There’s still time to make tweaks, but the look the Wild used in its first postseason practice Monday at Xcel Energy Center could very well be the lineup it rolls out Wednesday in Game 1 of its first-round playoff series against the Jets.
Eric Staal centered the top line and was flanked by wingers Jason Zucker and Nino Niederreiter. Wingers Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund were with captain Mikko Koivu. Center Matt Cullen was between wingers Tyler Ennis, Charlie Coyle and Jordan Greenway. And the fourth line of center Joel Eriksson Ek and wingers Marcus Foligno and Daniel Winnik was kept intact.
On defense, Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba remained the top duo, Jared Spurgeon returned to practice next to Carson Soucey – who was recalled from the American Hockey League Monday morning – and Nick Seeler and Nate Prosser filled out the third pairing. Gustav Olofsson, Ryan Murphy and Louie Belpedio skated together.
Up front, the only debate seemed to be whether Ennis debuted on the third line or Greenway. Ennis played the regular-season finale with Cullen and Coyle, the trio appeared to have solid chemistry – combining for four points, with two of those assists courtesy Ennis.
Greenway, though, offers size and strength – appealing attributes with how meaty the Jets’ lineup is.
“It’s a decision that we’ll probably make on Wednesday,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “They’ll still take turns in tomorrow’s practice, but we won’t make the actual game decision I’m sure until Wednesday.”
No surprises on defense, with Spurgeon back with the group for the first time since he suffered a partial right hamstring tear March 13.
“That’s what you hope for, what we’re striving for,” Spurgeon said when asked if he feels he’ll be ready for Game 1. “Take it day-by-day, and hopefully it responds well tomorrow and go from there.”
Spurgeon hasn’t been cleared to resume playing but is expected to meet with the doctor after practice.
“As a competitive player, he probably really wants to play,” Boudreau said. “I kid him about wanting him to play so badly but at the same time, I always find myself correcting myself and saying, ‘Jared, you know, we’d love to have you back but I don’t want you back unless you feel comfortable being back. I don’t want you to come back because the coach wants you to play or your teammates want you to play. You gotta be healthy.’”