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Michael Russo gives you complete coverage of the Minnesota Wild and the NHL

Parise could return to Wild's top line vs. Oilers, McDavid

Wild, coming off a 2-1-2 road trip, and Oilers tonight at Xcel Energy Center as Minnesota plays at home for the first time since sweeping a two-game homestand Nov. 25.

This is the first of three consecutive games at home and second in three games against the Oilers. The Wild is 11-3-1 in its past 15 against the Oilers and 21-4-1 in its last 26 home games against the Oilers since Feb. 25, 2007. Thanks to Mikko Koivu’s overtime winner, the Wild won in Edmonton on Sunday. This is the second straight meeting the Wild’s catching the Oilers on a second of a back-to-back. They played in Philadelphia on Thursday night, and lost 6-5.

Koivu has eight points in his past eight games and his 44 points in 57 games against Edmonton is his most vs. any opponent. Jason Zucker has seven points in his past seven games. Eric Staal is a point from becoming the 13th active player with 800.

Oilers star Connor McDavid, held scoreless against the Wild on Sunday (coach Bruce Boudreau said the reason was "a lot of praying," is leading the league with 26 assists, 38 points and 12 multi-point games. He has two goals and an assist in four games against Minnesota. Jordan Eberle has 20 points in 24 games against the Wild.

Couple other factoids: The Wild’s 48 wins and 106 points against Edmonton are its most against any franchise. … The Wild’s power play went 0 for 10 on the road trip but is 5 for 11 in its past three home games. … Seventeen of the Wild’s 25 games have been one-goal outcomes (6-7-4).

Devan Dubnyk vs. almost surely Cam Talbot tonight.

Mostly cut and paste from the Wild press notes, Duby Duby Du leads the NHL in GAA (1.65), SV% (.946) and shutouts (4) this season. Since joining the Wild, the former Oiler is 4-1-0 with a 1.39 GAA, .938 SV% and one shutout against Edmonton. With Edmonton, he posted a 61-76-21 record, 2.88 GAA, .910 SV% and eight shutouts in 171 games during five seasons. Since his Wild debut on Jan. 15, 2015, Dubnyk is 70-41-11 with a 2.05 GAA, .928 SV% and 14 shutouts in 126 games – leading the NHL in games, shutouts, SV% and GAA, and ranking second in wins in that span amongst NHL goalies with at least 65 games played. The 30-year-old has not allowed more than three goals in a game this season, only allowing four-plus goals in 10 of his 126 all-time games with the Wild. Dubnyk has allowed 23 total goals (14 at even-strength) in his last 16 games since Oct. 25, stopping 480-of-503 shots in that span to account for a .954 SV%, a 1.43 GAA and four shutouts.

Christian Folin and Zac Dalpe (knee injuries) rejoined the Wild during the morning skate. Folin has been cleared to play and will take warmups tonight. I'd say he's unlikely to play, but Zach Parise and Erik Haula returned to the Wild lineup after only one practice and longer time off, so maybe Folin does get in for Nate Prosser or -- dare we say -- Matt Dumba.

On how significant a loss Folin was for the road trip, Boudreau said, "We don’t have a big defense and when he’s gone, it makes it smaller. And he was playing really well with [Jonas] Brodin. It’s always a big loss, but I think Pross has stepped in and done a really good job.”

Said Folin, "[Boudreau] asked me if I was ready and I said of course I'm ready. I'm excited to get back out there. The guys have been playing well. I'll wait to see what happens. ... I feel ready in my head. I've been watching a lot of games. My head is definitely in it. I did some good skating with ... Andy Ness and Zac [Dalpe], so my legs are there too. I feel ready to play."

On the check by Sidney Crosby, Folin said, "I was scared right away. I thought it was something really serious. I limped out into the tunnel. I didn't feel good right away. It kind of came around. I did some work. It was a long process, but I feel really good and feel comfortable on the ice.

"It was three to four weeks to start. And it's two weeks today in the afternoon. It's definitely faster. I did a good job eating and taking care of my body. I'm glad I'm back."

