DENVER -- Ryan Suter, who played more minutes than any NHLer the past two seasons, will be a marked man this playoff series against the Colorado Avalanche.
Avs coach Patrick Roy knows Wild counterpart Mike Yeo will lean hard on Suter, the Wild’s No. 1 defenseman. There’s no way around that, so Roy said it’s important for the Avalanche to make those minutes hard for Suter.
“We’re going to have to finish every check we can on him,” Roy said. “It’s very simple. If he plays in our end, he might play 45 minutes. But if we play in their end and we finish our checks, we force him to battle when we’re going to the net, he needs to push guys around, I mean, we want him to play big minutes.
“He’s a special player, let’s not kid ourselves. We’re going to have to force him to play big minutes.”
Yeo said it’s no different from when he was an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins and they played the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Penguins wanted to target future Hall of Fame defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom. Yeo said, like Lidstrom, Suter has a knack for putting himself in positions where he can protect himself and the puck.
“This is not a secret, this is something that’s been going on all year,” Yeo said. “You always target the other team’s top players. It’s the playoffs. We’re going to try to hit their defensemen, too. They’ve got a couple guys that are banged up, and we’ve got to make sure that they know that we’re coming.”
Yeo said the Wild will try to manage Suter’s ice time (he logged more than 41 minutes in Game 1’s overtime loss to Chicago last year), but “this is a guy we’ve seen that when he plays more, he plays better. He’s a great player, and when he’s fresh and when we can have him on the ice, we want him there.”
Center Mikael Granlund is expected to make his NHL playoff debut. Granlund has been sidelined since March 31 because of a head injury.
“It’s going to feel amazing,” Granlund said. “When you’re a kid, even in Finland, you dream of the playoffs in the NHL. And just to have a chance to win something. Players just enjoy these games. This is what it’s all about. Just winning games and doing all you can. These are the games you want to play.”
Granlund won the championship with HIFK in the Finnish Elite League in 2011. He tied for first in playoff scoring with 16 points in 15 games.
“I love this time of year,” he said. “That was something I’ll never forget. I have only good memories from that year, but now it’s a new challenge.”
• Defenseman Keith Ballard (groin), out since March 17, practiced for a second consecutive day. “I feel OK,” he said. “It’s been a bit frustrating. Just terrible timing.”
• Winger Dany Heatley, the Wild’s leader in playoff scoring, is expected to be scratched, along with Justin Fontaine and Jon Blum.
• Yeo said it will be decided Thursday which goaltender — Darcy Kuemper or John Curry — will back up Ilya Bryzgalov in Game 1. Kuemper, who sustained an upper-body injury March 31, practiced for the second consecutive day Wednesday.
• Center Jake Dowell was assigned to AHL Iowa.