Well, my speculation was correct that Matt Moulson will be the guy out when Matt Cooke returns Friday night in Game 4 from a seven-game suspension.

But the reason, Wild coach Mike Yeo says, is because Moulson has been battling through a lower-body injury for some time. Moulson didn’t practice Thursday and will be kept off the ice for a few days “at least,” said Yeo, and the hope is the team can get him back later in this series.

No other lineup changes are expected from the Wild. Same lines as Tuesday, except for Cooke sliding into his old third-line spot next to Erik Haula and Justin Fontaine. Keith Ballard looks like he’ll play a second game in a row and Nate Prosser will be scratched.

The Wild trails 1-2 in its series against Chicago. Last year against the Hawks, the Wild won Game 3, lost Game 4 at home and was promptly lost the series in five. The Wild knows the importance of Friday night's 8:30 game. The time for Game 5 will be determined after Friday's Rangers-Penguins game. If the Pens win, the Wild and Hawks are expected to play in the early evening Sunday. If the Rangers win, the Wild and Hawks may get another 8:30 p.m. start.

Wild defenseman Ryan Suter is fine. He said Marian Hossa landed on his arm weird and it just started burning. He was very worried (said it was scary), but he obviously returned to play almost 10 minutes in the third, sprung the 3-on-2 that led to the Zach Parise to Jason Pominville to Mikael Granlund tic-tac-boom goal and assisted on Parise’s power-play goal when Parise lifted his stick to signal to Suter that he had net-front position.

“Everyone played better in the third,” said Suter.

On the importance of tomorrow’s game, coach Mike Yeo said, “We’ve given ourselves a chance to even the series up and to go back to Chicago and hopefully put a little bit of pressure on those guys. We know that they recognize the importance of the game as do we. With that, our mindset I think more than anything else is, we know that there is another level to our game that we can get to. We’re still focused on that. Obviously happy that we won the last game, but we’re determined to get better in the series and in this next game. We’re going to come out with a real purpose in how we play. We have to stay strong defensively, but I know that there is another level that we can get to with the puck and how we execute, in particular from coming out of our D zone and through the neutral zone. And I really think that we can still do a better job of putting some more pressure on their goalie, not only shots and getting them through, but the amount of times we have guys around the net and traffic around the net.”

As for Chicago, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Andrew Shaw (lower body) won’t make the trip. Coach Q – the ultimate line shuffler – came up with four brand new ones today.





"We're looking for balance and maybe all lines, a little more threat to score on all the lines,” Quenneville said.

Hometown kid Nick Leddy, scratched in Game 3, will be back for Game 4.

On scratching players, Q said, “Sometimes it gets their attention. It’s never personal. It’s hey, let’s go. We’re trying to find ways to get the most of each and every individual. That’s kind of where we’re at in that situation.”

Said Leddy, the Wild 2009 first-round pick who had played 296 straight games for Chicago before being scratched, “I think any competitor would get ticked at that. Like I said, I don’t think I was playing the way that coaches wanted and it was a coaching decision. I’ve got to be better.”

I’m doing a story for Friday on what to expect in Game 4. Despite the fact the hockey world always blames the Wild for games when the neutral zone is cobweb-like, it was very clear Game 3’s tone was set by Chicago. The Blackhawks, after seeing Games 3 and 4 against Colorado, came up with a gameplan to sit back early and try to weather a furious storm and take the crowd out of it. Then it suddenly became a chess match until the first goal was scored thankfully early in the third.

“Of course we’re going to be blamed for that. I mean, it’s the high-flying Hawks. Of course, it’s going to be us,” Parise said, sarcastically. “Show me a team in the NHL that doesn’t play a trap and I’ll call you a liar because every single team does it. Whoever does it the best, then they get called a defensive team. I don’t agree with that. Every single team plays a trap.

“Last game, the ice was bouncy. There wasn’t a lot of flat plays through the neutral zone and I think both sides were somewhat getting frustrated because you couldn’t get it through clean. So then all of sudden you just try to stretch pass and chip it in and skate. They did the same thing to us that we did to them. It wasn’t like we were playing an 0-5 [defensive system] all game.”

Also, Dusty Peterson, the Wild’s videographer, produced another cool postgame Game 3 celebration video for wild.com the other day. Here's the link.

