Good afternoon from balmy Minneapolis, where the temperature's up to 3 degrees, I think.

It's on days like today when you realize just how much pollution comes out of automobiles. There are just gusts of smoke coming out of exhaust pipes. When my lease is up in three years, I plan to downgrade my Hummer.

Coach Todd Richards, a former San Jose Sharks assistant coach, said that on days like today, he realizes he doesn't coach in California anymore. Ditto. Days like today I realize I don't write in Florida anymore.

Richards plans to go with the same lineup tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks. Richards typically doesn't like messing with the lineup after wins, but he also wants to have a faster team going against Chicago. He said the Wild gave up a season-high 20 or 21 scoring chances (subjective stat obviously) in Chicago Tuesday.

So, James Sheppard is out, as well as veteran Petr Sykora, who worked exhaustedly to return recently from a concussion, again. Richards said that Robbie Earl provides different "elements" than Sykora.

"It’s nothing against Petr. Robbie was good. He provided some speed and energy, he's good on the forecheck and good on loose pucks. He’s one of those guys who goes into the corner and he’s physical. He’s got different elements than Petr. In that position playing the fourth line, that’s something we feel we need right now at this point. Playing against a real fast team tonight and Robbie’s speed on wing should and could help us."

If Sykora continues to be scratched, this could get interesting because he's obviously not happy about it.

John Scott will get a second game in a row after playing well in Wednesday's win over Calgary. Clayton Stoner still has a sore groin, and he's also recovering from food poisoning.

Richards talked a lot today about how he's willing to play Derek Boogaard and Scott together on shifts as long as they're aware of whom they're going against. Marian Hossa's line got out against them a few times the other night and you can bet coach Joel Quenneville would love to exploit that. But Richards said he has the utmost trust in Boogaard in his own zone.

I'll try to squeeze a note into the notebook, but if not I'll put it on the blog tonight. I talked to the Gophers' Jordan Schroeder yesterday. Good guy. I appreciate him calling me back on a gameday, but Jeremy Roenick called to congratulate him on breaking his world junior US record. I'll have those quotes in the Wild notebook tomorrow.

Lastly, ran into Todd Miska this morning ( He's the Stacy, Minn., maskmaker that designs the masks of several NHLers, WCHAers, high schoolers and several other -----ers. His biggest clients are Miikka Kiprusoff, Evgeni Nabokov and Niklas Backstrom.

He delivered Josh Harding's new mask, which he started Thursday and already completed it. It's just awesome-looking. I'll describe it in detail in the paper tomorrow, but here's a couple pictures from my Twitter account,

Here's one side of the mask, which is the back of an equipment truck with equipment on fire. I didn't catch the firefighter on the pic, but there's a firefighter hosing out the blaze

Here's the other side of the mask, which is a fire engine with the hose coming out and snaking around the front of the mask

Here's the back of the mask, which has the Ottawa fire department logo and a breast cancer pink ribbon. The gold 37 on the front by the way looks like the old fire truck lettering.

Equipment manager Tony DaCosta, pretending he was mad, said, "We almost died in that fire. Now it's pictures on guy's masks. Game has changed!"

Miska just made Nabokov a new mask for Team Russia in the Olympics. I asked Backstrom if he'll get a new mask for Finland: "No. Enough new equipment."

That's it. Talk to you tonight. Also check out my Sunday column on the world junior gold medal-winning Minnesotans: Schroeder, Derek Stepan, Danny Kristo, Jake Gardiner and Mike Lee.

Older Post

Rookie defenseman Stoner misses practice; Russo plays radio host later tonight

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Wild's biggest comeback win in history; Latendresse clutch; Sykora tweeting drama; No Havlat in shootout; J.R. calls Schroeder