Good afternoon from Dallas, where I think I’m about to go to the store to get some flea powder for my itchy “beard.”
No-shave November may end early for me regardless of the punishment I may get from Anthony LaPanta and Mike Greenlay for not abiding by their “policy.”
Hello from American Airlines Center, where a nice surprise occurred when Marco Scandella walked out to the ice for the pregame skate.
Scandella sent word to the team Friday afternoon that he was ready to come back from Montreal. He had travel delays in Atlanta and didn’t arrive in Dallas until after midnight.
Scandella, who has been away from the Wild since playing against Tampa Bay one week ago today, will return tonight.
On Scandella playing without a practice in a week, coach Mike Yeo said, “It’s not ideal. It’s not the perfect situation, but he’s too valuable a player for us to sit around and not have him play. I’m not worried about his conditioning. Timing-wise, my advice to him today was, ‘let’s just keep it simple from the start of the game and kind of get a good feel and get yourself back into it. Execution-wise, he may not be completely where he would normally be. It might take a little bit of time to get there, but defending-wise he’s too important to us to not be playing against this team.”
Scandella is dealing with a very difficult family matter, so keep Scandella and his family in your thoughts and prayers. He was affable as always in the locker room today but continues to ask for privacy when it comes to talking about this. But it was clear he was very happy to be back with his teammates.
Asked how his mindset is, Yeo said, “Obviously, I don’t know, it’s as good as it can be, I guess. I know that him just being here, we’ll do whatever we can to try to make him feel better, and certainly hopefully playing the game and being with your teammates helps.”
Yeo plans to go with seven defensemen tonight against the high-octane Stars, meaning right wing Brett Bulmer, recalled yesterday, won’t play. The Wild says it used seven D in a game five times last season and went 3-2 in those games. The most recent time was Jan. 3, which, gulp, was a 7-1 loss … in Dallas. But this record may be warped because it includes Stu Bickel, who played wing and was listed as the 7th D in that game even though he played wing. He logged 1:29 of ice time and amassed 39 penalty minutes.
It was clear something was up this morning when both Nate Prosser and Christian Folin took turns with Scandella in the skate.
Yeo offered many reasons why he’s going with 7 D, but he indicated he’d fess up to the big reason postgame. I think it’s pretty clear if you’ve been reading the Strib the past couple days. Also, making sure Prosser and Folin are ready is insurance in case Scandella suddenly can't play tonight.
“There’s a lot of reasons why and we can talk about it more after the game,” Yeo said. “I don’t think that Bulms will come in tonight, told him to be ready just in case. This is going to be a game that obviously we’re going to have to defend very well and we’re going to have to be on top of our game. Just going with the guys that have been here, going with the guys that have been playing games recently for us, I think that’s the direction we’re going to go. I also think obviously with 11 forwards, what we’ve been doing a lot, with a lot of the call-ups, they’re getting six, seven minutes, so it’s not a huge amount of time to replace and looking at all of our forwards, there’s a lot of guys that can help fill that void.”
It sounds like Yeo plans to roll three lines tonight with different forwards – Ryan Carter, Jordan Schroeder, Chris Porter and Erik Haula skating at times with Charlie Coyle.
On how Rick Wilson will rotate the D, Yeo said, “A lot of it will be based on sort of the performance, how guys are mixing in and working with each other,” Yeo said. “You look at a guy like Pross, an obviously veteran guy that may be able to help Marco as far as getting back in and just kind of the feel of playing off a guy that he is comfortable with. But you look at Fols and he’s got the ability to execute and we’ve seen a lot of that lately. We’ll see what the game calls for. If you’re up in a game, you might be playing somebody and if you’re down in a game, you might be playing somebody different. Pross has been a huge part of our penalty kill and obviously that’s going to be real important tonight against this team as well.”
Yeo said with Sunday being a day off and the Wild’s next game Tuesday, it’s easier to load up ice time on the forwards.
“Yesterday we didn’t skate. Fatigue is not a concern. If we had been playing in the middle of three games in four days or something like that, it’d be a different story,” Yeo said.
Zach Parise: Yeo said he’d have a better update for us Monday, but I do hear he’s feeling much better. However, he has not yet started skating, so there’s no chance he’ll be available next week.
Luckily, as of now, the Wild has been cooperating and winning games (3-0 without him, 13-12-1 all-time).
Of course, tonight will be a huge challenge against the Central Division leaders and the most prolific offense in the NHL. The Stars are averaging 3.65 goals per game and have a power play clicking at 30.2 percent. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin have combined for 20 goals and 47 points and John Klingberg leads NHL defensemen with 17 points. They are deep up front. The Jason Spezza line has been great. And the Vernon Fiddler line combined for eight scoring chances last game, coach Lindy Ruff told me.
Yeo said, “They’re arguably the most skilled team in the league and we’ll face a couple of them coming up here. It’s the depth of their scoring. Their role players are very good for them. Their back end right now and how they’re contributing and factoring into their offense, it’s obviously a very dangerous hockey team. You look at they seem to be scoring goals with an awful lot of ease right now, so it will be a great challenge.”
I got Ruff and Benn one-on-one today, and will likely write about the Stars either in my Sunday column next week or to advance the Wild-Stars game later this month.
I also talked to Ruff about Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville, two of his former players in Buffalo, and here’s what he said: “[Vanek’s] had a couple highlight-reel goals lately. I’ve seen some of the goals, and he can score some incredible goals. It was two games ago he went around the D and the slap shot one made me smile because I’ve seen him in shootouts do it. I mean, he’s got an incredibly accurate shot. There are two things that surprise me: His start and Pominville’s lack of scoring.”
On Pominville, Ruff said, “I saw he had two point-blank opportunities the previous game. You know, when you see a guy scoring, you watch him and go through video, and he had two great opportunities. I think sometimes you end up with a little tunnel vision. I’ve seen my guys do the same thing. He’ll get out of this. He does all the right things. If he wasn’t getting scoring chances, I’d worry. But he’s getting scoring chances. I go on the scouting system. He’s getting a ton. I only get concerned when a guy’s not in on the scoring chances. If you’re not in on the chances, you ain’t gonna score.”
Funny moment, Vanek interrupted to say hi to Ruff and Ruff yelled, “This is all about you Thomas. The through the legs and top corner, the slap shot on the breakaway, I said, ‘I’ve seen all that ---- before.”
Yeo talked to Darcy Kuemper on the ice. He hasn’t played since Oct. 25 and if you read my Devan Dubnyk story today, Yeo gave his thoughts as to why hasn’t played him. Today, Yeo just told Kuemper to stay ready.
“It’s not an easy situation for both him and for Backy, but both guys are handling it very well,” Yeo said.
Kuemper told me, “You always want to be in there. I understand the situation with the schedule and everything. I’m just staying patient the best I can and making sure I’m working hard every day so I stay ready for when I do get back in there.”
Kuemper said Yeo stressed, “Patience.”
We’ll see what happens tonight. The Wild often has to play goalies in Dallas, and not for good reasons.
By the way, Jordan Schroeder has a nasty shiner under his left eye from that Justin Faulk puck to the nose the other day. It broke his visor in half.
Lastly, the Regina paper wrote a great update on Josh Harding. Here that is.