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Wild’s new center will make his NHL debut this week

The Wild are eager to see what their new center can do for the playoff push, and coach John Hynes said Monday that Marat Khusnutdinov will likely make his Minnesota debut this week — possibly as early as Tuesday against the Arizona Coyotes at Xcel Energy Center.

“Whether or not that’s tomorrow, we’re going to talk with him again this afternoon, get him a full morning skate tomorrow,” Hynes told reporters after an optional practice Monday at TRIA Rink. “If he doesn’t play tomorrow, we probably would have him come in, go through the meetings, warmup — similar to what we did with Chisholm.

The Wild picked Declan Chisholm off waivers from Winnipeg on Jan. 29, and he didn’t play his first game for the Wild until Feb. 17. Part of that was because of the all-star break, and part because Chisholm had played in only eight games, two in the NHL, all season.

That’s not an issue for Khusnutdinov, 21, who just finish his fourth KHL season in Russia, recording six goals and 20 points in 55 games between SKA St. Petersburg and HK Sochi. A second-round pick in the 2020 entry draft, Khusnutdinov signed a two-year, two-way entry level contract on Feb. 29 and arrived in Minnesota on Saturday.

The rookie already has connected with fellow Russian Kirill Kaprizov, and the two have been hanging out together — although the eight-hour time difference between St. Paul and Moscow has been an issue.

“They were supposed to go to dinner and Marat slept through it. They didn’t get to dinner,” Hynes said. “That’s why there’s more to it. We want to see him play, and he’s going to get an opportunity. But he’s been through a lot.”

The Wild are host to Arizona on Tuesday and Anaheim on Thursday, then play Saturday at St. Louis as they continue a last desperate push to earn one of the two Western Conference wild-card playoff spots.

“He looks good on the ice; we just want to make sure we communicate with him and give him the right opportunity to come in, whether it’s tomorrow or Thursday or Saturday,” Hynes said. “It will be one of those games, for sure.”

The Wild have moved back into ninth place in the West, six points behind Vegas for the eighth and final playoff spot with 17 regular-season games remaining. The Wild think Khusnutdinov can help.

Khusnutdinov was at Xcel Energy Center for Sunday afternoon’s victory over Nashville. Asked for his first impression of the NHL, he told reporters, “Speed. Smart guys. Physical guys.”

As for how he would fit in, he said through an interpreter, “I can’t say I think it’s going to be easy, but I think it’s my legs and my head that will help me make it in this league.”

Risk, reward

So desperate are the Wild for points, Hynes pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in overtime for a 4-on-3 advantage against Nashville on Sunday, and it quickly paid off in a 4-3 victory.

What a lot of fans, and some players, didn’t know was that under NHL rules, the Wild would have lost their OT point had they lost — the risk of pulling their goalie for a reason other than a delayed penalty.

“You don’t want to lose a point, obviously, but you also have to understand the situation that you’re in and try to give our team every chance to fight down the stretch,” Hynes said Monday.

“I know some of the players don’t know (the rule), but maybe if they know, they don’t feel as comfortable.”

Injury update

Marcus Johansson, who has missed the past three games because of a lower-body injury, participated in practice Monday.

“Johansson was good,” Hynes said. “I don’t have any feedback for you whether he’s going to play or not tomorrow, but we did progress from skating, and things like that, to some contact, and gave him a good push today.”

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