The Minnesota Wild are ready to put Games One and Two behind them as they get set to host the defending Stanley Cup champs for a two-game home stand of their own.
In a move to shake up his roster and get better results, it appears Wild head coach Mike Yeo is scratching one Minnesota native for another, as it looks like defenseman Keith Ballard will take Nate Prosser’s place on the third pairing according to a tweet from the Star Tribune’s Michael Russo:
Nino with Koivu and Coyle #mnwild; Moulson-Haula-Fontaine. Ballard looks like he may play for Prosser
— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) May 6, 2014
In nine games against Colorado and Chicago, Prosser has yet to collect a point this postseason, but has managed a plus-3 rating, four hits and 16 blocked shots while skating an average of 12:52 per night. While he’s gritty, he doesn’t provide the booming hip check Ballard has been known for.
Tonight will be Ballard’s first game in nearly two months. He’ll rejoin Clayton Stoner on the third pairing.
After being bought out by the Vancouver Canucks at the end of last season, Ballard signed a two-year dear with his hometown Wild, hoping to revive his career with a new start in a familiar place. Though he’s shown flashes of brilliance and of the potential top-4 defenseman he can be, Ballard has spent much of the season on the shelf with injuries and on the third pairing when healthy. In 45 regular season games, he would score two goals and seven assists for nine points and a negative-7 rating while skating an average of 13:36 of ice-time per game.
Minnesota has a 2-0 hole to climb out of if it’s going to survive this series. A veteran like Ballard on the backend could go a long way in shoring up the defense. A left-shot defender, Ballard is versatile and can play both sides while also incorporating a solid slapper from the point. Having another lefty on the right side should help the Wild in their goal to get more pucks on Blackhawks netminder Corey Crawford.
The Minnesota Wild have an undefeated postseason home record going into tonight–they plan to keep it that way at least through Game Four. That starts tonight, and look for Ballard to make a good effort in introducing himself to Chicago.