There's no doubting the importance of goaltending for the Wild. When they received strong goaltending last year, they made a run to the playoffs. Kuemper's strong start this season had Minnesota among the league's best teams early. But Kuemper (above), who was sent to Iowa on a conditioning assignment on Monday, struggled in December and the Wild traded for Dubnyk. Minnesota needs Dubnyk or Kuemper -- or both -- to shut down other teams if there is any hope at making a playoff run. Having one step forward and take control would be nice. If both stepped up their play to bring consistency, no matter who is in net, would be preferred. Likely the two, assuming health, will get the majority of starts in the final 36 games over Niklas Backstrom.
Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY SportsBruce Fedyck
Forward Thomas Vanek
The skill and shooting ability is still there for the four-time, 30-goal scorer. Vanek has just nine goals in his first season with Minnesota, and has been more of a playmaker with 20 assists. Vanek's passing has been an underrated part of his game, but the Wild need scoring. Vanek demonstrated what he could do against Detroit right before the break by getting a loose puck near the boards and circling around and through traffic for a nifty goal. Vanek has averaged .44 goals per game in his career. He's at .20 goals per game this season. Minnesota needs the high-scoring Vanek in the second half.
APCharles Rex Arbogast
Defenseman Ryan Suter
It's a tough position to require more from an alternate caption who averages nearly 30 minutes of ice time per game and is second on the team with 24 assists, but the Wild might just need it from Suter. Suter has been his usual workmanlike self, but he's also a minus-8 this season and is minus-21 since Nov. 26. He's had a minus rating in 16 of his past 22 games. Only once in his career has Suter finished a season with a minus-rating. Suter is on the ice a lot and has to get back to his reliable self on the defensive side.
Center Mikael Granlund
Minnesota was at its best late last season when Mikael Granlund was centering a scoring line with Zach Parise and Jason Pominville, giving the Wild two strong lines with Mikko Koivu leading the other unit. Granlund has been limited to 32 games this season and has just four goals and 11 assists. He's missed the past 13 games with a broken wrist and subsequent surgery. Granlund could be ready to join the team in Edmonton or soon after. His return will be a boost to the top two lines and could add the same impact Granlund did in the postseason last year.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsKim Klement
Forward Jason Zucker
Many players could have filled this spot, including Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter. The thinking is Minnesota needs more secondary scoring, particularly from its young group of Zucker, Granlund, Coyle and Niederreiter. Zucker has worked himself into a pivotal role this season to finally get the most playing time he's enjoyed in the NHL. He's responded with a career-high 16 goals, second on the team to Parise. Zucker has shown his scoring tough in limited roles in the past and in the American Hockey League. He's quickly become a key goal scorer for the Wild, often playing on the second line. His speed is a valuable asset.