The backdrop won’t be the only change for the Wild Saturday.
In its home opener against the Penguins at Xcel Energy Center after going 0-3 on the road to start the season, the Wild will insert center Victor Rask into the lineup and scratch winger Ryan Donato.
“I hope to see that [Rask’s] been pretty angry sitting out three games in a row for a veteran that you traded a good player [Nino Niederreiter] for,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We want to see him compete and for him to sort of say, ‘Coach, you’re never taking me out of the game ever again.’”
Donato’s timeout is reflective of his fall to the fourth line and a lack of production thus far. Through three games, Donato is pointless and has five shots.
“There’s gotta be a change,” Donato said. “A lot of those other guys are guys that can be moving pieces or are guys that have been playing well. I don’t think I’ve necessarily been playing my best either. That’s my personal opinion not anything they’ve said to me either.
“I know I can play a lot better and I think if there was any moving piece, I’d be the moving piece right now at this stage and I think Victor deserves a chance. At that point, it makes sense. It’s unfortunate that it comes at the home opener. But at the end of the day, it’s all about the win and I’ll be ready for my next opportunity.”
While these moves mix up the forward group, the defense will remain the same.
Carson Soucy continues to fill out the third pairing, with Nick Seeler scratched for a third consecutive game.
Last season, the Wild struggled on home ice – going 16-18-7. Better output in St. Paul will be key for the team to try to climb up the standings.
“Last year, it wasn’t good enough at home for us,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “This has been a place for us we’ve had lots of success, sand it’s been a big part of us making the playoffs. We’ve talked about that throughout camp, how we want to get back to this being a place we dominate. This is a good opportunity to get things started right against a tough team.”
Jordan Greenway-Eric Staal-Kevin Fiala
Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Mats Zuccarello
Zach Parise-Joel Eriksson Ek-Luke Kunin
Marcus Foligno-Victor Rask-Ryan Hartman
Ryan Suter-Matt Dumba
Jonas Brodin-Jared Spurgeon
Carson Soucy-Brad Hunt
14-0-4: The Wild’s record in home openers.
9: Home games in October and November are the fewest in franchise history.
720: Career points for center Eric Staal vs. Eastern Conference opponents.
6: Shots for defenseman Brad Hunt Thursday vs. Winnipeg, a game-high.
5-7: Dubnyk’s career record against the Penguins.
About the Penguins:
Pittsburgh is off to a 2-2 start, which has been riddled with injuries. Forwards Evgeni Malkin (lower body), Alex Galchenyuk (lower body) and Nick Bjugstad (lower body) are currently sidelined. Captain Sidney Crosby has a team-high six points, four of which are assists. The Penguins are coming off a 2-1 win at home over Anaheim Thursday. Last season, they went 2-0 vs. the Wild.