Another game, another debut.
The Wild continues to roll out its new look in the aftermath of a busy trade deadline day on Monday, with defenseman Jake Middleton the next to suit up for the team when it hosts the Canucks on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center.
"We just want him to do what he does, and that's defend and be a physical presence, make it difficult for people to play in our zone and move the puck quickly and get up the ice and do what we ask every one of our defensemen to do is get up in the offense," coach Dean Evason said. "Just because he's a defender we don't want him to forget about trying to play offense as well. Big, strong guy that we're looking forward to having in our lineup."
After joining the team via trade from San Jose before the deadline, Middleton will slot in alongside captain Jared Spurgeon, with the forward lines remaining the same from the 3-0 win vs. Vegas on Monday — the Wild's third consecutive victory.
Cam Talbot was in net for that shutout, his second of the season that extended his win streak to six, and he'll be back between the pipes to face Vancouver; Marc-Andre Fleury will back up a second straight game after arriving in a trade from Chicago also on Monday, and Kaapo Kahkonen went to the Sharks in the deal that acquired Middleton.
Fleury was on the ice Thursday morning but didn't practice with the Wild on Wednesday, with the team giving him time to settle in after the trade.
"We're not changing our philosophy on our goaltending," Evason said. "We've got two great goaltenders. We had two great goaltenders. We've got a guy now in Fleury that's a proven winner. We believe that Cam is the same."
Kirill Kaprizov-Ryan Hartman-Mats Zuccarello
Jordan Greenway-Joel Eriksson Ek-Marcus Foligno
Kevin Fiala-Frederick Gaudreau-Matt Boldy
Nicolas Deslauriers-Tyson Jost-Brandon Duhaime
Jake Middleton-Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba
Jon Merrill-Alex Goligoski
3: Goals for center Ryan Hartman in his past three games.
5-1-1: Run by the Wild over its last seven games.
7: Assists for winger Mats Zuccarello in the past nine games.
14: Points in the last 12 games for winger Kirill Kaprizov.
.938: Save percentage for Talbot over 15 career starts vs. Vancouver.
About the Canucks:
Vancouver is finishing off a back-to-back, arriving in Minnesota after getting by Colorado 3-1 on Wednesday. That improved the Canucks to 23-11-6 since former Wild coach Bruce Boudreau took over behind the bench in early December. They're currently fifth in the Pacific Division, three points back of the second and final wild card berth in the Western Conference. In its last 10 games vs. the Wild, Vancouver is 4-5-1. Keep an eye on center J.T. Miller, who has 31 points in his last 17 games.