By Brian Stensaas
7:00 p.m. UPDATE, correcting lineup note below: James Sheppard is IN tonight, Derek Boogaard is a scratch along with John Scott
Hello and good afternoon from a mostly-empty Xcel Energy Center. In about five hours the Wild and Blues return from the two-day NHL break. But for now, in here it's just a few guys polishing the glass, some TV folks getting all the right cords in all the right places, some member of the Blues traveling party running the arena steps and then me. Oh yeah ...
Good to be here, too. I'm happy to be out of the car; I left my family's southern Wisconsin home earrrrrrly this morning (after a somewhat lengthy delay because my car doors were literally frozen shut thanks to this wonderful winter storm the region endured; wonder what my driveway - unattended to since Tuesday - will be like tonight ...) to get here in time for the Wild's 10:30am morning skate. It was pretty uneventful - my drive back up here (thank goodness) and the 30 minute skate. Coach Todd Richards said some players were more ready to go after two days off than others. No one really stuck out to me, good or bad.
What I do know is that Richards expects the same lineup tonight: Backstrom in net, Sheppard and Scott out.
One player who is really itching to get back is Petr Sykora. Still sidelined after taking that hit Nov. 7 against the Stars, Sykora again practiced today but he is still not expected to be in the lineup yet. He says he's feeling good, but did not indicate any sort of target date, or whether or not he might make this upcoming trip west which begins Monday against the Kings.
I stuck around for the Blues morning skate today, too, and said hello after to the three gents with Minnesota ties: TJ Oshie (Warroad HS), David Backes (Minneapolis) and Erik Johnson (Bloomington; Gophers). Backes and Johnson were able to get into town a few days ahead of the team and spent some time with family. I'll have info on both of them in tomorrow's notebook, as well as some more from Sykora, a good deed by veteran Owen Nolan and whatever else I dig out of the notebook from this morning.
Oh - Chris Mason expected to be in the pipes for the Blues, by the way.
For now, I go back to writing and inhaling yet more caffeine. I'm not sure what Russo's record is for intake on a gameday with all that coffee he drinks. But I'm guessing I'll give it a nice run today with all the Diet Coke, Full Throttle and coffee that I see in my near future. Probably some green tea (with SUGAR!!) too.
Talk to you after the game, unless there's any updates.