TUESDAY'S STORYLINE: "It is a little weird," said Clayton Stoner on his new-found position as one of the veteran defensemen on the Wild blue line. On Sunday, the 27 year old returned from missing 17 games with a lower body injury. In the 17 games he was gone, the Wild traded veteran defensemen Marek Zidlicky, Nick Schultz and Greg Zanon. That left Stoner, with 105 games played with Minnesota, the 2nd most experienced defenseman to wear a Wild sweater behind Kurtis Foster, who has played 187 games for Minnesota during two stints with the team.
Foster, 30, and Tom Gilbert, 29, have age and NHL experience on Stoner, but the two were both acquired around the trade deadline and have combined to play 13 games for Minnesota this season.
In Stoner's absence, Mike Yeo noted the Wild were not only looking forward to having Stoner back because of his play, but also for his leadership.
The big physical defenseman has 62 hits in 40 games and has dropped the gloves on countless occasions to defend a teammate on the ice. This speaks volumes according to assistant coach Rick Wilson.
"Stony's leadership starts on the ice, when he is playing his best game he is error free with the puck and positioning. What he brings and where he helps lead is in the physical play, he leads the D group back there with that. He is a strong force, he knows how to help the rest of the team if he needs to in that area. That is where he leads, he can walk the walk," noted Wilson.
In the room, Stoner hopes he can provide new players with the comforts that were provided to him when he first came into the league.
"For me it was just big for guys to make you feel at home and make you feel like you are a part of the team, so I try to show that to the young guys coming in and even veterans coming in, make them feel comfortable so they can be confident on the ice," noted Stoner.
LINEUP NOTES: Forward Nick Johnson will be a healthy scratch tonight. Yeo said he didn't like Johnson's last game against Calgary. Cal Clutterbuck (undisclosed), who has missed three games, is a game-time decision but it looks like he will play tonight. Devin Setoguchi (maintenance) did not participate in morning skate and is also a game-time decision.
HACKETT IN NET: Matt Hackett will start, Josh Harding will back up. Niklas Backstrom (lower body) participated in the full morning skate with the team, but there is no timetable for his return.
HE SAID IT: "They are a team you can tell that they are feeling it right now, they have all bought in. They are all playing the right way, game after game, and they play a very consistent game. When you play a game as consistent as they do you give yourself a good chance to have consistent results." Yeo on the Dallas Stars