Afternoon from high above the X, where Kirk Muller's Carolina Hurricanes just got done skating.
I will be on Fox Sports North's pregame show tonight at 6:30 p.m. and again during the first intermission.
Also, tickets for tonight's Chalk Talk with Wes Walz and me are still available at www.wild.com/chalktalk. You can watch Walz diagram a neutral-zone trap and me diagram how to write a blog or something. Tix start at $28 and include a game ticket for tonight's game against Justin Faulk and the Canes. We will be doing five of these this season, and those other dates are on that link as well.
By the way, this morning on Wild Minute, I mentioned the Wild's 2010 trip to Helsinki against Carolina. If you want to take a trip down memory lane, my pictures from that trip are still on my Facebook page. Click this link and you can see pics of a young Mikael Granlund and guys like Andrew Brunette, Matt Cullen, Mikko Koivu, Nik Backstrom, Gui Latendresse, Martin Havlat, Nick Schultz, P-M Bouchard, Casey Wellman, Matt Kassian, Greg Zanon, Marek Zidlicky, Brent Burns, Justin Falk, Clayton Stoner, Antti Miettinen, etc.
Good news on the Jonas Brodin front. As of now, coach Mike Yeo says no surgery is planned and Brodin may even skate tomorrow, although maybe not with the team. Brodin will obviously wear a full cage for awhile. So cautious good news right now.
Also, Charlie Coyle is getting closer. He took part in today's morning skate and felt good. He'll have to wear a knee brace for the first time in his career, and he said that didn't feel too bad. He's got no targeted date as for a return and would still need to get into battle drills and line rushes, etc., and some real practices, but this is good news, too. But you also want to be cautious because you don't want any setbacks from his sprained MCL.
Keith Ballard was kept off the ice again and will miss his fifth game in a row. Same lines that ended the Nashville game, meaning Justin Fontaine plays on the top line to start tonight and Nino Niederreiter the third.
Niklas Backstrom is starting to feel better. He's still not feeling completely 100 percent, but he feels good enough to back up and is real happy for Josh Harding, who has taken the No. 1 reins for now and run with it. It's been roughly a calendar year since Harding was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and he continues to persevere. What a start to his season with a 0.96 goals against average and .953 save percentage.
Tonight is Harding's Hope Night at the X and all fans get a Josh Harding Masterton Trophy poster.
The Canes have won two in a row and are 3-1 on the road. Muller, whose staff includes thousands of games of experience and several Cups with Dave Lewis, John MacLean, Greg Stefan, Rod Brind'Amour, Ron Francis and Glen Wesley, is very impressed with what he's seeing from the Wild.
"Just watching them, they play a high-tempo game and play the game the right way," Muller said. "They do a good job playing on the right side of the puck, they track back hard, they don't give you time and a lot of these teams in the West, they're comfortable playing a 0-0-type game. We've got to understand these guys don't give up many shots and opportunities, so we've got to be ready for it, just no frustration, just grind it out and play the same type of game."
I interviewed Carolina's Justin Faulk today. The former UMD star defenseman is a great quote and player and way on the radar to make the U.S. Olympic team. Kirk Muller went on and on about him today and I'll likely do a Faulk feature when we're in Raleigh in a few weeks. He's got a great relationship with a few of the Wild players, particularly Fontaine, his former UMD teammate. They'll go head-to-head tonight and I'll talk about that in tomorrow's notebook.
Always great seeing Radek Dvorak, too. Few better guys in the NHL. Nine teams now. Dvorak's rookie year in the NHL and Florida (1995) was mine as well.
That's it for now. Long day in the press box ahead of me, so I better get some work done.