Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.
Also find Russo on Facebook.
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The Wild, minus goalie Darcy Kuemper, boarded a charter this morning for Edmonton, Alberta.
As was indicated last week, the Wild still went through with a two-week conditioning stint for Kuemper to Iowa after the All-Star break. As he said after the game in Detroit, Kuemper was open to it, although after seeing him save the day there for at least a point by stopping 14 of 14 shots prior to the shootout in relief of Devan Dubnyk, I wondered if the Wild would change its mind and not mess with the goaltending right now.
But since the plan is likely to start Dubnyk all three games on this road trip and the fact the Wild only has six games in the next 14 days and won’t play back-to-back next until Feb. 9-10, the Wild’s willing to send him to Iowa for a little bit to get some games.
“Playing time, practice time before he gets the playing time,” coach Mike Yeo said is his goal for Kuemper. “But more than anything else, just to mentally get himself back on track. I actually thought he played well in the Detroit game, but he needs to get more of a base underneath him. Just as far as the way things had gone, we were able to get him in a game here and there and once in a while it was a good game, once in a while it was a bad game. I’m just hoping for him to get a real good foundation coming back here as far as the confidence level, and obviously the playing time will be huge for him.”
Center Mikael Granlund will return Tuesday night when the Wild opens its western Canadian swing in Edmonton.
He underwent wrist surgery on Dec. 29 and the Wild went 4-7-2 without him. He’ll skate on a line with Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek. Mikko Koivu will center Jason Zucker and Jason Pominville. Kyle Brodziak will center Matt Cooke and Justin Fontaine, and Charlie Coyle will center a line with Ryan Carter and Nino Niederreiter. Erik Haula isn’t slated to play, nor is extra Stu Bickel, who was called up from Iowa to add an extra body for the trip.
Parise, named the NHL’s Third Star of the Week today for scoring three goals in two games, is excited to get Granlund back.
“You need depth at center. That’s the only way you win in this league. You need deep centermen,” said Parise, who’s riding a four-game goal streak. “Everyone knows how good a player he is and how well he’s played, so for him to hop right back in and make a difference in our top-6, and power play as well, we’re ready and excited to get him back.”
Mikko Koivu has 10 points in the past 12 games and 26 points in 46 games. Charlie Coyle has five in the past 11 games. Kyle Brodziak and Erik Haula have combined for 19 points this season.
Granlund has 15 points in 32 games.
That is not enough production up the middle, something Yeo has mentioned more and more lately.
So Yeo is hoping Granlund can add speed and scoring.
“Mikko has certainly been putting up some points lately, but you need more than one guy,” Yeo said. “And that’s not anything against Brodzy or Charlie or Erik. That’s not really their role. Their role is a little bit more of a checking role and so to get a scoring top-2 line centermen back that’s obviously a huge addition for us.”
Look at the standings, and the Wild’s quite the chore to get back into the playoff race. It’s seven points behind Calgary for the second wildcard spot, FOURTEEN behind Winnipeg for the top wildcard spot and even to get back into eighth, the 12th-place Wild has to hop four teams.
“We’ve got to win. There’s no other way to put it,” Parise said. “There’s not a lot of room for error and it’s going to be hard. We know that. It’s going to be very hard. But we’re not going to quit. We’ve got to keep improving and get our game going in the right direction.”
How do you play when every game you go in, you feel it’s a must-win? Parise said, “We can’t put ourselves in an every game’s a win or season’s over type scenario. You stress yourself out and all of a sudden mentally you’re making the game a lot harder. You try to put it in small things where tomorrow night we’ve got to win the first period and then go from there. We can’t win the game right away, but we’ve got to win the first period. That’s got to be our approach as we go on through this road trip and the rest of the season. We know what the standings look like. That’s no secret. But we can’t make up all those points this week. We’ve got to start small.”
Granlund said, “There’s still 30-something games left. A lot of things can happen and I think every guy in this locker room believes we can make it to the playoffs. We need to go game by game. That’s the only thing we can do now.”
Yeo said the break was a “good opportunity to clear the head. And it was an opportunity to re-charge and I think that we had a pretty good energetic practice today so hopefully everybody feels the same way.
