The Minnesota Wild has already used 32 players this season and all have helped the Wild climb to the top of the NHL standings. So why not use another one tonight against the New York Islanders like, say…Fridley’s Jarod Palmer? Palmer will join the front lines due to the most recent rash of injuries that are holding Mikko Koivu and possibly Pierre-Marc Bouchard out of the lineup. Assuming Palmer gets into the lineup, he will be the third of three college free agent signings that inked deals with the Wild in the spring of 2010 to play with Minnesota. Casey Wellman and Nate Prosser have already both seen action with the Wild.
Bouchard did skate with the team today and will be a gametime decision, but Palmer is expected to play regardless.
He will look to help the Wild snap a two-game losing streak, although Minnesota did pick up a point in a thrilling 4-3 shootout loss to Chicago. Kyle Brodziak and Matt Cullen rallied the home team from a 2-0 deficit, and then Koivu rallied the team again, making the score 3-3 and forcing overtime. The game eventually went to a shootout, which the Blackhawks won. Niklas Backstrom took the loss in the game in a 28-save performance.
The Islanders lost a fourth straight game on Thursday night, falling to the Dallas Stars, 3-2. Michael Grabner and Kyle Okposo gave the Isles a 2-1 lead heading into the second, but the lead didn’t hold due to goals from Brenden Morrow and Jamie Benn. Kevin Poulin took the loss for New York after giving up three goals on 29 shots.
Wild vs. Islanders will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North with a start time at 7:00 PM. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
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These two teams met back on October 10 in the Wild’s first road game of the season. Despite holding the Isles to just 14 shots against, the Wild could muster just one Cullen goal despite dominating the second and third periods.
Back then, Okposo was beginning an early slump to start the season. This time around, the Wild gets the former Gopher on a hot streak. Over the last seven games, Okposo has tallied three goals and three assists.
The hottest Wild player won’t be in the lineup tonight. Koivu has a point in 13 of the last 14 games, totaling seven goals among 18 points in that stretch. Taking Koivu’s spot between Dany Heatley and Cal Clutterbuck will be Cullen, who is looking to get his scoring going again. His goal on Thursday snapped a 12-game stretch without a goal.
Whether it be by rallying, or getting into a goaltending duel or by playing a run-and-gun game, the Wild has found ways to win this season. That’s been especially true as players have missed time with injuries. Thus far, the Wild hasn’t had to win without Koivu in the lineup, but a lower body is forcing him out of tonight’s contest and the Wild will have to adjust their lines, but they won’t be adjusting their game plan or attitude. Each player has a job to do and the team is fully confident that if that continues to happen, the wins will keep following.
Palmer will be the fifth Minnesotan to suit up for his home state team tonight. The previous record for Minnesotans in the lineup was three. The former Miami Redhawk is a skilled forward that will be playing with former Houston teammate, Warren Peters.
Head Coach Mike Yeo has to get creative with his combinations with key players out of the lineup. Bouchard has been termed a "game-time decision" while Casey Wellman is out:
For awhile, it was the defensive corps that was depleted. Now, there are eight healthy defensemen, meaning two of them will have to sit. The Wild may use seven defensemen tonight, which would mean Zanon gets back in:
Backstrom started the last game against the Islanders, and he’ll get the call again tonight. He’s 4-2-0 in his career against the Islanders with a 2.43 goals against average.
The healthy scratches will depend on Bouchard's ability to play.
The list keeps growing. Koivu (lower body), Guillaume Latendresse (concussion symptoms) and Devin Setoguchi (lower body) are all out. Bouchard (facial injury) is questionable and a game-time decision. Casey Wellman (upper body) is out, and Falk (upper body) is ready to return when needed.
"If he comes to us and says he feels great and is ready to go, we could probably find a spot for him.”
- Mike Yeo on the status of Bouchard, who he called “very questionable” on Friday
Okposo is a native of St. Paul and played 40 games with the Minnesota Gophers. Injured LW Brian Rolston scored at least 30 goals three times in his career with the Wild.
The Wild has had six chances to avenge a loss to a team earlier in the season in the next meeting, and they’ve won each time. Tonight, the Wild will have a chance to avenge their first loss of the season.