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Wild coach Dean Evason mulls lineup changes ahead of Game 5

While it’s unclear if there will be any lineup changes, there are a number of potential options for the Wild.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Minnesota Wild at St. Louis Blues
Minnesota Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin (25) reacts after a goal from St. Louis Blues center Jordan Kyrou (25) during the first period in Game 4 of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Sunday, May 8, 2022, at Enterprise Center in St. Louis.
Jeff Le / USA Today Sports

After being extremely forthcoming about the Minnesota Wild lineup throughout the regular season, coach Dean Evason has been much more tight lipped with the playoffs underway. All in the name of gamesmanship.

The biggest example came last week when Evason opted not to announce Marc-Andre Fleury as his starter for Game 1 of the Wild’s first-round series against the St. Louis Blues. It’s worth noting that Evason did confirm that Alex Goligoski was drawing into the lineup in Game 2, as well as the fact that there wouldn’t be any lineup changes for Game 3 or Game 4.

But Evason appears to be mum again with the Wild set to host the Blues in Game 5 on Tuesday night at Xcel Energy Center. While it’s unclear if there will be any lineup changes, there are a number of potential options for the Wild, including Nick Bjugstad up front, Dmitry Kulikov on the blue line and Cam Talbot in net, to name a few.

For a group that has lauded its depth all season, this might be the perfect time for the Wild to use it.

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After finishing the regular season with 33 goals and 52 assists, Fiala did not score a goal in the playoffs.

“We just finished a couple of hours ago debating that exact point,” Evason said Monday morning. “Are we going to make a decision? We’ll see.”

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Asked if something as simple as a lineup change can have a positive impact on the group as a whole, Evason replied, “Sure it can. But there could be a negative impact too if we take somebody out that’s been in the battle.”

“You can do it and then second guess,” Evason said. “If it worked out great, we’re brilliant. If it didn’t, we’re not so smart.”

If the Wild ultimately decide to throw a new face into the mix, Evason emphasized that it won’t necessarily be because someone played poorly. It could be something as simple as getting some fresh legs on the ice with the best-of-7 series tied 2-2.

“There’s that balance, right? Evason said. “Are you pushing the panic button making a change? Are you doing it for the right reasons? We go through all of that. Hopefully tomorrow night we make the right decision.”

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Minnesota Wild at St. Louis Blues
St. Louis Blues defenseman Niko Mikkola (77) gets physical with Minnesota Wild center Joel Eriksson Ek (14) during the second period in Game 4 of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Sunday, May 8, 2022, at Enterprise Center in St. Louis.
Jeff Le/USA TODAY Sports

Advantage Wild?

If both teams hold serve and win at home the rest of the way, the Wild will beat the Blues and advance to the next round. That’s the benefit of having home-ice advantage.

“We’re excited for tomorrow night,” Evason said of Game 5. “We’re looking forward to playing in front of our home crowd again.”

There will be more than 19,000 fans in attendance for Tuesday’s game. If the Wild win Game 5, that would give them some wiggle room heading into Game 6 in St. Louis. Not that the Wild are getting too far ahead of themselves.

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“We don’t think like that,” Evason said. “We just think, ‘Let’s compete and see where we sit at the end of the night.’ We’re preparing to compete tomorrow. We’re excited about the opportunity. The series is tied. We don’t look any further than puck drop tomorrow.”

Injury update

The Blues are slowly starting to get healthy on the back end. While veteran Torey Krug will be on the shelf for the foreseeable future, and Marco Scandella is also out, the Blues got some good news Monday when Nick Leddy and Robert Bortuzzo took the ice.

Both players have been out with upper-body injuries. It’s unclear if either will be ready to go for Game 5.

Briefly

After the Wild and Blues got some reprieve with a mid-afternoon puck drop for Sunday’s game in St. Louis, the NHL has officially announced that Game 6 on Thursday will start at 8:30 p.m. For this series, that’s five 8:30 starts in the first six games.

Related Topics: MINNESOTA WILD
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