“Where do we go from here? That remains to be seen. But as much as anything message wise, certainly when you look at the standings and where we’re sitting right now, a very large portion of the season remains here. If we start looking at the big picture too much, then we’ll lose sight of the individual focus that we need on each day and that’s the message from here. We can’t get caught up about what other teams are doing or what’s out of our control. We just have to make sure that we’re prepared and ready for a good hard test tomorrow. It’s a team that’s been playing well. They definitely have a little more confidence in their game and they’ve been playing hard.”
The Oilers, yes, have been playing much better since Dallas Eakins was fired and has won two in a row.
Matt Dumba is in the AHL All-Star Game tonight and that game can be seen on FSN-plus. Yeo said, “What you’re looking for is progress from those guys. He’s just playing in every situation. His ice time is so valuable down there. The game is on his stick every game and [John Torchettii] is doing a great job with him, so we’ll keep letting him develop and if we need him and we feel he can help us win, then we’ll make that decision. But certainly we’re very focused on his development too. “
Yeo didn’t watch Ryan Suter in the NHL All-Star Game, joking, “I watched that game about as intensely as it was played.”
On Haula and what he wants to see from him the last couple months, Yeo said, “I would say consistency in his game. And consistency in the battle level. To me it’s not about skating in open ice and it’s not about skating fast in a straight line. It’s about the compete level in the small areas, it’s about being strong on the puck and puck strength and stick strength and D zone coverage. These are the things that we need to see from him.”
Dubnyk went back to Arizona during the break to, well, pack up his life. His wife and child will be moving to Minnesota on Feb. 4 and he found a place in the Twin Cities.
“It was nice to have that timing wise to get back home and gather up some stuff and get prepared to move some things and all that. It actually worked out great to get that timing to go back there and organize everything and be ready to go when we get back from this trip.”
The Oilers first-round pick, who lost his starting gig with them last year, is 3-0 against them this year with a 0.97 goals-against average and .968 save percentage.
“It’s been fun. I played with a lot of those guys for a long time so I still have some great relationships there and played a lot of games at Rexall,” he said. “The first one I was definitely most nervous for. It’s still a little bit weird to play there, but probably not as weird as having to play Arizona three days after the trade. So it’ll be alright.”
I better write for the paper. I’ll be on KFAN on Tuesday at 9:55 a.m. and Fox Sports North during Tuesday’s pregame show and first intermission.
I got a lot of questions about Mike Richards being on waivers from Wild fans. He has a $5.75 million cap hit the next five years and the big problem with him is the same problem with Ryan Suter and Zach Parise if they retire prematurely (see this story). If Richards hangs it up early, the team that picks him up (or frankly ever trades for him) would be on the hook for a cap recapture penalty. So it’s a big risk.
Can’t see anybody taking Richards. This is just a way to maybe drum up more trade interest. The problem is the Kings is so close to the cap, if you’re making a trade with the Kings, it’s hard for them to take any of your bad contracts or even retain some of the salary and cap hit. Hope that makes sense.
Have to really write for the paper. Just realized it’s 6:15 back there.
The All-Star break has ended, Team Toews beat Team Foligno 17-12 and Wild defenseman Ryan Suter had a goal, assist, was plus-2 and blocked two shots in 19 minutes, 46 seconds.
This morning, barring any player's travel issues returning to the Twin Cities, the Wild will meet at MSP for a charter flight to Edmonton. It will practice in surburbia this afternoon and resume its schedule tomorrow night against the Oilers. The Wild has won 8 of its past 9 in Edmonton and 15 of past 19 overall.
The Wild, with points in three of its past four games (2-1-1), makes its first trip to western Canada this season and plays former now-defunct Northwest Division rivals Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver each for the first time (believe it or not).
Stu Bickel was recalled to add an extra body (he can play wing or defense if needed) for at least the start of the road trip. I would presume (barring anything unknown) that coach Mike Yeo will go with the Suter-Jonas Brodin; Marco Scandella-Jared Spurgeon; Nate Prosser-Christian Folin defense pairs he did last Tuesday in Detroit.
