The Minnesota Wild are back home again at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild open up their longest homestand of the season with a game against the Vancouver Canucks tonight.
It’s just the second home game of the season for the Wild, after an overtime loss to Columbus in the season opener. The Wild (2-2-2) will see a familiar face when the Canucks (4-3-1) visit St. Paul. Former Wild forward Thomas Vanek is set to play on the third line. He already has three goals and an assist this season. He played with the Wild for two years (2014-16) scoring 39 goals and 54 assists.
But the big news of the day, as it has been this season, is all about injuries and Iowa call-ups.
Zach Parise underwent successful back surgery Tuesday morning, the team announced. The 33-year-old missed out on training camp and has not played a game this season after his injury flared up again. He was practicing but suffered a setback there, too. It’s estimated he’ll be out 8-to-10 weeks. It’s obviously a big loss for the team.
Mikael Granlund will return to the lineup tonight after missing five games with a groin injury. He last played in the season opener. Granlund’s return to the lineup should provide a needed boost to a squad with a depleted cupboard of forwards. He led the team in points last year with 69 and is looking to get on the scoresheet in 2017-18.
This is where it could get interesting. Granlund will reunite on the top line with forward Jason Zucker and center Mikko Koivu. However, this top line has been the team’s best in Granlund’s absence, with Zucker, Koivu and leading-scorer Chris Stewart. The hope is Stewart can carry over his early success to the second line with Marcus Foligno and center Eric Staal. Stewart has a point in each of the first six games (6-2—8).
Granlund returns just in time to face his brother Markus. They’ve played each other five times in the NHL. Mikael scored his lone career hat trick the last time they met, a 6-3 Wild victory on Feb. 4. His brother didn’t factor in the scoring that night.
More new skaters
As for the new faces from Iowa, Minnesota native Justin Kloos is set to make his NHL debut tonight. He’s a former Mr. Hockey from Lakeville South High School and University of Minnesota Gophers player.
He was a two-time All-Big Ten player with the Gophers and signed a free-agent deal with the Wild earlier this year. He played nine games with Iowa last season after his senior year with the Gophers wrapped up. This year, he has a goal and two assists in six games.
“Obviously this is something you think about when you’re young,” Kloos said. “This is where you want to be, you want to get this opportunity.”
It’s projected that Kloos will skate on the fourth line with Tyler Ennis and Joel Eriksson Ek.
Forward Luke Kunin (two assists) and defenseman Mike Reilly (three assists) were also called back from Iowa Monday.
Devan Dubnyk (1-2-1) should be back in goal, looking for his second win of the season. Dubnyk’s goals against average is just under 3.00 (2.90) with a .924 save percentage. Backup Alex Stalock dazzled and kept the Wild in the game in Calgary over the weekend.
The Wild are 37-34-14 all-time versus the Canucks, a former division rival. The Wild are 10-6-0 in their last 16 matchups in St. Paul. They went 1-2-0 against the Canucks last season. Always look out for the Sedin twins during these games. Henrik leads all-time against the Wild in assists. He has 69 points in 83 games against the Wild. His brother Daniel has 65 points in 80 games.
The Wild’s power play (6-for-18, 33 percent) ranks first in the NHL. They’ve scored at least one goal on the power play in five straight games. The last time they reached six games in this category was the start of 2010-11.
Nino Niederreiter (high left ankle sprain)
Charlie Coyle (right fibula fracture)
Zach Parise (back surgery)
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