The Wild wants to be a tougher team to play against and will add a little bit of sandpaper tonight as it hosts the Los Angeles Kings.
Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo will slot Cal Clutterbuck on the wing with Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi, giving the line a physical presence it has been lacking. The Wild bench boss wants Clutterbuck to be a disruptive force on the forecheck, as well as getting to the front of the net to create screens and second-chance opportunities.
“As you get older, you appreciate these games and these opportunities more because they don’t come all that often,” Cullen said.
As for the sandpaper, the Wild will get back one of its coarsest customers in the middle. Zenon Konopka will reenter the lineup after missing the last five games with a lower-body injury. He’ll center Torrey Mitchell and the recently recalled Jake Dowell.
Dowell was recalled from the Houston Aeros yesterday, along with forward Stephane Veilleux. The 28-year-old will make his Wild debut, after signing with the club as a free agent on July 3. Dowell talked to the media following the morning skate about his role, playing against the Kings and being recalled.
After practice, Yeo talked about getting back to the things that made the team successful in March, which included being a difficult team to play against. Tonight, the fourth line will have more of a traditional fourth line feel, an ingredient that has been missing in the lineup.
“In this last little stretch, we’ve been a little too easy to play against,” Yeo said. “We’ve got to make sure we get back to being a physical team and get back to playing well without the puck.”
Adding size on the backend will be Justin Falk. He returns for the first time since April 11 and replaces Brett Clark.
Mike Rupp skated with the team this morning, but is still hobbled with a lower-body injury.
Once again, Niklas Backstrom will get the start in net. Backing-up Backstrom will be Josh Harding, who has been pulled of Injured Reserve after a conditioning assignment in Houston. Harding skated in two games and has been feeling great while finding the right treatment for multiple sclerosis.
Before the Wild battles the Kings, the club will wear camouflage sweaters during warmups. The jerseys will be auctioned online to benefit the Minnesota Wild Foundation and Defending the Blue Line. More information about the camo jerseys and the auction can be found at wild.com/camo.