UPDATED: More after the skate, but Dany Heatley will indeed be a scratch for the first time in his career, I believe. Ilya Bryzgalov will get the start.
First 2 lines from earlier this season are also reunited. Lines are:
Granlund takes over Moulson's spot on 1st unit, Fontaine and Moulson go on the 2nd.
Morning from beautiful Phoenix, where the Wild and Coyotes face off tonight at 8 p.m. CT/6 p.m. PT in a colossal game. The Coyotes are one point behind the Wild in the standings and Dallas, which has played one fewer game than Minnesota, pulled within four last night (7-3 drubbing of Nashville, they play St. Louis tonight), so things are getting tense.
Wild is 3-5-4 in its past 12 and needs to get on track. Check out today’s story here and some of the quotes and also some of the numbers in the past 12 games.
The Wild will skate out here around 10 a.m. PT and the Coyotes at their facility in Scottsdale.
I’ll have lineup news later. It’ll be interesting to see whom Mike Yeo comes back with in goal. Remember, Yeo talked before the Blues game about how if Darcy Kuemper is the future and the No. 1 going into the playoffs, it’s overcoming these struggles that are a huge part of development and also part of the stresses a goalie must deal with inside playoff series.
So, since it’s hard to blame Kuemper for really any goal against St. Louis, don’t you have to start him in the proverbial “biggest game of the year?” On the other hand, Ilya Bryzgalov is a vet, a former Coyote and has a great record against Phoenix (9-3-1, 2.20 goals-against average), so maybe do you go with him?
We shall see. Complete shot in the dark, but I’d think Justin Fontaine plays for Cody McCormick, who sustained a nasty gash around his left eye at St. Louis, and Stephane Veilleux plays for … Dany Heatley.
I only say this because even before recent games at St. Louis and Detroit, Yeo almost hinted that pulling Heatley from the lineup was close. But he was playing him because he’s still a power-play guy, etc. But after seeing those two costly turnovers in the final minute of the first period that led to T.J. Oshie’s momentum-turning, back-breaking shorthanded goal (remember, even though it was a 5-1 defeat, everything was fine there even if the Wild just get out of that period down 1-0), there comes a point for accountability if a player isn’t helping. He’s minus-18 and minus-7 in his past five games, with four shots and one assist in the past 11.
So, we will see.
Because the Coyotes were off yesterday and skate in Scottsdale this morning at the same time the Wild skates in Glendale, I gave Coyotes coach Dave Tippett a shout yesterday.
I wanted to ask the veteran bench boss about his team, which is 7-2-1 in the past 10 (two regulation losses against East powerhouse Boston). But I also wanted to ask Tippett, who happens to be one of Yeo’s mentors (Yeo was Tippett’s captain with the now-defunct IHL Houston Aeros), about what it takes to scratch a respected veteran.
Coincidentally, as Yeo is wrestling with the Heatley decision, Tippett just got done scratching Mike Ribeiro, whom Tippett endorsed management to sign last summer, and Derek Morris the past two games – both victories after a disappointing overtime loss at the Rangers.
First, on the road trip which saw Phoenix pick up five of six points, Tippett said, “It ended up being a pretty good trip after a tough start (blowing lead at the Garden, losing Mike Smith to what’s believed to be a knee injury; update coming today on the seriousness). But we’ve got to keep at it. There’s no resting on your laurels this time of year. Get back to work.”
On tonight’s game: “I think both teams are probably very similar. It was a similar situation [Thursday] night in New Jersey, where New Jersey, every game is like do or die. That’s the way we have been talking about it since the Olympic break. For us to be a playoff team, we have to earn our way in and every game just magnifies the importance of it. And then once you start playing teams right there in the standings with you like Minnesota, that puts another sense of urgency into it.”
Why so hot lately (9-4-1 this month): “It’s hard to say. We’ve probably played a little more to our past identity here the last few weeks, with just everybody chipping in, everybody doing the job and getting solid goaltending. Nothing really fancy. Just a lot of work and finding ways to win.”
The last two games you scratched Ribeiro and Morris. How tough was that? “Veteran players, young players, whoever, there are some players you put in the lineup and some you don’t. And different times you’re looking for a different look. Young enthusiasm , checker vs. a skilled guy, there’s all different scenarios. Every game you look at, you try to figure out how you’re going to win and what it’s going to take to win. Sometimes you have to take veteran players out. It’s not derogatory to the veteran. For us, it’s all about the team and how we’re going to win. That’s always been my philosophy and will continue to be my philosophy.”
Is that a tough thing initially for a coach because Yeo’s going through maybe making a tough decision on Heatley down the stretch? “I shouldn’t comment on that, but in our situation with Ribeiro and Morris, we wanted high-energy, young players against Pittsburgh. We won, so we went back with that mentality against New Jersey. Whether that changes against the Wild, I don’t know. In the morning, I’ll meet with the coaches, and figure out what our best chance of beating Minnesota is.”
By the way, Tippett is one of Wild veteran assistant coach Rick Wilson’s best friends (they live near each other in Minnesota during the offseason, coached together in Dallas), coached Wild assistant Darryl Sydor and obviously coached Yeo.
He decided not to get in touch with them yesterday because “things are too competitive right now. Coaches know how hectic everything is, so I figured they wanted to catch their breath [yesterday] and me too. If I see them before the game, we’ll touch base.
“So we won’t be comparing notes (laughs). They’ll prepare and we’ll prepare and see how it goes.”
In other Wild news, Defensemen Gustav Olofsson, the Wild’s 2013 second-round pick, and Dylan Labbe, a 2013 fourth-round pick, have signed amateur tryouts with the Iowa Wild. They will make their AHL debuts this weekend. Olofsson is expected to start next season with Iowa, while Labbe is expected to return to Shawinigan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
That’s it for now. I’ll be back after the skate with a lineup update. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/russostrib to see it in real time. I’ll be on KFAN at 11:15 a.m. CT.