The Wild faces a Columbus Blue Jackets team tonight coming of huge wins against two of the top teams in the NHL, Dallas and Washington.
With both their goalies hurt, Columbus will roll out Anton Forsberg for his seventh career game. He's 1-0 this year (came in relief against Washington) and 1-4 in his career with a 4.62 goals-against average and .871 save percentage.
"I think the last time we faced a young guy, we had five shots halfway through the game. So whatever we did that game, do something different," said Zach Parise, referring to Pittsburgh's Matt Murray playing his third NHL game against the Wild on the last homestand and the Wild having a 22-6 shot deficit halfway through.
Parise, still having trouble getting used to the fact he has to wear a knee brace again (I'll write more about that in tomorrow's paper), will skate with Mikko Koivu and Thomas Vanek to start tonight's game. Nino Niederreiter was with Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker was with Erik Haula and Jason Pominville and Justin Fontaine will skate on the right side of Chris Porter and Jarret Stoll.
Ryan Carter (hand) won't play. He did skate and could play, but this hand injury has been nagging him and the team wants him to sit out and try to heal tonight.
Devan Dubnyk in goal as the Wild, 1-1-1 on this homestand, looks to go home on a high. Coach Mike Yeo is worried about a letdown against a team that usually beats the Wild in this arena. Yeo said when he looks atv the video, other than the first period in Tampa, the Wild has played well this trip and he doesn't want the disappointment of not beating Florida despite deserving better to infiltrate tonight's game.
Tomorrow, the Wild will learn its All-Star. As I've written and said, Ryan Suter or Devan Dubnyk are the most likely when you fill out a potential roster and realize there can only be six forwards, three defensemen and two goalies on the Central Division team and all seven teams must be represented. That means Mikko Koivu probably won't get on if you think Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Patrick Kane, Vladimir Tarasenko and Blake Wheeler probably get on and one would think Jonathan Toews or Matt Duchene would be the other forward.
Yeo: "We have a number of guys that are deserving. I don't know that they'll all get what I think they deserve. But I just want to make sure that people are talking about them. I think sometimes in some ways we're a team that flies under the radar and I think that our players are a little bit the same. I think those guys, they deserve to be talked about not just because of the season they're having and the things that they're doing, whether it's statistically offensively, but it's the little things they do to help us win night after night."
As you know, the Wild has inquired at least with Columbus about Ryan Johansen, the young center who finished 16th in the league in scoring last season. He has six goals and 20 assists in 37 games this season and has gotten some tough love at times from coach John Tortorella, who has been benched him periodically, demoted him to the fourth line and scratched him once.
Here is Tortorella and Johansen's comments from this morning. Figured I'd just toss up the transcripts:
Seen the best from Ryan Johansen? "No, no, no. Joey gave us some good minutes the other night. I’ve been honest about it. I think he’s been inconsistent. We talked about Saader yesterday and the run he’s on. Saader is 23. Joey’s 23 years old. I know he’s been in the league for a number of years here, I think this is his fifth. He’s got a ton to learn. Just like Saader. Saader has two Cups, he still has a lot to learn as far as how to play. This shouldn’t be, it’s not a negative connotation on [Johansen] at all, and we’re going to teach him. And that’s what we’re trying to do. We make our call during the games no matter who it is, where they fit those minutes as far as that particular game. We thought Joey was going pretty well last game, so he got more minutes than prior games. That’s an open book as we start the game. For Joey, I think he has a ton to learn. The greatest thing about him is just his ability. He has more ability than a lot of players in the league. It’s trying to get him to get there all the time--to use that ability. And that’s a process. That’s a maturity level. And he hasn’t totally matured yet. The onus falls on us to try to get that out of him."
Does he understand that/relationship with you? "Yeah, I think he does. I think a lot of people around us, Joey and I, want to turn it into that, and listen, I make my bed with some of that stuff as far as the reputation I have, but you guys really don’t know what goes on in that room. Everybody makes these, you throw it against the wall and that’s what’s happening, and you shouldn’t. you shouldn’t know what’s going on in that room, so I don’t blame you. What I do have problems with is you just throw these thoughts out there and say that’s what’s going on when you really don’t know. But that’s your job (smiling), and it’s our job to handle it. And quite honestly, I like the kid. I think certain days we have great progression, some days it’s a step backwards. He’s …23…years old. The greatest part is there’s a ton there, and we’re going to try to get it out of him."
On the team: "I noticed it after our win against Dallas, there was just a good feeling in this room about the way we did things on the ice and the way we played for each other, and it’s something we need to keep getting used to. If we keep playing like we have been and doing our jobs and everybody contributing and playing those complete games, we’re going to have a lot more success."
How have you dealt with your name in the papers as far as trade rumors and your relationship with Torts? "It’s part of the game, it’s part of the business. A lot of players in this league go through it, and for me, it was a lot of different. You know you get a lot of phone calls and texts (smiling) and close friends and family worry about you, but at the end of the day, it’s nothing we can control. The only thing we can control is going out there and playing our best and working our hardest. For me, it’s been a tough first half of the year, and I know that. It’s not like I’m walking in the room with a swagger thinking I’m doing my job. I need to be a better player for this team if we’re going to have success. And to touch on me and Coach’s relationship, he’s made it very clear the minute that he walked in here and talked to me that he wants to make me a better hockey player. And whether we have a couple arguments down the road or things like that, he’s made it very clear it’s for my best interest on making me a better hockey player and to make this team a better hockey club. You hear so many different stories with coaches and players throughout the leagues, and sometimes you butt heads and that’s part of the game, that’s part of sports. Right now at this moment we’ve won two big hockey games against two good teams and we feel good about ourselves right now and it’s about keeping the pedal now."
Tough when you look at your Twitter and fans from every market are clamoring for you? “It’s different. It’s a little weird. I mean, I’ll be honest, to see your name with all these comments and funny things. People have some interesting comments (laughs). It is what it is. I love being a Blue Jacket, I love playing in this city, and it’s my job to play to my abilities and when you’re not, you’re going to be in those conversations where, ‘Does he belong here? Do they want him here?’ I think if I’m going out there and I’m doing my job and playing my game and doing what I’m capable of, then that stuff will start going away. For me, I’m just trying to get my game back to the level where I want it to be."
Torts says you guys get along well despite assumptions about your relationship? "The last thing that we’re focused on is our relationship (laughs). It’s about winning hockey games. at the end of the day, we both come to the rink not like, ‘Oh, how is that talk going to be today?’ (laughs) We just want to go out on the ice and perform and when something he feels needs to be addressed with me or something he needs to teach me or I’m doing things wrong, then he’ll say something. But other than that, he’s got a team to worry about or a whole hockey club here trying to win hockey games. the last thing you want is a room focused on something like that. It’s unnecessary and a distraction. He’s my coach and we’re trying to win hockey games right now and I’m trying to get my game to the level it needs to be at. It’s been a process. We’re the last team in the league and things aren’t going to be all the chipper around here all the time right now until we climb."
When’s the last time you talked to nino (old Portland teammate)? "I talked to him the other day. I was going to take him to dinner, but he blew me off. So I’m not happy about that actually. I’m going to run him tonight."