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Homestand could affect Wild GM Fletcher's trade plans

New Jersey Devils defenseman Viktor Loov (50) and Washington Capitals center Jakub Vrana (13) battle for the puck in the first period at Capital One Arena in Washington on Sept. 27, 2017. Geoff Burke / USA TODAY Sports

ST. PAUL — It's that time in the regular season when NHL front offices look at their hands, take a deep breath and push their chips to the center of the table.

At last season's trade deadline, Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher flipped a first-round pick to the Arizona Coyotes for hulking center Martin Hanzal and "junkyard dog" winger Ryan White. While he's unlikely to trade another first-rounder, these two weeks before the Feb. 26 trade deadline will go a long way toward determining whether Fletcher goes all in or stands pat.

"This is the pivotal point in the season looking at the standings," forward Daniel Winnik said. "This is when teams decide what they're doing with their roster. Now is the opportunity for us to make that push and make Chuck's decision a lot easier."

Fletcher made his first trade Thursday afternoon, Feb. 8, acquiring defenseman Viktor Loov from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for minor league forwards Mario Lucia and Christoph Bertschy. Bigger trades could be on the horizon if the Wild make a push over the next couple of weeks.

The Wild began a five-game homestand Thursday night against the Coyotes at the Xcel Energy Center. Minnesota is 18-4-4 at the X this season.

"We have been fairly good at home," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "You know, the saying I use is, 'You've got to make hay when the sun shines.' When we get in March, it gets pretty tough, and our road schedule is pretty tough. We have to take advantage of it when we can."

Which means the Wild won't let their guard down just because they're home.

"We don't want to look at this five games like it's going to be automatic points for us by any means," goaltender Devan Dubnyk said. "There's a reason we've been successful at home, and it's because of the way we've been playing. This is a good chance for us tonight."

"At the end of the day, it's a time we have to climb in the standings," Winnik said. "There's no excuses not to."

Trade details

Loov, 25, has 17 points in 36 games with Binghamton Devils of the American Hockey League this season. The 6-foot-3, 216-pound native of Sweden played in four games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2015-16.

Lucia, 24, has yet to make his NHL debut after being taken in the second round of the 2011 NHL Draft. He has 15 points (6 goals, 9 assists) in 40 games with the Iowa Wild this season. He is the son of Gophers men's hockey coach Don Lucia and played four collegiate seasons at Notre Dame.

Bertschy, 23, has 17 points (8 goals, 9 assists) in 45 games with Iowa this season. He was a sixth-round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Hockey is for everyone

As part of a league-wide initiative, the Wild are hosting Hockey Is For Everyone Awareness Night on Thursday night.

The monthlong initiative is designed to reaffirm that the sport provides "a safe, positive and inclusive environment for players and families regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status," according to the league's web site.

"I think it's really good for everyone," said Charlie Coyle, the Wild's team ambassador. "Obviously, we want to keep spreading the game and make sure everyone is feeling comfortable if they want to try out a new sport and play the game that's been so good to me and my teammates and everyone else.

"It's that simple. We want other people to feel that, too, and feel comfortable playing. That's how it should be. It should be for everyone. It's weird that we even have to talk about it."

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.