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.
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For a change, the Wild power play helped win a road game.
After entering with one power-play goal on 44 chances in 14 previous road games, the Wild went 2 for 3 tonight at Arizona, the last coming off Zach Parise’s slam dunk with 5:53 left in regulation to force overtime en route to a 4-3 shootout win.
Playing against a team that is now winless in nine straight at home, the Wild was forced to play a man short with 17 skaters because Jared Spurgeon left warmups sick. He was actually sick beforehand and tried to take some IV’s, but it didn’t work. It sounds like he has a similar stomach virus that forced Charlie Coyle to miss a practice last week at Ridder.
Spurgeon’s absence coupled with Marco Scandella serving the final game of a two-game suspension really put the Wild in a tough spot tonight. Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin took a lot of the responsibility, logging 33:47 and 31:54, respectively (Brodin’s first time over 30 in his regular-season career).
On the second pair, Christian Folin moved to his off side and was paired with Nate Prosser. Justin Falk was paired with Stu Bickel, who was supposed to play forward for injured Ryan Carter, but Bickel only played 10 shifts. So in a lot of ways, the Wild played with 16 skaters.
But after Coyle, who played a strong game despite lots of struggles lately, kept a power play alive, Jason Pominville set up Parise.
Then, in the shootout, Parise and Mikko Koivu each scored their 38th shootout goals for the win. That’s a tie for first in the NHL in career shootout goals, and Koivu used the same move he has scored on three times this season (including the preseason) and several times in his career.
I’m planning to write on Koivu for Monday’s paper and I’ll have another real cool story in Tuesday’s paper that you’ll want to check out too, I think.
Back to Koivu, he has been real good for two or three weeks. I talked to him about “Angry Mikko,” which you know what I mean if you follow me on Twitter, his early season point struggles and leadership.
Jason Zucker had another fine game. He scored on the same breakaway move he scored on in October against Tampa Bay – basically the Koivu shootout move. He also scored with his dad and big bro, Evan, in the crowd. He said it’s the first time Evan has seen him play live, and coincidentally, I talked to Evan for my hockey in Vegas column that is running in Sunday’s paper. Here’s a link.
Suter two assists tonight, four hits, four blocked shots. Brodin, six blocked shots. Folin four blocked shots. Coyle four shots, (eight attempted) two drawn penalties and three hits.
Brodin has been ridiculously good lately. Plus-8 in seven games since returning from the mumps. His plus-14 was tied for fourth among NHL blue-liners. I wrote about Brodin and Coyle in my game notebook.
Yeo praised all the defensemen for stepping up in the absence of Scandella and Spurgeon. First time in the NHL Yeo said he coached a game short a player. He also praised the leadership for helping leading the way after Friday’s “stern” message Yeo provided.
Again, the hope is the power play is a start tonight. Parise said it all started with good entries, a net-front presence, a shot mentality and retrieving pucks, all stuff the Wild doesn’t do when it doesn’t feel good about itself on the power play. He said when you’re feeling good, it’s instinct.
That’s it for me. Just filed for the paper. Short blog, I know, with not a lot of detail about a fair unimpressive game despite the comeback win, but I wasn’t in the locker room long after the game because of a problem I had to deal with out of the blue. So apologies, but I need to get going.
The Wild flew back to Minnesota after the game and is off Sunday. I’ll blog if there’s news. Like I said, I plan to write about Koivu for Monday and a cool story for Tuesday. Kent Youngblood is covering Monday’s practice in Minnesota. Matt Cooke, who has missed 20 games, is expected to practice. We’ll see if Spurgeon or Carter practice as well.
On the blog, I may not be talking to you next until after the morning skates in Chicago. I'll will be on KFAN at 9:35 a.m. Tuesday when our very own Lavelle E. Neal The Third fills in for P.A.
If the Wild can manage to win at Chicago, it'll be .500 on the road after starting the season 2-6 away from St. Paul.