Matt Dumba is at the AHL All-Star Game in Utica. That game is tonight. So Justin Falk and Jon Blum were the only other options to be called up. If the Wild gets to a point this trip where it needs a D, it wouldn't shock me if Bickel and Dumba are swapped.
We'll maybe find out later if Mikael Granlund can return against the Oilers. Unless he's been skating on his own during the break, I would think that would be a stretch, but we shall see.
I will let you know later and of course you can follow me on Twitter at @russostrib.
Also, if you didn't see this cool moment during the All-Star Game, here's a tweet from Iowa Wild forward Brett Sutter (one of L.A. Kings coach Darryl Sutter's three kids) and a great article from the L.A. Times' Helene Elliott. What I love about the video is the like-father, like-son sight of Chris putting his arms around the shoulders of Bobby Ryan, Radim Vrbata and Alex Ovechkin. Darryl Sutter is the king of talking to players that exact same way during games on the bench.
Lastly, this is amazingly the one-year anniversary of the death of my stepdad, Lenny, who died peacefully five minutes after the Wild lost to San Jose in overtime last Jan. 25 (Pacific Time).
He made quite the influence on my life and how I became a sportswriter. If you don't remember, I found a blog he wrote meant for hospice patients on his iPad and posted it on my blog when I returned to the team in Denver a few days after he passed away. Unfortunately, it was the only blog he got a chance to write.
Also, a day after Lenny's funeral, my mom and I got trapped in the Atlanta ice storm. We had to walk three miles to my bro's house. I tweeted a poignant photo that and the Atlanta-Journal Constitution picked up on it. (see below article). My best to my mom today. She's recovering from knee surgery Thursday and unfortunately I didn't make it down there because I was sick all weekend.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
January 31, 2014 Friday
Storm can't stop widow's journey
BYLINE: J. Scott Trubey; Staff
SECTION: METRO NEWS; Pg. 1B
LENGTH: 718 words
HIGHLIGHT: Stranded woman, son take a walk with love, death --- and the cold.
They faced the same vexing decision countless other motorists faced Tuesday in the midst of the epic Snowjam. Stay in the car, or leave it behind?
Four tedious hours and only three-quarters of a mile into the four-mile drive to Sandy Springs, Mike Russo and his mother, Barbara Tabin, decided to hoof it. Their journey, after all, carried the weight of life and love.
Tabin's husband of 29 years, Lenny, had died Sunday. His funeral was Monday under a brilliant blue sky. On Tuesday, as a snowstorm seized metro Atlanta, relatives and friends were supposed to meet at her youngest son Adam's home in Sandy Springs to sit Shiva, to mourn Lenny's death and celebrate his life.
Thank God, we decided to hold the funeral on Monday, Tabin said she thought, or everyone would have been stranded at the cemetery.
The winter storm that trapped workers in their vehicles and kids in their schools and buses, and locked down one of the critical logistics hubs of the Earth, also ensnared the everyday rituals and happenings of joy and grief.
A baby was born Tuesday night in a car on the Perimeter. Some of the region's most vulnerable citizens hunkered down at home hoping their food and medicine would hold out. Birthday parties were canceled. And, like the Shiva gathering for Lenny Tabin, goodbyes were delayed.
Russo, a hockey writer for The Minneapolis Star Tribune, pulled their car into a parking lot near Perimeter Mall. Tabin, 67, slipped her six-pound poodle, Oliver, into a grocery bag. She wrapped a scarf around her head and looped it around Oliver's neck, lifting the sack to her shoulder.
Barbara and Lenny Tabin lived in Boca Raton, Fla., for nearly three decades, and only moved to Dunwoody in August to be close to her youngest son after Lenny got sick. Atlanta's weather seemed a better fit for a couple of Floridians than the treacherous winters of Minnesota.
Then weather, panic and poor decisions left Atlanta in a straitjacket.
The Tabins had their first date 34 years to the day of the Snowjam at a diner in Plainview, N.Y. But the last time Tabin walked in the snow, she said, was 27 years ago. Ronald Reagan was president.
