Good afternoon from the press box, high above where the NHL's No. 1-ranked team, the Philadelphia Flyers, skate. This is the beginning of a very long day at the rink for me. Tons to do with a million stories on the horizon, some travel and seven games in the next 11 nights for the Wild.
Tonight will be a tough one for the Wild. The Flyers are riding high, are getting great goaltending and are scoring a ton.
To put a few things in perspective, Claude Giroux, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter have combined for 31 goals. The Wild's scored 46 as a team. The Flyers have no minus players. The Wild has 14.
Undrafted Russian goalie and revelation Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to start for Philly. He's 11-3-1 with a 2.29 goals against average and .925 save percentage. He'll face Niklas Backstrom, who's 8-5-2 with a 2.11 goals against average and .932 save percentage.
Patrick O'Sullivan, more than seven years after being drafted a round after Brent Burns at the Nashville draft, will make his Wild debut. O'Sullivan talked this morning about how comfortable it was for him to walk into this new team because he's been to camps with guys like Burns and Nick Schultz and Josh Harding and P-M Bouchard and Mikko Koivu and Matt Kassian and Clayton Stoner, used to sit next to Andrew Brunette in the locker room, played with Kyle Brodziak in Edmonton.
He'll at least start on a line with Matt Cullen and Cal Clutterbuck tonight.
Marek Zidlicky skated this morning. He's a game-time decision. If he can't play, Justin Falk will play.
Matt Kassian will play against the big, bad Flyers on the left side of Brodziak and Brad Staubitz. Robbie Earl will be scratched.
With so many games in the next little while, the Wild will be doing a lot of things to manage the bodies and get rest. Thursday (Thanksgiving) the Wild will practice because of Friday's 1 p.m. game. Jose Theodore is scheduled to make his first home start vs. the Predators.
The team then flies to Denver after the game, will get in during the early evening, will skate Saturday and play the Avs that night. The team will spend the night in Denver as opposed to flying to Calgary right after. Sunday will be just a travel day, no practice. Then, after Monday's game in Calgary, the Wild will actually spend the night in Calgary and practice there Tuesday instead of returning home after the game. This way, they get back to Minnesota at a decent hour in the afternoon in preparation for Wednesday's home game vs. Phoenix.
Thanksgiving is big in the plans. Brent Burns is having a lot of teammates over to his pad for a big feast. Cullen, who hails from Moorhead, is having his first family Thanksgiving in 15 years. The only people in his immediate family not attending will be his mom and brother, Joe, because mom is visiting Joe, who plays hockey in Italy.
Todd Richards' entire family is gathering at his parent's home. There will be 10 grandchildren, three siblings and six dogs.
That's it for now. I mentioned this morning we'll be talking to James Sheppard for the first time since his accident today. That'll actually be happening this evening during the first intermission, so you can catch Sheppard's quotes in Thursday's paper. Also, check out Friday's paper for a nice feature on a Wild player.