It happened much later in the year, but last season when the Wild arrived in Arizona after getting waxed in St. Louis for a ninth loss in 12 games (3-5-4), the leaders took charge.
The Wild had a CBA-mandated day off in Glendale. Captain Mikko Koivu and assistants Zach Parise and Ryan Suter wanted to practice and met with the coaches at planeside. They were told the team wasn’t allowed to do that.
So instead of wasting the fun day playing golf or lounging by the pool, Koivu, Parise and Suter met for breakfast (Ilya Bryzgalov actually joined), talked about the state of the team, each grabbed different individuals for one-on-one’s and then held a players-only meeting the night before playing the Coyotes at the team hotel.
The Wild rallied in the third the next night to beat the Coyotes en route to a 6-0-1 mark in seven games to clinch a playoff spot. That meeting was credited with largely saving the season and rallying the team together.
To refresh your memory of the meeting, see here.
The Wild’s back in Glendale for the first time since. It’s 2-2-1 in its past five after last night’s 2-1 loss at San Jose and 4-4-1 in its past nine. It is stuck in 10th place in the West, five points behind sixth, seventh and eighth-place Calgary, Winnipeg and San Jose. The Wild has played three fewer games than Calgary and Winnipeg, four fewer than San Jose, BUT this was a team that was supposed to take the next step this season and join the top tier in the West.
At least, that was the expectation.
Today, prior to practice starting, an angry Mike Yeo gathered his team around him in a semicircle by the penalty boxes at the former Glendale Arena. And he ripped into his team during a passionate two- or three-minute diatribe sprinkled with colorful language.
Yeo was fired up. The message? It’s time for the Wild to get its act together, to wake up, to help each other, push and prod each other, challenge each other if that’s what it takes. It’s time for the Wild to stop underachieving and become the team everybody thinks it’s capable of being.
Yeo started practice early because he didn’t want the media to be in the rink when he did this. I just happened to walk to the arena early because after my 3:45 a.m. wakeup call, if I had hung out in my hotel room, I would have passed out.
So myself and few others heard everything, which Yeo didn’t intend and wasn’t exactly thrilled about. He sarcastically called it a “pep talk” afterward.
The gist of what Yeo was trying to convey to his team? Basically what I wrote last weekend here:
“We’re tired of being on the cusp, we’re tired of being close. And we need to demand better than what we’ve been bringing,” Yeo said. “We’re better than what we’ve been showing consistently. We can look at last game and we can say we were close and we could have won the game, but we can’t accept saying that.
“We’ve got a lineup [Saturday] that’s capable of coming in here and winning a hockey game and that’s got to be our focus.”
He continued later, “It would be a mistake to not think that our backs aren’t against the wall a little bit here. We’re behind. We’re not at the level and we’re not where we want to be right now. If that’s the motivation we need, that’s fine. Let’s use it. We should not be accepting of where we’re at right now and we need to demand more.”
Parise, who met with Yeo in the hotel courtyard for awhile before practice, said Yeo’s lambasting to the struggling team was “probably long overdue.”
“We can’t keep going on playing the way we have been lately,” Parise continued. “We’re going to find ourselves on the outside looking in for the rest of the year if we keep it up, so at some point we have to collectively find ways to play better, to be a better team. We’ve been very mediocre for a long time.”
It does seem like this team’s MO is to not play better until its back is against that proverbial wall, which is frustrating for every one of you fans watching and everybody internally on the team.
Parise said, “You don’t want to put yourself in that situation where you’re forced to string together eight wins just to have a sniff. Regardless of the games in hand, we’re still five points back from Winnipeg. That’s not good enough. We should be better. We’re underachieving. It had to be addressed. Like I said, it was long overdue.”
I asked him what’s wrong with this team.