"I could feel my husband watching, laughing, and saying, 'Only my wife would do this,'" Tabin said. As she got out of the car, the air was sharp but invigorating, she said.
On any normal day, Russo and Tabin's drive to Sandy Springs would have taken about 10 minutes. Now they were looking at a couple of hours of walking through bitter cold.
Things started out orderly, but as nerves frayed, temperatures dropped and the limitations of human bladders set in, some snowbound car travelers became unglued.
"People were hungry, thirsty and had to go to the bathroom. They were cold," Tabin said. "They couldn't move but inches, and they were using up the gas in their cars."
Aggressive drivers tried to force their way around other cars, Russo said. One man got out of his vehicle and started punching the driver's side window of a car that was blocking traffic. Other drivers ditched their vehicles along the side of the road.
They encountered one man wrapped up in a blanket who was walking back toward the office buildings near the mall, Russo said. The man said he was going to sleep in his office.
"He had just given up," Russo said.
They crossed over Ga. 400 where cars and trucks were frozen in place. They slowly walked up one icy hill and down the next.
"I kept thinking of 'The Little Engine That Could,'" said Tabin, a retired speech pathologist at a school in Florida, referring to the children's tale.
"That's how I felt, you can do it, you can do it, keep going, keep going," she said.
As they walked, others poured into the streets. A treacherous walk was better than being stopped.
A little before 7 p.m., Tabin and Russo caught sight of her youngest son's home. The Shiva had been canceled, but at least everyone was safe.
Lenny Tabin, 72, retired several years ago as a banker. But he loved kids, and his wife convinced him to become a substitute teacher. Their Boca Raton school sent a care package of food for the Shiva.
Their trek started as a drive to pay tribute to her husband and to say goodbye. But Lenny never really left, Barbara Tabin said.
"It was the dichotomy of life and death," she said. "My husband had died, but he was there encouraging me. He hadn't left me."
Mark Feb. 21, 2016, on your calendar.
Finally, after a decade of watching other teams play outdoors in Boston, New York and even Los Angeles and soon to be Santa Clara, Calif., the Wild will get its turn to take its game out into the Minnesota winter.
On Saturday, the Wild was officially awarded a Stadium-Series game next season by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman during All-Star Weekend n Columbus. The game will take place against the Chicago Blackhawks at the 52,525-capacity TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
“We’re incredibly excited about it,” owner Craig Leipold said during a phone interview. “The opportunity to play the rival Blackhawks, I think, makes it a very compelling game. We clearly understand the Blackhawks have been in a number (three) of outdoor games. So they may have a slight mental advantage if you will, but we’re quick learners and we’re just really excited to be in an outdoor game.”
Wild players are excited.
"The players that I know that have played in one say the whole event is a great experience, not just the game itself," Zach Parise said via text. "Having one here is a little bit overdue, I think. Outdoor hockey is part of the culture in Minnesota."
Leipold said his wish is to turn the Stadium-Series game, which includes an accompanying alumni game, into “a real iconic weeklong event” that could include Hockey Day Minnesota (which includes high school games and maybe a Gophers game), an Iowa Wild game and “basically as much as we possibly can do.”
Because TCF Bank Stadium was chosen by the NHL over Target Field only in the past few days, there is still a lot of planning that needs to be done in order to make this happen. The Wild will have to get with the University of Minnesota and TCF Bank Stadium to rent out the venue for Hockey Day Minnesota, then sublease the rink from the league.
Also, ticket information will be released at a later date. The Wild is also talking to Fox Sports North about a behind-the-scenes reality show similar to HBO’s 24/7.
As I reported the other day, if the NHL had chosen Target Field, the league would have incurred added costs like replacing the sod and winterizing the stadium. Leipold also said TCF Bank Stadium’s ability to fit 15,000 more fans was “ultimately a huge factor.”
Last January, TCF Bank Stadium hosted the Hockey City Classic. The Gophers’ women played Minnesota State, while the Gophers’ men played Ohio State. The announced attendance for the men’s game – a 1-0 Gophers win -- was 45,022 – the largest crowd to ever see a hockey game in Minnesota.
