Good afternoon from Chateau de Russo, where I just unpacked from Nashville-Phoenix-Denver-Calgary-Vancouver and repacked for Montreal-Ottawa. Thank you NHL schedulemaker.
The above is actually why I'm interested to see how the Wild performs tonight. As you know, I don't make excuses for the Wild. But as the old cliche goes, the first home game after a long road trip is a stinker, and as much as the Wild travels in luxury -- nice hotels, chartered first-class aircraft (I hear the cookies are outrageous) -- what will all the travel lately do to the Wild's legs tonight?
Andrew Ebbett took part in this morning's skate. He said if he has no symptoms this afternoon and passes his neuro-baseline test this afternoon, he plans to practice tomorrow and hopefully play and travel on the road trip. Petr Sykora's had a couple rigorous workouts, and he skated again on his own. He's feeling better, but he's been out since Nov. 7, so it'll be a little longer.
Interesting, but Sykora told me this was his first-ever concussion. And I go, "Wellllllllllllllllll, since I was in the arena, weren't you knocked out by Derian Hatcher in Game 6 of the 2000 Stanley Cup Finals?" And he said he was, but he had zero ill-effects. He said he woke up the next morning and didn't even have a headache. Don't know if you remember that, but during the Cup celebration, Sykora was in the hospital, so linemate Patrik Elias wore Sykora's jersey and afterward, Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko brought the Cup to the hospital.
John Scott looks like he'll be in tonight; Jaime Sifers out. Robbie Earl in for injured Owen Nolan. Anton Khudobin backing up Niklas Backstrom.
I'll be doing my notebook lead on the two penalties called on Derek Boogaard Saturday night in Vancouver. The Hockey Night in Canada folks apparently went after referee Brad Watson pretty good, and Watson certainly appeared to call Boogaard with "reputation" calls.
I don't know if Boogaard really angered Watson, or perhaps the ref wanted to showboat for the loud Vancouver faithful, but it was beyond belief how animated Watson got after the two penalties he called on Boogaard. He vivaciously waved Boogaard to the box on both calls like the Boogeyman had just committed murder -- one after Darcy Hordichuk twice punched Boogaard in the face and Boogaard retaliated for the lone call and once when Boogaard fell (he may have embellished, but he swears he slipped because he was on one skate when bumped) after the Canucks committed the definition of textbook interference (fencing off) at the blue line. I thought it was Willie Mitchell, but Boogaard says it was Kevin Bieksa.
Regardless, Todd Richards couldn't use him again -- not because of Boogaard, but because he didn't trust Watson.
Richards and Boogaard talked about it this morning. Richards feels there's been a few instances this year when zebra eyes were solely on Boogaard because of his role. This has been an annual story with Boogaard as you know.
I mean, how do you miss Hordichuk punching Boogaard twice (although I covered Hordy and he makes goading others into retaliations an art form)? And how do you not call interference even if you think Boogey dove? In Watson's defense though, I think this was an isolated incident. It's not like he's out to get Boogaard. After all, Watson officiated the Calgary game the night before and it's not like he went after Boogaard.
Not sure if Benoit Pouliot will make his Canadiens' debut Thursday against the Wild. Pouliot has been in Hamilton on a maximum two-week conditioning stint for five or six days, and he missed both the Bulldogs' games. Tonight, he's scheduled to make his Hamilton debut. It'll be his first game since jamming his wrist in Washington on Nov. 13, so is one game enough to call him up and play against the Wild?
It might just be Guillaume Latendresse facing his old team vs. Marc-Andre Bergeron.
Lastly, in order to keep the VERSUS ratings at its usual monster numbers, tonight's Wild-Jackets game won't be televised in either market. Both Minnesota and Columbus gets the shaft because it falls into VERSUS' exclusive window.
So make sure you don't let the NHL and VERSUS down and tune in to Philadelphia-Pittsburgh. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/russostrib and I'll give you game updates throughout the first and second periods and as much as I can in the third (but it'll be less because I'll be writing).
Between you and me, since Columbus play-by-play guy Jeff Rimer didn't travel because he's not televising, I snagged his per diem and bought lunch with it. Now, I'd say from over the years, he's down to 291 meals that he owes me.
I'll also be on Columbus radio during the first intermission if you want to tune in.
Good day, as they say in the friendly skies.