“I don’t know if I could sit here and pinpoint one or two things,” Parise said. “I don’t know if it would be healthy for anyone to sit here and try to analyze and pinpoint and tell you guys what we think is wrong. I don’t think that’s healthy for anyone. But as individuals, we all have to be better. We’re not playing with any excitement right now. That’s really been hurting us. There’ just no excitement to our game. It’s been flat, you know? It’s just been flat. So we’ve got to find a way to address that and start feeling good about how we’re playing.
“We win one, we lose one. We haven’t really had a chance to string anything together and feel good about the way we’re playing.”
Reminded of last year’s players’ meeting and how it seemed to jumpstart the languishing team, Parise said he hoped Yeo’s urging today will do the same.
“I don’t think anyone can argue with the fact of how we’ve been playing and how it just hasn’t been acceptable,” Parise said. “We expect a lot more out of ourselves. But as individuals we all have to be better. You can’t sit around and hope someone else will do it and each guy has to do his job better and help out the next guy. That’s how you get through this.”
The top two lines of Parise-Mikael Granlund-Thomas Vanek and Jason Zucker-Koivu-Jason Pominville were the same today. The third and fourth lines were tinkered with Nino Niederreiter-Charlie Coyle-Justin Fontaine and Ryan Carter-Erik Haula-Kyle Brodziak.
The No. 1 power-play unit was tinkered with Coyle on the top unit as the net-front guy and Granlund, who was not good at all on the power play last night, on the second. Zucker was off of it.
I had a long talk with Coyle today and will probably hold all that for my game notebook Saturday for Sunday. When Parise mentioned no excitement in the game, I thought of Coyle. He has no goals since Oct. 23, is playing with little confidence and it’s showing. He’s just moseying around right now and is bigtime down on himself.
Yeo said part of putting him on that one unit is to simplify things and create a get the puck to the net mentality, which is how the Wild scored most its goals against the Islanders. Crashing the net, etc.
Frankly, I think it’s well beyond time for Niederreiter on the No. 1 unit. But Yeo clearly is trying to jolt Coyle into some sort of life here.
“We need Charlie right now,” Yeo said. “He’s not unlike a lot of players and our entire group. If things haven’t gone well, that’s fine. Well what are we going to do? Are we going to push through it and find a way and demand that things turn around or are we just going to keep on looking in the rearview mirror?”
Yeo said Coyle’s lack of points for six weeks is a function of everything and a “contributing factor as to why other parts of his game are suffering.”
Yeo believes Coyle is putting pressure on himself because of the contract extension in October, which Coyle doesn’t buy and says isn’t a factor. But he agrees he’s in a bigtime funk and needs to be better.
Yeo wouldn’t divulge if he’s coming back with Darcy Kuemper on Saturday or if Niklas Backstrom, who is usually outstanding at Arizona (8-5-0 with a 2.09 GAA, .939 SV% and one shutout in 13 career starts), will start.
The Coyotes have lost eight in a row at home and seven of eight overall.
Yeo said it would be a huge mistake for the Wild to look at Arizona as a reeling team and said the Wild should expect the Coyotes’ best, especially after getting smoked to Nashville on Thursday.
I'll be on KFAN in seconds. Bye.
Very winnable hockey game for the Wild tonight, yet just 45 seconds after Christian Folin’s first NHL goal tied the hockey game 63 seconds into the third period, the Wild gave up the eventual winning goal to Joe Pavelski.
Just a terrible shift after the tying goal, after supposedly getting the momentum back.
Darcy Kuemper fell on the knife for misreading Joe Thornton and thinking he was going to throw the puck at the net. But Thomas Vanek’s lack of defense was costly when he first hit the brakes and didn’t check Pavelski when he had the puck along the boards, then let him skate into the faceoff circle all alone.
Thornton crossed a perfect pass to a wide-open Pavelski and he nailed the open net. Kuemper said by the time he recovered from the misread, Pavelski had the puck.
But the story of this game was an atrocious 0 for 2, shotless power play (I know, what else is new?) and maddening inefficiency on four shotless 2-on-1’s. So, in total, six shotless 2-on-1's and power plays.
