Good afternoon from sunny Vancouver, where the Aeros visit the President’s Trophy winning Canucks tonight.
The four rookie defensemen still include Maxim Noreau and Justin Falk, while Colton Gillies has been rejoined by Carson McMillan. Also, Jed Ortmeyer is currently en route because Cal Clutterbuck is sick with what coach Todd Richards said the team thinks is food poisoning.
Richards said Clutterbuck is a game-time decision.
Niklas Backstrom vs. Roberto Luongo tonight with Jose Theodore starting tomorrow.
--Raffi Torres has been suspended four games for his head shot on Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle. That includes the first two games of the playoffs, which is quite the statement from the NHL. I knew it was something significant because Wild GM Chuck Fletcher was talking to Canucks GM Mike Gillis for an hour when Gillis got the call from the league.
Fletcher left, Gillis animatedly debated for awhile, he got off the phone shaking his head and then went to the locker room to inform coach Alain Vigneault and Torres. Gillis told the media he strongly disagreed with the league’s decision and he thought it was a “hockey play.”
Torres sealed his fate with his quotes after the game, I think. Paraphrasing, he said he knew Eberle was in a vulnerable position, but in this NHL, if he doesn’t finish his check, he doesn’t play in the league. Torres doesn’t seem to have paid attention to what the league is trying to eliminate from its games.
--Tonight, before the game, the Canucks will hold an outdoor special tribute to “Captain Video,” Roger Neilson, the former Canucks coach who helped guide the Canucks to the 1982 Stanley Cup Finals. The Hall of Fame coach of a gazillion teams, including the first-ever coach of Florida, died in 2003 of cancer.
--Also, before the game, the Canucks will be honored by the NHL and presented with the President’s Trophy for having the best record in the NHL.
“I think it’s exciting more for the fans than the guys,” Luongo told me. “We want to stay focused on what we’re here to do. It’s a nice award to get, but we came in to this season determined to win the Stanley Cup. I think the guys in here are proud of what we accomplished during the regular season, but we’re focused on the playoffs.”
I’m sure the Wild will enjoy watching the ceremony.
Luongo, by the way, has asked the coaching staff to allow backup Cory Schneider a chance to share the Jennings Trophy for lowest goals against. Schneider played 29 seconds the other night and will close the season Saturday in Calgary to get to the minimum 25 games to share the trophy.
Nice gesture from Luongo.
--I’m writing about Andrew Brunette for tomorrow’s paper. These could be his last three games in a Wild uniform. I also have an interesting story on an injury Eric Nystrom’s been playing with since December (broken cheekbone). He’s kept it quiet for awhile but finally gave me permission to write about it. The quotes are real good, too, so I’ll be writing about it in the next few days.
Also, on Monday, the league will be running a fan contest on NHL.com to pick the top playoffs moment of all-time. It will be conducted in a bracket format, complete with seedings and regions. Some media members, including myself, has been invited to take part. The video gallery is pretty awesome.
So check that out Monday.
--Also, on April 16, the second annual Minnesota MPS Cup with the Minnesota NHL Alumni will be taking place.
MPS diseases are rare, devastating, incurable genetic diseases-mostly affecting children. Last year, over $25,000 was raised from this event for the National MPS Society.
This year's NHL Alumni include the following:
Mike McMahon (coach)
Steve Payne (gala only)
Carl Wetzel (coach)
For more information, see their website: www.mpscup.org
--Lastly, it’s with a heavy heart that I send my condolences to the friends and family of E.J. McGuire. E.J. died of cancer this morning at the age of 58. The former coach and scout was VP of the NHL’s Central Scouting Service and was a major information source for many of us in the media when it came to the draft. In fact, with the draft coming to Minnesota, I had reached out to him awhile ago to help me gain a knowledge of the draft-eligible players.
I always respected his passion and expertise anytime he talked to draft. There will be a huge void for many of us at the 2011 draft in Minnesota.
"The National Hockey League was privileged to benefit from EJ's
expertise and enthusiasm, both of which were limitless,” NHL Commissioner
Gary Bettman said. “EJ loved scouting games and loved the internal debates
over the strengths and weaknesses of Entry Draft prospects. The way he ran
Central Scouting made it vitally important to every one of our Clubs.
“The NHL family has suffered a tremendous loss,” Commissioner Bettman
added. “As we celebrate EJ’s contributions and mourn his passing, we send
our condolences – and our gratitude – to EJ's family and friends."
McGuire is survived by his wife, Terry, and their daughters,
Jacqueline and Erin.
"EJ was a colleague, a friend and a mentor who influenced and
enriched the hockey lives of thousands of players, coaches, parents and
administrators," said Colin Campbell, NHL Senior Executive Vice President
of Hockey Operations. "As a coach, he combined attention to detail with
innovation to teach the game to players at all levels -- from teenage,
college and junior players to the elite professionals in the NHL. As Vice
President of Central Scouting and a member of the Hockey Operations
Department, he brought wisdom, guidance and unparalleled commitment to the
game to advance it on so many levels.
"EJ had two loves in life: His love of family and his passion for
hockey," Campbell said. "The hockey world extends its deepest sympathies to
his wife and daughters."
More from Russo's Rants
The Wild and Haula beat a Sunday arbitration decision by settling on a new contract.
Hockey Day Minnesota was officially announced Thursday and a Stadium Series news conference has been scheduled for next week.
If the sides go through with arbitration and don't settle before a decision, the arbitrator will pick a figure selected by one side -- or something in between.
Eleven of the games are on NBCSN, with the Stadium Series game on NBC. Three of the five Wild-Blackhawks games this season will be on NBCSN.
The Wild and Fox Sports North are expected to announce this week that Hockey Day Minnesota will be at Bayfront Park in Duluth