In the morning skate, Nino Niederreiter was back with Erik Haula and Jason Pominville and Zach Parise was back with Eric Staal and Charlie Coyle. If it doesn't work, Boudreau can always switch back.

The reason: Two-fold having to do with the same thing -- last line change.

Boudreau controls the matchup, so if McDavid is going to see plenty of Haula's line, having Niederreiter there makes sense because he's strong on the walls and spends most his shifts in the offensive zone.

It also can help Boudreau maybe try to control Parise's shifts and get him going.

"It’s gonna happen, he’s too good a player not to get going," Boudreau said of Parise, who has four goals and five assists in 18 games. He was pointless on the road trip after a solid homestand with Staal and Coyle before the trip.

"Corey Perry went 19 games without scoring before last game. [Ryan] Getzlaf has two goals this year. But those are great players and they’re gonna eventually score their goals. It’s only a matter of time before [Parise] gets in a rhythm and feels it and when he feels it, they’re gonna start going in for him.”

Plenty of unsung heroes in Wild's trip-ending victory

The Wild played 20 minutes of dump and change hockey, sending in one forechecker most of the time and relied on Devan Dubnyk to snag it two points Wednesday night.

Duby did, stopped 17 of 17 Toronto shots in the third period while the Wild only registered three during a 3-2 win.

Not a single soul was apologizing how the Wild gutted this one out tonight, not after a five-game, 12-day trek that started TWO SATURDAYS AGO in St. Louis and continued to four cities across the great white north.

(quick update: Practice canceled Thursday morning, but the team did send winger Teemu Pulkkinen back to Iowa.)

Decent 2-1-2 trip, what’s a shame is the Wild had a two-goal lead in Vancouver only to lose in regulation (after rallying from a two-goal deficit), had a third-period lead in St. Louis before losing in a shootout and had a first-period lead in Calgary before losing in a shootout (although it rallied to get to overtime).

In other words, the trip could have been much better. But, it’s felt like this team has been on the road all season and it has managed points in seven of its past eight games (4-1-3) as it returns to Minnesota to open a three-game homestand Friday against Connor McDavid and the Oilers.

Dubnyk, making his 300th start, made 35 saves for his 70th win in 126 games with the Wild. Jason Zucker, Chris Stewart and Eric Staal scored, Staal’s goal becoming his 50th game-winner to snap a 12-game goal drought. It was his 799th career point, too.

Zucker now has seven points in his past seven games, Mikko Koivu has eight points in his past eight games and Mikael Granlund picked up his first point in five games and was dangling all over the ice after a tough first three games of the Canadian portion of the trip.

Also, Kurtis Gabriel, who grew up in Newmarket, registered his first career point on the Stewart goal with his mom, brother, step-dad, best friend and a former coach in the stands.

The Wild improved to 6-7-4 in one-goal games.

Ryan Suter was plus-3 and had five hits and three blocked shots. He now is plus-18 since Oct. 25, which is tied for first in the NHL in that span with the Rangers’ Michael Grabner. In his past 19 games, Suter has had one minus game.

Big blocked shots late by Charlie Coyle and Nate Prosser, which got the bench rocking and rolling in the waning seconds. Prosser has been playing outstanding with Christian Folin sidelined to injury.

Some quotes

Boudreau on the win: “I told the guys, ‘It may not look it, but my insides are really happy right now. We held on. We didn’t do anything in the third period, but at the end of [a 12-day] trip to win in a tough building to win in was pretty good.”

On if the way it held on was the product of just wanting to get two points out of a long road trip, he said, “When we went in, there was not a lot of celebrating or anything. They were just tired from being on the road, and had to gut it out, and when you get two blocks in the last 20 seconds and everybody on the bench stood up, you could tell they wanted to win pretty bad.”

On Scott Stevens putting Prosser on the ice in the final seconds: “He must have had a gut feeling that he was going to get the job done.”

On Stewart’s breakaway goal in his third career trip to his hometown of Toronto: “That was pretty cool. I’m sure his family and friends in Scarborough were all watching and pretty happy for him. He almost had two.”