On three 2-on-1’s in the first period and one in the second, the Wild didn’t register a single shot on goal.
Minutes in the game, Zach Parise flubbed a Mikael Granlund pass with virtually the entire net open. Later, Kyle Brodziak rang the crossbar on a shorthanded rush. After that, Granlund led Vanek on an odd-man rush, but they fouled each other up with a miscommunication. Actually, it was no communication when Granlund expected Vanek to go left down the wall, and he instead crossed to his right in front of Granlund. Granlund just coughed up the puck almost like he was passing to an official.
In the second period, Parise set Spurgeon up on a 2-on-1. Despite a point-blank chance, Spurgeon seemed stunned by an aggressive Alex Stalock and his pass back for Parise was broken up by Logan Couture.
Earlier in the period, Couture’s extended reach denied Vanek of a wraparound goal.
“That’s the story of the game to me,” coach Mike Yeo said. “You get one or two 2-on-1’s, you’re thrilled. You get four 2-on-1’s and don't get shots on them, it's tough to generate those type of opportunities, especially on the road. You've got to capitalize.”
The Wild also failed to register a shot on two power plays, one with a chance to tie in the third, and the Wild is now 1 for 45 on the road on the power play.
Yeo said it’s simple. The Wild’s goals the past few games, particularly Tuesday against the Islanders, have come by getting pucks to the net and crashing it. The Wild didn’t attempt to do either on those power plays.
The one thing the Wild was good at was dumping the puck and watching the aggressive Stalock come out each time to ruin the forecheck. The other thing the Wild was good at was failed passes on one-timers.
The power play setup of the first unit is bizarre. I think it’s supposed to be an umbrella or something, but Mikael Granlund just seems miscast up top and when he got the puck tonight, he was either sending soft passes or … not shooting. Vanek on the second unit turned over three pucks on the power play.
On the penalty kill, the Wild gave up a goal to former Wild defenseman Brent Burns, who leads NHL blue-liners with nine. It came after Stalock came out to nearly the blue line to stop Erik Haula’s soft clear. That trapped Ryan Suter, Spurgeon and Brodziak, and their 55-second shift ended with a Burns deflected shot and goal.
Stalock, the second Minnesotan to ever play the Wild, got the win with 18 saves. Barely tested in my opinion with the missed chances on odd-man rushes and shockingly little sustained pressure in the offensive zone, but he did rob Spurgeon with 2:40 left.
Yeo liked the way the Wild defended, but offensively, he wants more to the inside. And when I say harder, those 2-on-1’s are basically what I’m talking about where we’re looking for the nice play. I look at how we scored our goals last game and when we score goals, we’re a team that’s hard to the net and that I think opens up plays to our skill more often. If we’re not aggressive to the net, it’s too easy to defend.”
Disappointing because of Folin’s bomb through a Jason Zucker screen to tie the game early in the third.
“I just remember getting the puck on the blue line and I shot it,” he said. “I got it pretty good and it just went in. I’ll take that as my first goal. It’s very exciting to score your first goal. I’m not really a goal scorer, so it’s always fun to get a goal here and there.”
Only 19 shots on goal by the Wild. Nino Niederreiter had none and Charlie Coyle just continues to, well, not get points and only had one shot.
In the meantime, the Wild, which yes has played fewer games than every team ahead of it in the standings, is now five points behind eighth-place San Jose in 10th place.
Saturday’s game at Arizona is big. The Coyotes are reeling. They have lost seven of eight, are in the midst of a franchise-worst eight-game home losing streak and were smoked at home tonight by Nashville. The Wild needs to go in there and get itself a confidence win.
If not, things could get pretty stressful heading into Tuesday’s game at nemesis Chicago.
On to Arizona. 6:01 a.m. flight, so adios and talk to you after Friday’s practice.
Darcy Kuemper vs. Alex Stalock tonight when the Wild visits the San Jose Sharks.