Leipold again made clear Saturday that his ultimate objective is to bring Minnesota the New Year’s Day Winter Classic. The league and NBC has so far scoffed at giving Minnesota a game because the Wild’s not considered a national, marquee draw.
So upset at that sentiment, Leipold had previously turned down the chance of hosting a Stadium Series game or being the visitor in the Winter Classic until recently having a change in heart.
“After talking with the league now for a long time about the Winter Classic, it became apparent to me, particularly after talking with other owners who have hosted the outdoor games, that this is a great way to profile your team and profile what we can do in the Twin Cities. It’s a great way of possibly getting the Winter Classic sooner versus later.”
With the amount of Minnesotan former NHLers, North Stars and Wild players, the alumni game will be a must-see event. The Wild and NHL are already kicking around ideas regarding the makeup of teams and captains.
The great Brian Rolston, who hit the 30-goal mark in all three seasons he played for the Wild, already says he’s in.
“I would be honored to play again in the great State of hockey, where I enjoyed my best years in the National Hockey League,” Rolston said via phone Saturday. “When you think about outdoor games in the United States, the first thing that would come to mind is Minnesota. It only seems fitting to have the outdoor game in Minnesota, where so many young players started their careers on frozen ponds or lakes.
“I believe one of the reasons Minnesota has produced so many great hockey players is the accessibility to outdoor venues.”
The NHL also announced Saturday that the Boston Bruins will host its second Winter Classic next Jan. 1, this one at Gillette Stadium, against the Montreal Canadiens, and that the World Cup of Hockey will return to Toronto in 2016. A second Stadium Series Game was awarded to the Colorado Avalanche, who will play rival Detroit at Coors Field.
The Wild has landed a stadium series game. It will take place next February (perhaps the third weekend), and as I mentioned on yesterday’s startribune.com chat, the team’s hope is to turn it into a weeklong celebration of hockey.
Besides the outdoor game, which will feature the Wild and Chicago Blackhawks according to NBC Sports Network’s (and TSN Insider) Bob McKenzie, and accompanying alumni game, the Wild’s will attempt to have Hockey Day Minnesota the weekend before. It also will weigh and measure bringing the American Hockey League-affiliate Iowa Wild in for a game.
As of earlier today, the NHL was still negotiating with Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium to determine which venue would host the stadium-series game and alumni game. There is a chance the venue won’t be announced this weekend, although the hope is it will be finalized by then (when the NHL originally announced the past Winter Classic between Washington and Chicago, the venue also wasn’t finalized and thus wasn’t announced).
The pluses? TCF Bank Stadium could hold more fans but Target Field has a lot more premium seating. One obstacle with Target Field is there are added costs the NHL would have to incur like replacing the sod and winterizing the stadium. The figures were being tossed around today between the league and Target Field.
As has been reported many times, Craig Leipold’s ultimate goal is to host the actual Winter Classic. As has been reported many times, the NHL has thus far told the Wild owner that he needs to be patient. Leipold has been so adamant about his desire to host, he declined the chance for the Wild to be the visitor against Washington.
A few years ago, Leipold also declined the stadium series games because he wanted the main event. However, Leipold has since changed his mind and informed Commissioner Gary Bettman awhile ago that he would be willing to host a stadium series game as long as it helps his eventual objective – to host a Winter Classic.
The Stadium Series game and alumni game is a league-run event. The NHL has to rent out the venue and then make the Wild whole one Xcel Energy Center gate. In other words, based on history, the Wild and NHL will determine how much revenue the Wild normally takes in for a weekend February game in terms of ticket price, food, beverage and merchandise.
The league pays the Wild that money and all incremental revenue goes to the league (hockey-related revenue, which is split amongst the players and all 30 teams).
Once the venue is nailed down, the Wild will then begin crunching numbers to see if it can hold Hockey Day Minnesota at the same venue the weekend before. In order to do that, the Wild would have to rent out the venue and sublease the rink from the NHL.
As usual, the hope would be to have high school games and potentially a Gophers game on the outdoor rink.