On Dubnyk and if he should be getting Vezina talk: “If he was in Toronto, there would be no Carey Price … I’m just saying media-wise. I mean, he hasn’t allowed more than three goals in any game he’s played this year. He’s held us in all the time. … To answer your question, yes, he would be.”

On Kurtis Gabriel: “He’s making the team bigger. He gets his first point tonight, gets into a fight, does a good job, cheers on the bench. That’s pretty good stuff, and he’s making Stewy play better, too.”

Staal on the relief of ending his goal drought (first since Nov. 10): “You can tell by the celebration, you never want to let it slide that long. I wasn’t totally disappointed with how I’m playing, but you always want to score goals, you always want to contribute offensively. I’m in that role. It was big to get that one tonight.  … Hopefully this is a start of a few in a row.”

Staal on hanging on: “It’s been a long grind. I mean, this is a long trip. We gutted it out. I like that we did. We’ve got a veteran team, we’ve got guys that understand what it’s going to take certain night, and tonight was a certain night where we had to gut it out. Kudos to a lot of guys who stepped up in big spots to make plays defensively. It’s a big win to go home feeling good and hopefully start a good stretch at home.”

Dubnyk on hanging on: “On the road sometimes that's the way the game is going to go. We got some big plays all the way through the third period. We worked until the end. It's been a long road trip. So it's nice to see it pay off at the end.”

Dubnyk on playing so well on Canadian trek: “I love playing in Canada. Obviously growing up playing hockey in Western Canada I always dreamed about playing in the NHL. To get to come back and visit these rinks and play against these teams that I watched as a kid it's always special. It doesn't matter how many times I do it.”

Stewart on scoring in Toronto: “I’ve been thinking about that one my whole life. There was a lot of family in the building and I grew up a Maple Leafs fan. It's definitely nice to get that one off the bucket list.”

Stewart on winning on the road trip: “It meant a lot. We started off a little slow here on the road trip. ... We capped it off with two big wins here and we're going to go home and hopefully carry it over onto home ice.”

Stewart on not making things easy: “They aren't going to ask how. We have been on the road for 11 days. We will take the two points however we can get them and worry about that other stuff when we get home.”

Stewart on Dubnyk: “You can definitely feel it. He gives us a chance to win every night. We are lucky to have him here.”

Gabriel:

On the assist: “Seeing Stewy go up the ice and watching him tuck that between his legs, like that was an unreal goal. That’s what I’ll remember. … The way it was going, I thought there was going to be a rebound next for a goal or something because all my buddies said I’d get a Gordie Howe hat trick.:

On fighting Roman Polak in defense of Stewart: “He’s my big brother, and sometimes little brother has to stick up for big brother. He said I beat him to it, so obviously he was going to go after him. I love playing with him. He’s made me really comfortable, even off the ice, away from the rink, he’s been great.”

Gabriel got four stitches on his finger from the fight. Boudreau loves him and he gives the Wild a dimension it doesn’t have and he handles the puck real well. He had a solid game in Calgary and was great tonight.

Means Teemu Pulkkinen will probably get sent back to Iowa. He was called up today in case a sick Wild forward, believed to be Koivu, couldn’t go. He did.

That’s it for me. Kent Youngblood covering practice Thursday if it’s not canceled.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Gophers men's hockey at Michigan State

    5:30 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Boston U.

    6 pm

  • Edmonton at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Detroit at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, 830-AM

  • Georgia Southern at Gophers men's basketball

    8 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Boston U.

    2 pm

  • Gophers men's hockey at Michigan State

    7 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Vikings at Jacksonville

    12 pm on Ch. 9, 100.3/1130

  • Gophers women's basketball at South Carolina

    2 pm on SECN, 88.5-FM

  • Northern Illinois at Gophers men's basketball

    4 pm on 1500-AM

  • St. Louis at Wild

    5 pm on FSN PLUS, 100.3-FM

  • Golden State at Timberwolves

    6 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Florida at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Chicago

    7 pm on ESPN, 830-AM

  • Belmont at Gophers women's basketball

    12 pm on 88.5-FM

  • LIU Brooklyn at Gophers men's basketball

    7 pm on 1500-AM

  • Wild at Nashville

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

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