The Wild practiced Friday at Tria Rink in preparation for back-to-back home games against Boston and Washington, and coach Dean Evason said four sidelined players won't play against the Bruins on Saturday but could return Sunday against the Capitals.
The most-anticipated return would be from defenseman Jonas Brodin, who has missed the past 11 games because of a lower-body injury. Brodin practiced with the team on Friday for the second time since leaving the lineup and did not appear limited in drills. The Wild are 8-0-3 in Brodin's absence, but they'll welcome the return of his defensive abilities after giving up 10 goals over the past two games.
Defenseman Jake Middleton (illness) and forward Marcus Foligno (lower body) missed Wednesday's game at St. Louis. Middleton did not practice Friday, while Foligno wore a no-contact jersey. Forward Brandon Duhaime, who has missed the past six games because of an upper-body injury, was limited in practice.
"A whole new team Sunday — back-to-back," Evason said. "We'll see how everybody comes out of today, we'll have a skate tomorrow morning with the guys that aren't going to play and then we'll have some decisions to make."
Evason also said leading scorer Kirill Kaprizov hasn't started skating yet since suffering a lower-body injury March 8 at Winnipeg. He's expected to miss 2-3 more weeks.
Beasts of the East
With their 3-0 win at Winnipeg on Thursday night, the Bruins improved to 51-11-5, and their 107 points are the best in the NHL by 11 over Carolina. Boston has a plus-103 scoring differential. The next-best is plus-54 by both Carolina and New Jersey.
"Obviously, Boston's the best team in the league, and they have been all year," Evason said. "They'll be a great test for us. … They keep the puck out of the net and they put the puck in the net."
Wild goalie Filip Gustavsson will start Saturday, and Marc-Andre Fleury gets the nod Sunday, Evason said. Gustavsson looks forward to the challenge.
"It's gonna be a great game to test us. They have so many wins," he said. "I know our defense is gonna have a lot to do tomorrow, and hopefully we can keep up the scoring."
Big Saturday for Walker
A year ago, Sammy Walker was preparing for the Big Ten tournament championship game as a three-year captain for the Gophers. Saturday, the Wild winger is hoping to make it back to 3M Arena at Mariucci to see his alma mater face Michigan for the title for the second year in a row — once his NHL duties are finished.
Walker was called up from AHL Iowa on March 9, the day after Kaprizov was injured. He played his seventh career NHL game on Wednesday, logging 17 shifts for 12:57 of ice time against the Blues. Walker took one shot on goal and had a minus-1 rating. He played six games for the Wild in December, collecting his first NHL goal at Winnipeg.
"You're more comfortable being up again," said Walker, who has 25 goals and 20 assists in 50 games for Iowa. "The first couple shifts are still a little nervous, but it's awesome. I feel more comfortable and confident."
Walker was skating at left wing on a line with Ryan Hartman and Mats Zuccarello during practice, a transition from playing center with the Gophers.
"Playing wing allows me to use my speed more, get on the forecheck and cause turnovers," the Edina native said.
Walker stays in touch with his college teammates. "I've been following them all year," he said, adding that the Gophers' high-scoring line of Matthew Knies, Logan Cooley and Jimmy Snuggerud is "so fun to watch. They're amazing."