As for the Iowa Wild, the Minnesota Wild would also want to make sure that was cost effective based on how much it would cost to rent the venue, sublease the ice and charge for tickets.
So there’s still a lot of moving parts that can’t even start to be materialized until the league sets the venue in stone, which again as of a few hours ago was not finalized (this blog was originally going up later tonight).
As for the stadium-series game, the NHL originally wanted the Wild to play the Dallas Stars. The Wild requested the Blackhawks. According to MacKenzie’s report, the Wild got the Blackhawks. It will be Chicago's fourth outdoor game, Minnesota's first.
In my sit-down in November with Bill Daly, the NHL’s deputy commissioner said “there’s an outdoor game in Minnesota’s future. I think the chances are good for a Stadium Series game next year.”
There is only one Stadium Series game this season — San Jose hosting Los Angeles in Santa Clara, Calif. — after four last year.
There are many factors why there is only one game this season, but one reason is because of a lawsuit against the Philadelphia Flyers last year.
“I mean, it’s crazy when you think about it, but basically they got sued because they removed a regular-season game from the season-ticket package and didn’t make it available to the fans on the basis that they’d be able to buy it at [Wells Fargo Center],” Daly said. “There was no judgment, but there was a settlement.”
So to protect itself, the league sent new language for teams to include in their season-ticket packages in the event they got an outdoor game. However, a number of teams had already sent their renewal notices out, including the Wild. Apparently, the Sharks had not.
Having only one stadium-series game coupled with the declining Canadian dollar are factors in a salary cap that’s expected to only reach $71 million next season.
If the Wild would have been able to complete the comeback tonight by winning in overtime or the shootout, it would have been the Wild’s first comeback from three goals down to win on the road since March 5, 2009, in San Jose.
I’m pretty sure I had a coronary that night, too.
This was one of the weirdest games I’ve ever covered. The Wild rallying back from three-goal deficits or blowing three-goal leads was so October or November. It seemed to happen every other game or so. It happened a few times last year, too.
But this was a weird one (not as weird as in Dallas earlier this year when the Wild blew a three-goal lead in like five minutes and actually fell behind in the third before coming back and winning). I say it was weird because the Wild trailed 4-1 after two periods yet may have given up six scoring chances.
I say that because for the eighth time in 46 games this season, coach Mike Yeo had to pull his starting goalie, yet nobody with eyes could blame Devan Dubnyk for really any of them. Yet, he was pulled at the 27:25 mark after giving up four goals on 10 shots.
The first goal came off a world-class one-timer from the most prime shooting position there is. The second goal came through a screen. The third and fourth goals were going wide, but Gustav Nyquist perfectly redirected one shot and the other one pinballed off Justin Fontaine’s skate.
Against the NHL’s fourth-best defensive team and a team that has 22 goals during a five-game winning streak, the Wild had the better of the chances and had allowed 13 shots through two periods.
But as is the case so often, the Wild has to work so, so, so, so very hard to score. Take Ryan Carter tonight. He had, by his own admission, two open net attempts just prior to Thomas Vanek scoring an awesome goal in the third period and the second couldn’t lift a puck with Detroit’s goalie on his belly.
But in the third, Zach Parise scored the Wild’s second power-play goal of the game (Mikko Koivu tied the score at 1-1 in the first) and then after Vanek scored a sensational, highlight-reel goal after taking Ryan Suter’s great pinch/exchange and dangling through the slot to score a roof-job, Parise scored the type of goal that exemplifies him.
Standing in front of goalie Petr Mrazek, Parise first went to the right of the cage and stuck his stick horizontally right. He then stood in the center as Jonathan Ericsson took forever to execute a controlled breakout.
Finally, Parise turned his stick and jutted it out left. Ericsson shot it right into the shaft and Parise knocked it down and turned to the net. Ericsson desperately tried to dive. Parise backhanded it over the defenseman, jumped over him and batted at the puck until it finally went in.
Suter told a funny story about how he was part of this once against Atlanta. In Nashville, he said they were so excited about this new breakout and decided to try it one night. He gave the puck to Dan Hamhuis and the same exact thing happened.
