Morning from inside Nationwide Arena, where Mike Yeo's Wild visits Todd Richards' Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at 6 p.m. CT.
The game is on FSN PLUS, so go to foxsportsnorth.com to find out where you can find FSN PLUS.
Niklas Backstrom vs. Curtis Sanford tonight.
No Mikko Koivu tonight. Yeo said he came very close to playing, but this morning, it was decided "he's not quite ready yet but very, very close. He wants to play, but he needs a couple more days. We're fairly confident that Thursday [against Vancouver] could be a good target date for us, so we'll keep our fingers crossed."
The Wild made adjustments to the power play, with Yeo saying you can only pass it around the outside so much and sooner or later you've got to take a shot. Matt Cullen and Marek Zidlicky will be on the No. 1 unit point, and Jared Spurgeon and Nate Prosser will be on the point on the No. 2 unit.
Devin Setoguchi will be on the third line with Darroll Powe and Erik Christensen. He's pressing bigtime, Yeo says they need him. He's scored two goals in 11 games since getting back Jan. 4 -- two goals in his last 14 overall. He's scored 10 goals this season and is a minus-10.
Yeo said he wants Carson McMillan on the second line to give a different look with Cullen and Cal Clutterbuck, and he wants Setoguchi on the third line because Christensen can make plays. Also, when a player is struggling, a lot of times coaches want that player to move to a blue-collar line to get him working again.
"You need different guys to contribute," Yeo said.
On Setoguchi barely getting scoring chances, not going to the net and stopping there, Yeo said, "That happens when you're pressing. You end up circling, you start to anticipate a little bit too much, and next thing you know you find yourself behind the play a lot. You start moving out into the high slot hoping that somebody's going to find you open for that one-time opportunity instead of getting to the net where those goals are going to come from."
I'll have a lead note in tomorrow's paper on a conversation I had with goalie coach Bob Mason regarding Backstrom's struggles in the shootout. This has been a big topic since the Dallas loss and Mason was interesting on Backstrom's struggles.
Matt Kassian in for Brad Staubitz. Mike Lundin scratched. Clayton Stoner isn't on the trip.
Tonight will be the first time 2007 first-round pick Colton Gillies faces the Wild since he was claimed off waivers by Columbus last month.
Gillies will play right wing on a line with Vinny Prospal and Jeff Carter. It'll be his second game with that line, and remember, Gillies wasn't able to get off the fourth line this year in Minnesota.
Richards, who only coached Gillies a handful of games over two years in Minnesota, said he always got a sense of Gillies' work ethic and character in summer camps and training camps.
I may have a Gillies' note in tomorrow's paper, although I've got a ton of Wild notes.
Richards, classy as always and a pro to the bitter end in Minnesota in terms of refusing to throw anybody under the bus, is excited to coach against the Wild tonight. He did so earlier this year twice as an assistant, but now he's the interim head coach.
"I got a lot of repsect for a lot of people on the other side," Richards said. "They're playing well right now. They went through a tough stretch. But a lot of times when you go through those tough stretches, it makes you better as a team. I’m looking forward to it. I think it’ll be fun. I’m guessing at the start they’ll probably be a little more nerves than any other team that we’re playing."
"It’s a different team. different head coach. I think it’s a similar identity, but he’s dealing with issues over there that I had to at some point, but always different situations."
Speaking of which, I asked about the Marek Zidlicky situation and Zidlicky publicly complaining about being scratched and Yeo's treatment of him. Richards didn't want to go there.
"Just by reading it, Mike’s the head coach," Richards said. "He’s pulling a lot of strings over there by the way that the team’s playing. It’s a situation that is interesting to follow on the outside. ... As a coach, you’re always interested to see how the coach handled it and how it turned out."
He is surprised Zidlicky has no goals.
"Because I know Zid and I know the type of player he is, he’s got a great shot and great oiffensive instincts, and to have no goals is surprising," he said.
On playing Backstrom tonight: "We have to do a good job in front of him. We've got to create a lot of traffic, we’ve got to make it hard for him to see pucks, we’ve got to make it hard for him to move around, we’ve got to get guys there for second and third opportunities. Two games against them, 76 shots, four goals and he’s been No. 1 star both games. And the team is really committed to playing in front of him. They don’t make it easy in that area of the ice, so we have to be doubly committed to get that area to make it hard."