With only 11 forwards available, the Wild will dress seven defensemen Friday against the New Jersey Devils at Xcel Energy Center – inserting Brad Hunt into the lineup for an assignment that could have him roving between forward and defense.
Instead of calling up a forward from the American Hockey League, the team wanted to work in Hunt to add him to the power play without shaking up its blue line.
“We do figure we need a power-play specialist from defense,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We were 1-for-6 on the power play the other night, and … the zone time – we’re not getting in there. He’s a specialist there.”
Hunt worked with the fourth line in practice Thursday, but Boudreau said the team would more likely juggle 11 forwards and seven defensemen with Hunt rotating in on the right side. The Wild is short two forwards after Victor Rask (lower body) and Matt Hendricks (upper body) were injured Tuesday in a 5-4 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Although Hunt has played forward just a few times in the minors, he’s eager for the challenge.
“That’s kind of how my career’s gone,” Hunt said. “It’s always been that guy when they need help, I step in and try to help the team out and be a good guy and a good teammate. That’s what I think it’s all about. I’m really excited for tonight.”
Jordan Greenway-Eric Staal-Jason Zucker
Zach Parise-Mikael Granlund-Charlie Coyle
Marcus Foligno-Joel Eriksson Ek-Luke Kunin
Kyle Rau-Eric Fehr-Brad Hunt
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Anthony Bitetto-Jonas Brodin
Nick Seeler-Greg Pateryn
5: Points for winger Luke Kunin in his last five games.
3: Points for center Joel Eriksson Ek in the past four games.
6-4-3: The Wild’s record in its last 13 contests vs. the Devils.
2: Assists and a goal for winger Marcus Foligno against New Jersey last Saturday.
3: Points for defenseman Jared Spurgeon in his last game.
About the Devils:
New Jersey has dropped two straight and three of its last four, sitting second-to-last in the Eastern Conference. This is the second half of a back-to-back for the Devils, as they fell 5-2 to the Blackhawks in Chicago Thursday. They’re 3-1 against the Wild at Xcel Energy Center and 6-3 overall since 2014-15. Winger Kyle Palmieri leads the team in goals (24) and points (42). Reigning MVP Taylor Hall (lower body) is still sidelined.