Stalock, the former UMD goalie and cousin of Gophers goalie Adam Wilcox, makes his first career start vs. his hometown Wild and will become the second Minnesota native to face the Wild in goal (Damian Rhodes, also from St. Paul, did it twice in 2001, the Wild said).
The Wild will be without suspended defenseman Marco Scandella, the Sharks without injured Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
On the Scandella two-game suspension, coach Mike Yeo said, “My opinion doesn’t mean a whole lot right now. I think I saw it a little bit differently than what they did, but it is what it is. We’ll have to get through it now.”
Scandella said, “It’s never fun to get suspensions and miss games, but I respect the league’s decision and I’m going to come back and be ready once I get back.”
I asked him if he thought this wouldn’t have resulted in anything had he not done something similar to T.J. Oshie so recently, and Scandella said he isn’t thinking about that.
“I’m not a dirty player and I don’t go out to injure anybody,” he said. “I’m going to forget about what happened, learn from what happened and move on from it.”
With two-left shot D out with Keith Ballard hurt and Scandella suspended, Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon, who were real good together when Jonas Brodin had the mumps, will be back together. Brodin will move to the left side and be paired with Christian Folin and Justin Falk will be paired with Nate Prosser.
This is a big opportunity for Falk, who has played in the NHL, to get some games if he plays well. He has given the Wild some good games this season, Yeo said, and the Wild needs him to play a heavy game against two heavy teams, the Sharks and Saturday against the Coyotes.
GM Chuck Fletcher told me no trade is imminent, but with Ballard out long-term, he will just gauge the defense for awhile and see how Folin plays. The Wild also has Falk and Jon Blum, whom Fletcher said is playing better, down on the farm, as well as Matt Dumba. Ideally, the Wild would like to leave Dumba in Iowa working with John Torchetti, but there may come a point where the Wild has no choice but to call him back up.
Dumba is playing 30 minutes a night there and has two goals, one assist and is plus-7 in three games.
The Wild has played with its top-four of Suter, Brodin, Scandella and Spurgeon intact 10 times in 26 games this season, The four were together the first seven games, and then injuries, suspensions and the mumps has resulted in them playing together for only three of the past 20 games.
Fox Sports North’s Anthony LaPanta crunched the numbers.
The Wild is 6-3-1 with the four together, 9-7 with one or two out.
The Wild’s CORSI numbers with the top-4 together and without the top-4 together are dramatically different, and its goals for are 3.5 and goals against 2.2 with them. Without, the team’s goals for are 2.56 and goals against 2.69. The team’s goals differential is plus-13 with them and minus-2 without.
“It seems like every time we look like we’re getting there, something else happens,” Yeo said. “But every team deals with injuries, and suspensions in this case. This is not new to us. That’s for sure. But there’s no question I’d like to get into a situation where we can get those four guys going. It’s a big difference to our lineup. Defensively, that’s the first place you’re going to look when those guys are able to defend the way that they do and help us in terms of how quickly we defend and getting the puck back on our stick. But also the execution part of it, the offensive part of it, these guys are huge parts of our game.”
If you remember, those first seven games, the Wild’s D were a huge part of the attack and the Wild seemed to always have the puck.
In the first seven games, the Wild’s defensemen had five goals and 12 assists and were plus-26.
“It’s tough to get into rhythms, so hopefully when Scandy’s back we can kind of move on with it and get back to normal,” Suter said. “Maybe that is why we’ve been inconsistent, but good teams can play with everyone and so can good players.”
Kuemper gets back in the net. He has allowed 14 goals in his past four starts, pulled in two of those. If you don’t know why he’s started, I explained on yesterday’s blog, so check that out.
“Every game is a test for him and what you want to see is more consistency start to creep into his game,” Yeo said. “But you can’t fast-track the development of a player. Much depends on what’s happened to them and how they react to it and personality wise, maturity wise, I think he’s definitely grown in those areas. Now it’s just a matter of dealing with all the things that you have to deal with as a young goalie, both successes and failures.
