The Wild will get a big boost tonight as center Matt Cullen will return to the lineup after missing the past six games with a lower body injury.
“I feel really good,” said Matt Cullen this morning in Calgary. “It’s been awfully tough watching and it will be nice to get back in the fight with the guys.”
The Wild have gone 1-4-1 without Cullen in the lineup and have only scored seven goals in the past six games. Cullen brings many different features to the lineup and head coach Mike Yeo is looking forward to having him back.
“He is one of our top penalty killers and well and a power play guy,” said Yeo. “All that on top of a veteran presence a guy who has the experience of winning and playing in meaningful games it is a big addition to our group tonight.”
Cullen returns at a crucial time as the Wild are battling for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Minnesota currently sits in the seventh spot in the Western Conference with seven games remaining. The return of Cullen should help bolster the team.
“He was playing so well before he got hurt,” said teammate Zach Parise. “Really that line with him and Setoguchi was playing unreal before he got hurt. That was a big part of us winning games and scoring a lot of goals. For us to be getting him back, it will be big for those guys that he is playing with and it will be big for our team.”
Cullen who has 25 points in 35 games this season will be back with Setoguchi and Jason Zucker tonight. Setoguchi who has 24 points this season, has been held to only one point in the past six games without Cullen.
Yeo is looking for the second line to pick where they left off.
“The way that they were playing we would like to see them get back to that level pretty quickly,” noted Yeo.
The second line isn’t the only line that has dropped off offensively since Cullen’s injury. Minnesota’s top line hasn’t produced as much since Cullen has been out. Zach Parise has three points in the last six games, while top line center Mikko Koivu has zero points in the last six games. With the lack of secondary scoring with Cullen out opposing teams have focused their efforts on the Wild’s top line.
“It makes it a little bit easier for teams to target them,” said Yeo. “I think teams looking at our line up the past little bit you know the fact we weren’t having much secondary scoring they figured if they can really shut down Mikko and Zach they have a pretty good chance of getting a win.”
— With Cullen back in the lineup, rookie forward Mikael Granlund will be a healthy scratch.
— The Wild has assigned defenseman Mathew Dumba from the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League to the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League.