The Wild will unveil a new first line when it plays at Colorado on Saturday afternoon.
Left winger Jason Zucker joins center Eric Staal and Charlie Coyle on the first unit, which first practiced together on Wednesday. Other lines are Mikael Granlund-Mikko Koivu-Jason Pominville, Jordan Schroeder-Joel Eriksson Ek-Chris Stewart and Tyler Graovac centering Nino Niederreiter and Christoph Bertschy.
“Our top six are really important because we depend on them to score goals,” said coach Bruce Boudreau after Friday’s practice at the X, “and [hopefully] we get bonuses from the bottom six. My real thing is for [the third and fourth lines] to defend; if they defend and score a couple of goals, great.
“But we need Eric’s line and Mikko’s line to be our producers. They play all the power plays, they are the guys that play 18-20 minutes, so we need them.”
Zach Parise (foot) worked with assistant coach Darby Hendrickson before the practice, a positive sign, but didn’t participate in the regular practice. Defenseman Marco Scandella (ankle) and center Erik Haula (foot) remain sidelined and center Zac Dalpe had a knee scoped this week.
The Wild dropped a 2-1 decision to Buffalo on Tuesday night at the X. Colorado, 4-5 under first-year coach Jared Bednar, lost at home to Nashville 5-1 on Tuesday and was shut out in Chicago 4-0 on Thursday night.
“It’ll be a pretty angry team,” Boudreau said. “They’ve been outscored [9-1] the last two games. My history of watching teams like that is we better be ready right from the get-go.”
It’s an odd stretch for the Wild, with two weeks away from home and only one game in eight days.
“We all like playing games, there’s no joking about that, but at the same time we didn’t have our best game last game so being able to get out at practice and work on a few things is probably what we need,” said defenseman Nate Prosser.
Russo had an early flight to Colorado but, worry not, he'll be on duty in Denver.