the West.

The Wild also has the League's best home power play, clocking in at a 29.3 percent conversion rate.

"You try to do the same things. Sometimes things are going better at home, sometimes things are going better on the road," Wild captain Mikko Koivu said. "We're trying to do the same things, trying to keep it simple, trying to help the guy next to you and get as many pucks to the net as you can. We've been good at home, but it all starts with the work ethic and willingness to win the battles.

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Charlie Coyle - Eric Staal - Nino Niederreiter

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund

Zach Parise - Martin Hanzal - Jason Pominville

Chris Stewart - Erik Haula - Jordan Schroeder

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin - Nate Prosser

Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper
 

RANGERS

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Mats Zuccarello

J.T. Miller - Mika Zibanejad - Rick Nash

Michael Grabner - Kevin Hayes - Jesper Fast

Jimmy Vesey - Oscar Lindberg - Tanner Glass

Marc Staal - Ryan McDonagh

Brendan Smith - Nick Holden

Brady Skjei - Steve Kampfer

Antti Raanta

Magnus Hellberg


The opponent

As the fight for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference unfolds below them, the New York Rangers sit comfortably in the first wild card position, where they're currently 13 points up on the Toronto Maple Leafs. They've won three of their past six and four of their past 10 without losing much ground in the standings, even more impressive when considering that star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has been out since March 8 with a strained hip. The Rangers are the second-highest scoring team in the East behind the Penguins and are led on the scoresheet by J.T. Miller and Chris Kreider. Michael Grabner's 27 goals in 65 games is a team high.
 

Connections

• Wild forward Eric Staal scored three goals and had six points in 20 games for the Rangers last season.

• Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh is a native of St. Paul and attended Cretin-Derham Hall High School and the University of Wisconsin.

• Rangers forward Derek Stepan is from Hastings, went to Shattuck-St.Mary's School and is also a Badger alum.

• Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei is from Lakeville, went to Lakeville North High School and played for the University of Minnesota.
 

Comeback kids

Minnesota has 17 come-from-behind victories in 69 games this season. Last season, the Wild totaled just nine comeback wins in 82 games. The Wild is 13-14-2 when its opponent scores first this season; the .448 win percentage ranks fifth in the NHL. Last season, Minnesota was last in the NHL with a .139 win percentage when its opponent netted the opening marker, posting a 5-25-6 record in those games.

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