At the end of the video, when Granlund walked into the room, teammates started calling him, “Bruuuuuuce.”

I got a hundred tweets yesterday asking why. Slowly but surely, I figured it out. Basically, pretty much every player has a “stupid, random” nickname, one player told me. This player suggested I may want to talk to Parise for the “Bruce” genesis with a little friendly head-up as to what I should probably ask.

As it turns out, well worth it.

Players call Parise, “Brinks,” as in “Brinks” $$$ trucks. Mike Rupp brought it to the Wild from New Jersey, where Parise and Rupp were teammates.

“One day we’re sitting at breakfast and I was walking away and Granny called me, ‘Springs,’” Parise said, laughing. “I’m like, ‘What did you call me?’ He goes, ‘Springs.’ I go, ‘What is that?’ He goes, ‘Isn’t that what everyone calls you?’ I go, ‘No, no, they call me Brinks.’ He goes, ‘Oh, I thought it was Springs, like Bruce Springsteen’ [because I played in New Jersey],” Parise said, hysterically laughing.

“That’s how nicknames get started. We started calling him Bruce. He does not look like a Bruce at all, so that’s what makes it better.”

    SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Wild, Minnesota Hockey, CCM, Total Hockey along with Wild forward Charlie Coyle today announced the Little Wild Learn to Play program, a new initiative designed to introduce the game of ice hockey by overcoming affordability barriers that typically limit involvement at the beginner level in an effort to increase participation in youth hockey and grow the game.
    The inaugural program will kick off in September, when nearly 500 youth will have the opportunity to participate at one of eight arenas across the State of Hockey, with plans to grow and expand it each year. Each participant will be outfitted with gear from head-to-toe and receive four hours of professional on-ice instruction for $100. The program will also promote the importance of regular exercise, team work, and developing leadership skills all while having fun experiencing the game of hockey.
    “It’s our mission to continue creating a greater State of Hockey, so today we are thrilled to be launching the Little Wild Learn to Play program,” said Minnesota Wild Chief Operating Officer Matt Majka. “We are truly thankful to our partners Minnesota Hockey, CCM and Total Hockey who have not only made this program possible, but will help us take it to the next level.”
    Registration for Little Wild Learn to Play will begin on May 27 on Wild.com on a first-come, first-served basis for children age five to eight. The program is open to those who have not already participated in Mite Level hockey programs. Children with any previous hockey league or program experience are not eligible to participate in the program.
    The program will include professional instruction by licensed USA Hockey and Minnesota Hockey instructors. Wild forward Charlie Coyle will participate as a guest instructor at select sessions. Each participant will receive co-branded Little Wild and CCM equipment including skates, hockey bags, jerseys, helmets, gloves, pants, pads, socks and sticks. The cost of the program includes all equipment and four hours of on-ice instruction. If not enrolled in the program, the Little Wild equipment will still be available through CCM at Total Hockey locations for $200.
    “I’m excited to be a part of the Little Wild program,” Coyle said. “I have great childhood memories from playing the game and it’s obviously had a really positive influence on my life. I want to do whatever I can to share this great sport with others, especially kids, and continue growing the game.”
    “Minnesota Hockey is very much looking forward to the first-ever Little Wild Learn to Play program,” said Glen Andresen, Executive Director of Minnesota Hockey. “This program will help extend our efforts to introduce more families to the great game of hockey around the state, who want to give the sport a try at an extremely low cost. This will have a huge impact on growing the game and supporting our local community-based associations. We are so thankful for the support of the Minnesota Wild, CCM, Total Hockey and Charlie Coyle.”
    “We're excited to partner with the Wild, Minnesota Hockey and Total Hockey on this outstanding program,” said Reebok-CCM Hockey trade marketing executive Bob Fallen. "We're involved in ‘Little NHL’ programs in other U.S. cities which have enjoyed great success in welcoming families to the sport of ice hockey. Seeing these young players take to the ice for the first time in our gear is a real thrill.”
    “No sport can match the benefits that hockey provides our youth in terms of fitness, character, discipline and teamwork. We appreciate the opportunity to give back to our local Minnesota communities by providing wider access to this great game,” said Michael Benoit, President and CEO of Total Hockey.
Little Wild Learn to Play Locations and Times available at