He said it’s just a helpless feeling as a defenseman but embodied the type of player Parise is – tenacious.
In the shootout, Pavel Datsyuk and Nyquist scored. Parise and Koivu couldn’t, so Datsyuk’s goal was the deciding one and he actually tied Parise and Koivu with 38 shootout goals for the most in NHL history.
Darcy Kuemper stopped all 14 shots he faced in 37:35 before the shootout. I’m not sure if playing precludes him from a rehab stint that the Wild was hoping he’d actually take after the All-Star break.
He told me he’s open for whatever, but he also feels he worked hard while he was hurt and felt ready tonight.
Obviously, the Wild was bummed to not get the extra point tonight. Parise was a realist and said the Wild can’t afford to be leaving points on the table anymore. But the tone of the rest of the guys for the most part was that while it disappointed, it has to take positives from not quitting when down 4-1 and coming out with a pushback in the third.
Parise and Vanek combined for 14 shots for the second straight road game coincidentally. Parise has goals in four straight now. Suter was plus-2 with two assists. Kuemper played well in relief for the first time since Jan. 6. The Wild, prior to tonight, had scored three goals or fewer in 13 of its previous 14. So, things to build on.
It is amazing how easy so many teams make it when they score and how difficult it is for the Wild. I’ll be writing about that in Thursday’s paper.
All players stuck up for Dubnyk, including Kuemper, who said it was “just kind of weird bounces. We were due for a comeback. We hadn’t had one in awhile.”
Suter said, “Too bad we couldn’t pull it out, but that’s the type of hockey that we need to play. That was a good way to go into break. It would have been easy to just say, it’s over after being down 4-1.”
Some of the other quotes, you can read in the gamer.
I will say, the Wild needs to start taking a page out of the Red Wings’ book with kids like Tyler Graovac and Matt Dumba, who was sent down after the game (maybe temporarily; it’s just to play games during the break, but if he’s recalled, it’s because Yeo wants him in the lineup in Edmonton).
But while the Wild has arguably rushed players into the NHL the past few years, the Red Wings are the kings of finding diamonds in the rough in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft, nurturing them and letting them bake in the minors.
Take Teemy Pulkkinen, who scored his first NHL goal Tuesday. Drafted 111th overall in 2010 (Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle’s draft year), Pulkkinen played his sixth game of the season at age 23. He spent three years playing in Jokerit, then two years in Grand Rapids.
At the time of his recall, Pulkkinen was leading the American Hockey League with 20 goals and riding an eight-game goal scoring streak.
In Detroit, they compare Pulkkinen to Hall of Famer and former Red Wing Brett Hull. The way he scored his goal looked like a carbon copy.
Between the circles, Pulkkinen stepped into a Stephen Weiss drop pass and rocketed a one-timer that looked so much like Hull’s right-shot swing, the Red Wings’ telecast immediately showed a replay of a Hull one-timer side-by-side with Pullinen’s blast.
The Red Wings are littered with home-grown guys who paid their dues like Jason Zucker and Marco Scandella, who may be the Wild’s best surprises this season.
Heck, look at Nyquist. Taken 121st in 2008, spent time maturing in Grand Rapids before breaking out last year.
Lastly, the Iowa Wild signed Ruslan Fedotenko to a pro tryout. The two-time Cup champ wants to make an NHL comeback somewhere and GM Chuck Fletcher is letting the good citizen play in Iowa to mostly be a good influence on the kids. But it seems doubtful that Fedotenko, whose wife is from the area, will be a fit at some point with Minnesota. He hasn’t played all year, but maybe the 36-year-old will latch on somewhere at some point.
That’s it for me. Barring news, there may be no blogs for awhile. I’ll have a story in Thursday’s paper, an enterprise piece in Sunday’s paper, my Sunday Insider and then I’ll pick up the team in Edmonton on Monday.
There could also be news this weekend regarding the stadium series game the Wild is getting next season.
I better get out of here. I have a very early flight and it’s 12:30 in the morning and they’re locking up the press room. Enjoy your All-Star break.
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