Good morning from Pittsburgh, where the Penguins and Sharks held optional morning skates in advance of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final tonight at 7 p.m. CT.
That's right. I'm here in Pittsburgh. Thanks to our great newspaper, I'll be covering the series, so please be sure to grab the paper and come back startribune.com/wild and startribune.com/russo throughout the series.
If you head to the Wild page now, you can see my advance on the series, particularly on how amazing it is that San Jose overcame the turmoil of the past few seasons to get to this point. Former Shark Alex Stalock has a lot of good stuff to say in there. You can also read Jim Souhan's column on Penguins star and former Gopher Phil Kessel and my matchup scouting report.
In tomorrow's paper, a report on the game and a story on former Gopher Paul Martin.
I'm also planning a Matt Cullen feature for Wednesday's paper (his wife, Bridget, as usual was full of great anecdotes; she wasn't please with my series prediction, which she had just read right before I called her) and I am working on features on former Wild players Joel Ward and Brent Burns and former Shattuck St. Mary's center ... Sidney Crosby. I'll also do something soon on White Bear Lake's Justin Braun and likely Joe Pavelski.
The cool thing about this Final: With Minnesotans on both teams, the Stanley Cup is guaranteed to come to the State of Hockey this summer.
Also, come back later and follow along on Twitter during Commissioner Gary Bettman's state of the league news conference today at 4:30 p.m. CT.
I hear later this week ("early June," to be exact) the nine-person executive committee, which includes Wild owner Craig Leipold, will convene to discuss expansion to Las Vegas. Does that include a vote? Potentially. Remember, if there is going to be an expansion draft next June and an expansion team in 2017-18, it would make a lot of sense to make an official announcement when the Board of Governors meet in Las Vegas June 22 before the NHL Awards.
Maybe Bettman will shed further light on all this.
As for this series, it should be fun, fast hockey between two fun, fast teams.
As Sidney Crosby said yesterday, "This is going to be some of the fastest hockey that any of us have played."
It'll be an interesting series. Not sure there's ever been a Cup Final with two starting goalies with less experience. But Martin Jones and Matt Murray have been amazing.