Game 3 tonight between the Wild and Dallas Stars.
A team has rallied from an 0-3 deficit to win a series in the Stanley Cup playoffs four times out of 181 occasions in NHL history (2.2 percent).
So, not a must-win game tonight, … but a must-win game for a team that has lost seven consecutive games.
Tyler Seguin didn’t make the trip to Minnesota, coach Lindy Ruff said. It did look to me on that late power play after Jason Pominville’s penalty in Game 2 that Seguin went to battle in the corner and skated away looking uncomfortable.
Ruff said he didn’t aggravate the originally lacerated Achilles, “but this is kind of related and might be kind of a fall out of all of the sudden playing at a high pace.
“He was ready,” Ruff said. “His declaration was he was ready to play, felt great, and then it becomes my decision. It was my decision to play him because I felt he looked good in the couple of previous practices, we got him a couple of extra ones. He just irritated something that rendered him not effective.”
The Stars are 9-2 without Seguin since he got hurt originally.
Defenseman Kris Russell is also unlikely to play tonight because he’s sick, Ruff said. That’s a pretty big loss.
Jordie Benn, Jamie’s big brother who scored in this building in February seconds after the game ops folks did the funny Yukon Cornelius lookalike bit, will draw in if Russell can’t play.
For the Wild, judging from the morning skate, Kurtis Gabriel will make his NHL playoff debut on the right side of a line with Chris Porter and Zac Dalpe That would mean Jarret Stoll and Ryan Carter won’t play. It didn’t look like defenseman Mike Reilly would make his playoff debut, which surprises me.
Also, very surprising decision if Gabriel plays and seems like an overreaction to a small problem (Antoine Roussel) if Gabriel’s not going to play a regular shift against a fast, skills Stars team and Carter would. Say, for instance, this game gets to a prolonged 5-on-5 overtime and you’re down to 11 forwards, one of whom is Dalpe, who has one NHL playoff game under his belt and two games for the Wild.
The Wild wouldn’t let the media talk to Gabriel after today’s morning skate.
Here's Porter on Gabriel:
"I played with him his first game. Carter and I played with him. He got in a great fight with Peluso. He did his job. I haven’t played a whole lot with him, but I think he’s a physical presence and I’m assuming that’s why he’s in the lineup tonight.
What’s that do? "It’s just good to have somebody out there that can kind of police guys. They have Roussel for them and hopefully he can do that for us. We expect him to play his game, be physical and be accountable out there as well."
Do you remember your first playoff game? "It was exciting. There are a lot of nerves as well, especially playing at home. My first game was at home as well. It kind of is a blur. You’re preparing all day and then it gets there. You want to make your imprint on the game and I think he’s going to want to do the same. Hopefully he doesn’t play with too many nerves."
Here's Dalpe on Gabriel:
On Gabriel: "He'll bring no shortage of excitement. He’s big, he keeps things honest out there. He’s not a flashy player, but he’s a workhorse. You’ll just see the I don’t want call safe play but maybe the right play, get it deep and go to work."
Reaction to Roussel?: "I don’t see Roussel fighting anybody. I think he’s just sucking everybody into to stuff. I don’t think you’re going to see a fight, but maybe he’ll be a little more honest with Gabes out there."
Coach John Torchetti didn’t confirm his lineup, but it’s very clear Torchetti hasn’t been pleased with the Wild’s physicality in the series. He told Paul Allen on KFAN this morning that his first two clips on video he showed the team would be the fact that the littlest guys on the team – Mikael Granlund and Jared Spurgeon – were bringing it physically and others weren’t.
Asked what type of player Gabriel was for him in Iowa, Torchetti said, “Hard-working kid, good on the walls, physical, likes to fight. The kind of player you like.”
Asked if that matches up well in the playoffs, Torchetti said, “There’s no fighting, but physical, size, finish checks.”
Asked if that’s something he feels he needs in Game 3, Torchetti said, “Think you need it every night.”
Gabriel had the fifth-most fights in the AHL (15) and got into two NHL fights in his three NHL games.
“If they want to have a more physical lineup, then we have to skate harder,” Ruff said. “We played one of our best games against one of the heaviest lineups in the league in Los Angeles.”
Top 3 lines looked the same, so unless there was some gamesmanship, lineup is expected to be,...
Again, this is by no means confirmed. Coaches do some funky stuff in the playoffs to mess with the competition, so maybe this morning was a bunch of cloak and dagger stuff similar to Seguin not being on a regular line at the morning skate and warmups before Game 2.
Wild’s been lousy at Xcel Energy Center in a number of games since the calendar turned to 2016. At one point, the Wild lost nine in a row here.
“I feel we owe it to the fans to play a great game for em,” Torchetti said. “We didn’t get the wins we wanted down the stretch. They still supported us there. It would have been nice to get that last Calgary one just to get that off our minds, but we’ve got to find a way to win at home here. It’s our first playoff game together. We don’t want to be going into the fourth game down 3-0, so it’s pretty much a desperate game for us that we have to play. I think we have to play for each other and that should motivate us and give us an opportunity to win the game.”
Torchetti wants less turnovers still, more execution on the power play and for players to challenge Kari Lehtonen more (one goal allowed in two games, 8-1 in his past nine starts).
“You definitely want to get inside his skates a little bit so he’s not comfortable being on top of the crease,” Torchetti said. “He’s a big guy, so you have to make him not see shots. … He’s a difference maker right now.”
Thomas Vanek is skating on his own. Very unlikely he plays this series. And Zach Parise still isn’t around the team.
Huge loss, Torchetti said: “He’s our No. 1 battler, for one. He’s the type of guy that we need. Could probably give us a couple more extra power plays, a guy that could probably get to Lehtonen a little more here. That’s what he does, that’s what he does best.”
Big game tonight, to say the least.
“It’s the biggest game of the year,” captain Mikko Koivu said. “We have to be ready to start when the puck drops and go from there for 60 minutes or whatever it takes. … Whenever you’ve got to play your best, you’ve got to be desperate as well. We recognize that.”
It was very clear on the ice this morning that Torchetti told Koivu that he needs more from Koivu.
Other Black Aces recalled from Iowa: Grayson Downing, Tyler Graovac, Steve Michalek, Zack Mitchell, Zach Palmquist, Tyson Strachan and Hunter Warner.
Alex Tuch and Gustav Bouramman are also in town. The Black Aces have separate practices throughout the playoffs while the Wild is allowed, although Tuch and Bouramman are not playoff eligible.
That’s it for now. I will be co-hosting the Russo-Souhan Show at 4 p.m. at Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub. After the podcast, I’ll tweet out the link of the show and put it on my Facebook page (here’s link of that).
I’ll be on KFAN at 5:15 p.m. and on the NHL Network’s Arena Cam at 6:15 p.m.
Albert of the Western Hockey League (WHL)
That’s it for now. I will be co-hosting the Russo-Souhan Show at 4 p.m. at Tom Reid’s Hockey Ciy Pub. After the podcast, I’ll tweet out the link of the show and put it on my Facebook page (here’s link of that).
I’ll be on KFAN at 5:15 p.m. and on the NHL Network’s Arena Cam at 6:40 p.m.