Wild tinker with third and fourth lines ahead of tilt with West-leading Canucks

The last time the Wild played the Vancouver Canucks, Freddy Gaudreau scored Minnesota’s only regulation goal in a 2-1 shootout victory at Xcel Energy Center on Dec. 16. The assists went to fellow third-liners Marcus Foligno and Pat Maroon.

Neither Foligno nor Maroon will be on the ice Monday when the Wild play host to Western Conference-leading Vancouver in a 1 p.m. puck drop at the X. Maroon is on injured reserve with a back injury, and Foligno was absent from practice on Sunday and will miss his fourth straight game with a lower body injury.

In their absence, head coach John Hynes experimented with different combinations on his third and fourth lines during a morning practice at TRIA Rink but wasn’t set on a lineup when he spoke with reporters.

“I think everything’s on the table,” he said.

That includes forward Mason Shaw possibly playing his first NHL game since blowing out his right knee last April 1 at Las Vegas. He was signed to a two-way deal, and recalled from AHL Iowa, last Thursday.

On Saturday, Hynes swapped centers on the bottom two lines late, sending Ryan Hartman to the fourth line and Connor Dewar to the third, and If practice was any indication, that might happen again. Shaw skated on a line with center Hartman and wing Vinni Lettieri, Dewar and Brandon Duhaime played on a line with Gaudreau.

“We really kind of focused on some of the things from last night’s game that we wanted to address in video and some things we wanted to practice,” Hynes said.

The Wild lost a 2-1 lead with 36 seconds left in regulation in a 3-2 overtime loss to Buffalo on Saturday afternoon at the X. One focus on Sunday was putting more pressure on the defense when entering, and in, the offensive zone. Another was addressing the team’s execution and decision-making late in regulation.

The winning goal was scored by Dylan Cozens from a scrum at the crease.

“I think if we had better decisions and better execution, that puck never gets to the net,” Hynes said Sunday. “So, I think that was a valuable lesson coming out of that was playing (with regard to) time, score — understanding how to play that situation better and smarter.”

Killer PK

The Wild are unbeaten since returning from the all-star break, 4-0-1, and 7-2-1 since Jan. 19, a stretch that pushed them from 13th to 10th in the Western Conference — and four points out of the final wild card spot — after Saturday’s games.

In those 10 games, the Wild’s penalty kill — the NHL’s worst when Hynes replaced Dean Evason as head coach on Nov. 28 — has allowed only three goals in 35 chances, a 91.4 success rate that ranks third in the league over those 10 games.

Hynes said there have been no major systematic chances but added, “I think the details have been better.”

The Wild are 20-13-2 since Hynes became coach.

“It’s been, what, 35 games now?” he said. “So, you really understand the structure and, I think, really understand rotations (to make) against different looks. But the big difference, I think, is faceoffs (33 of 69 shorthanded) and not allowing easy entries on our PK forecheck.

“But I also think we’ve done a better job, in pressure situations, of getting clears. I think that was hurting us a little bit before the break.”


— Monday’s game begins a difficult stretch against Western Conference rivals. After playing first-place Vancouver on Monday, the Wild travel to Winnipeg for a game Tuesday night against the second-place Jets, then play Thursday at Edmonton, where the sixth-place Oilers are 17-6-1 this season. They finish the road trip Friday at 11th-place Seattle.

— The Wild and Canucks have split a pair of games so far this season, each winning on home ice.

— Hynes said he was undecided on who would play in goal on Monday. Filip Gustavsson played well on Saturday, giving up just one even-strength goal. Marc-Andre Fleury is 3-0-0 with a 1.23 goals-against average and .954 save percentage in his past five starts.