Afternoon from MSP, where I’m about to hustle through this blog to get to my flight for Dallas.
Finally, after four off-days, the Wild will play Saturday night for the first time since Monday. Unusual break in the schedule and coach Mike Yeo said today he’s “excited to put to action” the work the Wild did this week.
Saturday night will be Mike Modano Night in Dallas. I wrote a feature on Modano for Saturday’s paper. His No. 9 is being retired by the Stars/North Stars franchise. Star-studded event (Norm Green will be there!) with a golf outing, private dinner tonight and then a ceremony tomorrow that’s supposed to be off the charts.
There’s a “green carpet” event as guests arrive. Fans are encouraged to show up three hours before the game with the ceremony starting 90 minutes before puck drop.
So I encourage you to read Saturday’s story.
The Wild is 1-13-5 in its past 19 in Dallas since March 21, 2003. The Wild snapped a 16-game winless streak there last season but has lost two there since, including arguably the worst game of this season Jan. 21.
The Wild’s feeling much better about its game since, is 14-4-2 this calendar year and has won five in a row.
Darcy Kuemper will make his 16th consecutive start. He is 11-2-2 in 16 starts since Jan. 7 (one no-decision) with a 1.95 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.
Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick are also expected to make their Wild debuts. Moulson looks really good on that line with Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle (for the lines, see yesterday’s blog), by the way.
“We’re going to a building that typically we haven’t performed well in,” said Yeo, saying he wants his team ready for a good, intense game against a Stars team playing well right now.
During the Wild’s hiatus, the eighth-place Stars have pulled within five of Minnesota, ninth-place Phoenix within six.
Yeo doesn’t want to look past Saturday, but he doesn’t want Ilya Bryzgalov just sitting around either, so he said there’s “certainly a chance we put him in vs. St. Louis” on Sunday.
That’ll be a tough game for Minnesota. The clock springs forward after Saturday’s game, so the Wild plays in Dallas the night before and loses an hour on the way back. St. Louis plays in Denver also Saturday, but an afternoon game, so the Blues should be in Minnesota before the puck drops on the Wild’s game.
We had another fun one-minute press scrum with Bryzgalov today.
Q: How much are you looking forward to starting Sunday?
A: We practice to play in the game.
Q: How excited are you to play in front of the home fans?
A: Yeah, sure.
Q: Feel more comfortable in practice?
A: Yeah, better and better.
Q: Any superstitions or routines?
Maybe he just feels he’s been burned by the media before, so why bother? The Oilers writers say he was standoffish at the start of his tenure there, but he slowly but surely got better and became very cooperative.
He already had a Wild-esque mask today. Paul Deutsch, the gent who was the emergency goalie during warmups that one game a few years back, took Bryzgalov’s Oilers mask and wrapped a vinyl emblem around it with the BRYZ on the front. Looks pretty good.
Bryzgalov said he’s working toward getting his own painted mask.
Kuemper said Bryzgalov has been cool thus far.
On how he thinks playing time will be divvied ahead, Kuemper said, “I’m not sure how it’s going to work. That’s up to coaches. Things have been going well. I’ll take it game by game. Obviously I like getting out there and playing, so every opportunity I have, I’ll cherish it to the best of my ability.”
Clayton Stoner is excited to have McCormick on the team. They’ve been in two fights and “he’s a tough customer.” In Buffalo in October, McCormick bloodied Stoner’s nose during a scrap.
Talk to ya Saturday from Dallas.