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Wild rookie Declan Chisholm earning his opportunity

EDMONTON, Alberta — Declan Chisholm was set to play in his fourth consecutive game on Friday, the most he has ever played in one NHL season despite first being called up by Winnipeg in 2021-22.

It’s been a welcome change for the rookie, his first real chance to show that he can be a consistently effective NHL defenseman. Before being claimed off waivers from the Jets in Jan. 29, Chisholm had never played more than two games in an NHL season.

But while he’s taking advantage of his opportunity, he had a goal and an assist in his previous three games for his new team, Chisholm, 24, is far from comfortable.

“Nothing’s really changed,” he said after a morning skate Friday at Rogers Place. “We’ve got a lot of defensemen here, so I’m still trying to prove myself.”

So far, so good.

With 26 regular-season games left, the Wild need every point they can get. So, coach John Hynes isn’t just playing Chisholm to give him a chance. The Wild are fighting tooth and nail to remain in the playoff chase, four points out of the Western Conference’s second wild card spot before Friday’s 8 p.m. CST puck drop.

Chisholm scored his first NHL goal in his first game with the Wild, a 3-2 overtime loss to Buffalo at Xcel Energy Center, and earned an assist in last Tuesday’s 6-3 loss at Winnipeg — a quick return to play the team that let him go,

“Once we got into the game, it was just game time and I didn’t really think about that too much,” Chisholm said. “But definitely showing up before the game. … I’ve been in every dressing room in that rink, other than the one we stayed in. It was weird, for sure.”

Hynes was impressed.

“He took a couple of hard hits early, and it’s obviously an emotional game for him to come back,” Hynes said. “But I really liked how he was able to get through that part, early in the game, and then his response after that was encouraging … to find himself and gather himself and get to the game that gives him the best chance to be a solid player for us.”

With Jared Spurgeon out of the season, defenseman Dakota Mermis has earned a spot on the blue line this season. A veteran who played a career-high 10 NHL games with New Jersey in 2019-20, Mermis was set to play his 39th game for the Wild on Friday.

Chisholm, a restricted free agent at season’s end, made it clear after his first practice with Minnesota that he hopes to find a lasting role with the Wild. And Hynes’ system — an attacking approach that encourages the weakside defenseman to jump into the rush — seems to suit Chisolm’s talents.

The biggest challenge so far, the left-shot blue liner said, has been adjusting to playing to his offside. But even that is becoming comfortable.

“I just want to do the best I can every night. That doesn’t change,” he said Friday. “I feel like I attack every game the same, and I want to prepare the same way for every game I play. I treat it like it’s my first game of the year.”

Points wanted

Two forwards key to the Wild’s success entered Friday’s game in a points slump.

When the Wild finished with franchise-highs of 53 victories and 113 points in 2021-22, Ryan Hartman had a career-high 34 goals and 65 points, and Frederick Gaudreau had a career-high 14 goals and 44 points.

That production has fallen since, and the two entered Friday night’s game with a combined two goals and three assists in their past 15 games. In an effort to get something going, Hynes has moved the two around the past several games.

“I think both guys are doing what we’re asking them to do and that’s, even for them individually, to play at a pace and a competitive level that gives you a chance to impact the game in a positive way,” Hynes said. “I think both players are working towards that and doing a pretty good job.”

Gaudreau, who signed a five-year, $10.5 million contract extension last April, has three goals and 11 points in 44 games. Hartman, who signed a three-year contract extension worth $12 million during training camp, has 15 goals and 28 points in 51 games. He had a handful of Grade A chances against Winnipeg this week, including shot from the corner on an open net.

“When you get those chances, you’d like to bury those opportunities,” Hartman said. “But you’ve got to take getting good opportunities as a good sign.”

Injury updates

The Wild are without forwards Marcus Foligno and Pat Maroon for games in Edmonton and Seattle this weekend. Maroon is out after having back surgery; Foligno has a lower body injury.

Hynes didn’t have updates on the status of either player on Friday.

“You know, it’s a great question on Foligno,” Hynes said. “The reason I don’t have it is because he wasn’t around the last couple of days. They just had their baby, so he’s kinda dealing with that right now. So, I’m assuming when we get back, we’ll have further updates on both of those guys.”

Briefly

Alex Goligoski was a healthy scratch for the seventh consecutive game on Friday. Set back early when he suffered a broken leg during the team’s second regular-season practice, the veteran has nine assists in 30 games.

Filip Gustavsson was in net on Friday. Marc-Andre Fleury is scheduled to play Saturday night at Seattle.