“You can’t force feed that into a goalie.”
The Newsday’s Arthur Staple tweeted that Matt Martin and Ballard exchanged texts. By the way, I saw these MSG angles for the first time late yesterday.
Good late afternoon from Northern California, where it’s the calm before the storm, I guess.
Some Super Storm is predicted to slam the Bay Area on Thursday. I grew up in South Florida, so I’m accustomed to terrible rainy weather and gusty winds and, frankly, hurricanes, so I’m not too concerned. But I’m not exactly sure how the Silicon Valley handles such events, and people here seem to be in freak-out mode and the weather reports from the National Weather Service do appear daunting.
It’s supposed to be an absolute mess here Thursday, so wish everybody luck and let’s hope everyone’s safe. As of now, most everybody says it’s very unlikely that the game would be cancelled, but as the San Jose Mercury News’ David Pollak reminded me today, San Jose has scrapped a game because of rain (actually flooding) before in 1995.
Thoughts here again are with Keith Ballard, who is such a good guy and just continues to have horrible luck with injuries. The latest is serious and could be season-altering at a minimum and career-threatening at a maximum.
He has three facial fractures and a concussion. Once the swelling goes down, doctors will decide whether or not Ballard needs surgery. He has been released from the hospital and is resting at home.
Even Chuck Fletcher admitted his concern. When I asked whether Ballard may not play again this season (which would likely mean at a minimum his Wild career is in danger because he’s in the final year of his contract), the Wild GM said, “This is serious. He’s had concussions before. I don’t know how many. We’re worried about that. Bones will heal. I don’t mean to make light of it, but his face will heal. But his hand was sticking right up. He was convulsing. This was scary. You could even see the reaction of the Islanders’ bench. They weren’t standing over him mocking him. They were scared.”
Thomas Vanek, Ballard’s close friend and former Gophers teammate, visited Ballard at the hospital last night.
“He was in good spirits,” Vanek said. “It’s tough for him because I’m sure you know his history with injuries. I thought he was an important player for us vocally and on the ice he was doing well, so it’s another setback for him. That’s why you feel bad for him. But I was encouraged how well he was actually doing.”
As you know by now, Matt Martin won’t be suspended. The league felt that when Ballard turned to avoid the hit, he put himself in a vulnerable position and that directly contributed to the incident and subsequent injury.
Fletcher didn’t want to comment, probably because he could be fined more than he’s worth.
Yeo said, “I’m not going to argue with the league on this one and I’m sure people on the Islanders’ side of the coin would be looking at things differently, but for me, it’s our player, it’s our teammate. When I looked at it, I know that Bally was in a bit of a vulnerable position. He may have turned into it a little bit, but at the same time, I see a player launching himself at him at an area close to the boards. The more I watch it, and again it’s hard to watch, when it’s your teammate, you don’t like those.”
A few players said they felt Martin is a left winger and hit Ballard along the right-wing boards, meaning he traveled 70 feet to deliver the hit. I do think he was on a line change though, and as I said last night and this morning, I just think it’s a reckless, needless hit. I know this is a game of finishing your check. I know as (coincidentally) former Sharks serial illegal hitter Bryan Marchment once said, if you don’t want to get hit, play tennis (or something like that).
But Ballard dumps the puck in the corner 100 feet away. He’s next to the boards. I don’t get why he needs to be hit late. Like I said this morning, the league considers seven-tenths of a second after a player releases the puck late. This, the league says, was half-a-second.
“I thought it was maybe even a little late, but it’s tough to tell because you really slow it down to watch it,” Yeo said. But he added, “He’s seeking him out. He’s on a mission there.”
Obviously, all fans are going to see this in their prism. Just look at my Twitter mentions today and I’m sure the blog and article comments. If you’re an Islander fan, Martin’s a saint. Scandella’s a devil. Wild fans say the opposite.
