Blue Jackets-Wild Preview

The Associated Press

The Minnesota Wild are searching for offense, and now they are unsure of the status of the defenseman who leads all NHL skaters in ice time.

The Wild have been shut out in three of four games and do not know if Ryan Suter will be available for Saturday night's home matchup with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Suter played a season-low 15:35 in Minnesota's second straight shutout loss, 2-0 to St. Louis on Thursday. He has logged over 1,087 minutes to lead the league, and sat out practice Friday.

Coach Mike Yeo said Suter as well as center Matt Cullen are both day to day.

Yeo is concerned about an offense that is sputtering, saying Thursday that he felt the Wild were "gripping the stick really tight" with a playoff berth at stake.

The coach took some action at Friday's practice, moving Charlie Coyle onto a line with Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise while Jason Pominville was shifted to join Kyle Brodziak and Pierre-Marc Bouchard.

Brodziak has no points in seven games while Bouchard has none in six.

"What it's really about is trying to find some balance in our lineup and putting him (Pominville) with Butch and Brodzie, you know I think that that's a line that could definitely produce for us," Yeo said.

The Wild (22-16-2) could be confident since the only time they scored over their last four games was Sunday's 3-0 victory at Columbus. Suter and Coyle scored on the power play, Pominville had a goal and an assist and Niklas Backstrom made 24 saves for his second shutout of the year.

Minnesota also won the other matchup this season, 3-2 at home on Jan. 29. Bouchard snapped a third-period tie with the eventual winning goal.

The Wild are in seventh place in the crowded Western Conference with 46 points. Eighth-place Detroit has 45 while Columbus is in a three-way tie for ninth with 43.

The Blue Jackets (18-16-7) will look for a third straight victory after beating St. Louis 4-1 at home on Friday. Ryan Johansen scored for the second straight game and Cam Atkinson had a goal and an assist.

"Our focus goes right to Minnesota now," Johansen said. "That's going to be a tough back-to-back game in their building but we're up for the challenge."

Columbus coach Todd Richards did not say whether Sergei Bobrovsky would get the start Saturday after the goaltender made 31 saves against the Blues. The former Minnesota coach knows what to expect against the Wild.

"Minnesota, they're a desperate team and they're fighting for points, not only where they are in the standings but they got some teams starting to creep up on them," Richards said. "So this is a huge two points for them."

The Blue Jackets are starting a six-game trip, but Richards wants the focus on the first stop.

"We can't start thinking about Colorado, LA, we've got to focus on Minnesota," he said.

Marian Gaborik also scored Friday, giving him six points in five games with his new team. This will be the winger's third game back in Minnesota against his first NHL club.