The Wild faces Johnny Gaudreau, Niklas Backstrom and the Calgary Flames tonight. If you didn't read my advance on Backstrom's return tonight, please give it a read here.

Flames have a couple dangerous players with Gaudreau, the red-hot Sean Monahan and some very offensive defensemen in Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie and Dougie Hamilton. So the Wild better not be looking ahead to Saturday's showdown in Denver.

It appears as if Jason Pominville will return after missing seven games with a groin injury and it appears Thomas Vanek will return after missing three games as a healthy scratch.

Judging by which players were skating hard with the assistants afterward, Jason Zucker, Chris Porter and Nate Prosser will be healthy scratches.

When we got John Torchetti this morning, we didn't know the lineup, so we didn't get a chance to ask about Zucker.

But as I wrote on the postgame blog the other night, it was clear to me that Zucker got his butt chewed out after one third-period shift the other night and then barely played again. I didn't cover practice yesterday, but I'm told Torchetti and Zucker had a long talk on the ice.

When Zucker was scratched recently in Montreal and Ottawa, Torchetti said it was all about the "two-way game" with Zucker.

I'll ask Torchetti about Zucker after the game or tomorrow in Denver. I probably wouldn't have taken him out or maybe start him on the fourth line.

I've got to think we'll see a pretty motivated Vanek tonight.

Zach Parise says he's fine after missing yesterday's practice. It's very clear he's not and he admitted that at this time of year everybody's "fighting through stuff, so just deal with it." Parise has got an upper-body injury.

On playing Backstrom tonight, Parise said, with a smile, "It'll be strange, it'll be fun. Backy was a great guy and we all enjoyed playing with him and shooting on him all the time, but it'll be a little weird, a little funny seeing him in the other night tonight and seeing him in a different helmet and different jersey."

Just a guess on lines:





On what Pominville can bring, Torchetti said, "He's a good goal scorer and smart defensively on the walls, good on the bench, really good leadership on the bench with the young guys. Definitely can add that, especially down the stretch."

On David Jones, who plays the Flames for the first time since being traded, Torchetti said, "Steady Eddie. He's done a good job using his size, good puck possession guy on the offensive-zone cycles, good on the walls, good on the bench, too. Another guy who has been stepping up on the bench and saying the right things and it just leaks to everybody else on the bench. Takes direction very well. He's low maintenance, which I really like. It's big when you give a player an assignment during a game and then you see him play it out. He's been pretty steady for us."

I'll be on Fox Sports North tonight pregame and first intermission. I'll be on KFAN tomorrow at 5:55.

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