Wild changes: Kuemper starts, Brodziak sits, Heatley draws in

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Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo is shaking things up for tonight’s crucial Game 3 against Colorado.

Down 2-0 to the Avs, the Wild will make a goalie change as Darcy Kuemper will replace Ilya Bryzgalov after the Russian ‘tender started the first two games in Denver. Kuemper, who missed the last three weeks due to a concussion, returned to action on Saturday when he replaced Bryzgalov and played well, stopping all 14 shots faced in an eventual 4-2 loss.

Tonight will mark Kuemper’s first-ever playoff start, though he did make two previous appearances during last year’s opening-round loss to Chicago.

In other big lineup news, Kyle Brodziak will miss just his second game of the season, sitting as a healthy scratch after two shaky outings to start the series. A lineup fixture throughout the season — he was one of just five Wild skaters to play more than 80 games — Brodziak scored a goal in Game 1 and played nearly 20 minutes, but also finished minus-3 on the night. In Game 2, his ice time was cut to a mere 10:51.

“Down 2-0 in the series, you’re going to make some changes,” Yeo explained.

Brodziak’s demotion paves the way for the return of Dany Heatley, who has yet to play this series. The veteran winger had another down campaign, scoring just 12 goals and 28 points in 76 games, but sounded excited about the opportunity to participate in the playoffs for the first time since 2011 (Heatley was injured for last year’s series against the Blackhawks.)

“You always want to be in there,” Heatley said, per the Minnesota Star-Tribune. “It’s a big game, so I’m excited to get going.”

In another lineup move, veteran Stephane Vellieux will also sit on Monday after playing just six minutes in Saturday’s loss. He’ll be replaced by the more offensive-minded Justin Fontaine, who had 13 goals in 66 games this year for the Wild.