Of course, Martin has two suspensions to Scandella’s zero (well, for another few hours at least; more on that later).
Obviously an emotional topic. Look, even former congressman Anthony Weiner, an Islander fan, joined the fray and expressed his opinion.
Let's hope Ballard is back on the ice soon. But to blame Matt Martin for the crazy way that contact went down is just wrong.— Anthony Weiner (@anthonyweiner) December 10, 2014
My opinion? Who cares? It doesn’t matter. If the NHL suspends Matt Martin, what’s that do for the Wild? It’s a waste of your time to even get all angered. Just hope for Ballard’s recovery.
Wild plays the Sharks Thursday.
Scandella won't be playing because he was suspended two games for an illegal check to Brock Nelson’s head.
After practice and before his hearing, Scandella didn’t want to comment until Thursday. He pleaded the fifth, so to speak.
“Obviously we’re hoping he’s not suspended. He’s a huge part of our team,” Yeo said after practice.
But two head shots in 10 days, the league won’t be letting him off the hook. The Wild’s clearly guessing two games.
In the NHL video which can be seen here, the league says the main point of contact was Nelson's head, that his jaw absorbed the brunt of it, that head contact was avoidable and it noted how Scandella was just fined for a similar hit on T.J. Oshie 10 days ago.
Scandella loses $11,021.50 in salary (two days pay out of 186 days this season). Luckily for him, his recent extension doesn't kick in til next October.
If he's suspended again in the next 18 months, he'll lose game checks.
So, Christian Folin will draw into the game Thursday and if Scandella is suspended, so will Justin Falk. Asked why Falk over Matt Dumba or Jon Blum, Yeo said with Ballard and Scandella out, the Wild loses two left-shot D and with San Jose and Arizona (Saturday’s opponent) heavy teams, having a big body that can skate and shoot was the deciding factor.
Sounds like Darcy Kuemper will return to the net Thursday even though Niklas Backstrom was in the cage for the Islanders win.
“Still discussing that a little bit. We’ll wait ‘til [Thursday] to announce our decision,” Yeo said. “Looking at a couple different decisions – the opponent that we’re playing, Backy coming off a game that he should feel rea; good about, he should feel real good about and we’ll evaluate everything.
“We’ve got a pretty good idea which way we’re going.”
Yeo made crystal clear if Kuemper plays, this isn’t so much allowing him to bounce back from the Anaheim loss but more so Backstrom’s 1-9-1 record with a 3.63 goals-against average lifetime at San Jose.
The Wild, by the way, has won four of its past five on the road BUT is 2-11-2 in its past 15 in this glorious city.
Yeo talked a lot again how Wild players stepped up after the Ballard incident – Mikael Granlund challenging Kyle Okposo, a fiery Mikko Koivu with everyone from referee Brad Meier to every Islander and Kyle Brodziak fighting Martin.
“The way that we came out after that, it said a lot to me and I hope we can continue to with that same kind of passion that we played with the rest of the game,” Yeo said. “I could feel it on the bench. That stuff’s contagious when guys take themselves out of their comfort zone and they’re making a statement to the rest of the group, ‘if you mess with one of us, then you’re going to have to deal with the entire group.’”
Vanek said, “It just shows obviously guys care and respect Bally. Everyone stepped up in that way. Only time will tell how significant that game is, but not just getting wins, but showing those battles out of those guys, that can go a long way.”
Brodziak said he has never seen a scene like Ballard on the ice.
“It was scary,” he said.
On fighting Martin, Brodziak said, “Someone had to do something. You definitely don’t want to be a team that just lets things like that happen. We all care for each other and I know if I didn’t do something, someone else probably would have. I think that’s how you build a camaraderie you need in this league.”
Lots of Wild players mentioned how all they could think about while Ballard was on the ice was his wife, kids and parents.
Talk to you after the Scandella ruling.
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