(SportsNetwork.com) - With a shot at clinching the Metropolitan Division title, the New York Rangers will welcome Martin St. Louis back into the lineup on Thursday night when they visit the streaking Minnesota Wild.
St. Louis has been out since March 15 with a lower-body injury, but took part in morning skate prior to Tuesday's 3-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets and then got in a full practice on Wednesday. The 39-year-old skated on a line with Kevin Hayes and Carl Hagelin.
St. Louis has 20 goals and 27 assists in 68 games this season and should provide a boost to the Rangers' playoff chances.
"I'm not used to not being part [of the lineup]," St. Louis told the Rangers' website. "I don't know what the amount of games I've missed in my career is, but I know it's not a lot."
The timing of St. Louis' return matches up the Rangers' chance at claiming their first division title since winning the Atlantic Division in 2011-12. New York leads both the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins by eight points. The Isles and Pens both have five games to play, so the Blueshirts can lock up first place because of their 44 non-shootout wins to the Islanders and Penguins' 38.
New York got goals from Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard in Tuesday's win over Winnipeg, while Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves in his second game back after missing time with a neck injury. He recorded his first victory since Feb. 2, the last game in which he played before being sidelined.
"It feels good for a couple reasons," said Lundqvist. "It was an important game for us."
The Rangers had lost three of four coming in, but picked up a club record- tying 25th road win of the campaign. New York has won seven of its past eight as the guest.
The Wild come in looking to match their longest winning streak of the season, a six-game run from Jan. 27-Feb. 9. Minnesota extended its streak with Saturday's 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings, a triumph that at the time moved the Wild past the Chicago Blackhawks for third place in the Central Division.
However, Minnesota has slipped three points behind Chicago and back into the first wild card spot in the Western Conference. The Wild and Blackhawks both have six games left to play and Chicago hosts the Vancouver Canucks tonight.
Nino Niederreiter and Mikko Koivu had two goals each in the win over the Kings, Chris Stewart had a pair of assists and Koivu also helped set up a goal. Devan Dubnyk came up with 31 saves in his 34th start in a row.
"We knew the challenge ahead of us going into the game. It was a tough 60 minutes all the way," said Koivu. "I thought we played a smart game that brought us the win."
Minnesota plays the third contest of a five-game homestand tonight and expects to have forward Kyle Brodziak back in the lineup. He has missed three games in a row due to an upper-body injury and has tallied 20 points in 67 games this season.
Though the Wild have won four of their past six at home versus the Rangers, New York scored five third-period goals to beat a visiting Minnesota club 5-4 at home back on Oct. 27. Zuccarello had the deciding tally to go along with a pair of assists, while Lundqvist made 26 saves.
Lundqvist is 4-3-0 in his career versus the Wild with a 2.94 goals against average and .880 save percentage.
Dubnyk has never faced the Rangers.