Afternoon from the Chick Hearn Press Room inside the Staples Center.
The Kings return home for the first time since 1982 tonight against the Wild. Niklas Backstrom vs. Jonathan Bernier, who each had shutouts in the Wild's 1-0 shootout win Feb. 1 in St. Paul -- Bernier stopping 25 of 25, then Backstrom stopping 27 of 27 (plus three more in the shootout).
Jose Theodore will start tomorrow's game at Anaheim. The Ducks traded for Dan Ellis today, so either Ellis or Ray Emery will make their Ducks debut.
Wild will go with 6 D tonight. Nate Prosser will be the lone extra barring injury or sickness to anybody else.
Kyle Brodziak didn't make the trip to southern California and coach Todd Richards said it's doubtful he'll be able to fly commercially for the Anaheim game. Richards said Brodziak complained to assistant coach Dave Barr after last game (he scored the winner that game) that his legs weren't feeling good in the third period.
The team put him on a Z-Pak right away, but he woke up yesterday morning not feeling well.
Matt Cullen will stay with Andrew Brunette and Antti Miettinen tonight, while John Madden moves up and takes Brodziak's spot on the Pierre-Marc Bouchard-Martin Havlat line. Cody Almond plays the third line with Cal Clutterbuck and Chuck Kobasew, while Jed Ortmeyer, a veteran of 306 NHL games, will play the right wing next to Brad Staubitz and Eric Nystrom, who moves to center.
Ortmeyer played for two years on a line with Nystrom and Mike Cammalleri at the University of Michigan, so it was a cool reunion at the morning skate between Nystrom and Orymeyer. Ortmeyer also played some games on a line with Staubitz in San Jose, so it's a comfortable fit. He's also played with Greg Zanon and Marek Zidlicky in Nashville and Matt Cullen in Manhattan
Ortmeyer, a good-skating, energy bug, was signed Jan. 1 by the Wild. He's overcome so many trials and tribulations in his career, it's ridiculous. He wears knee braces on both knees, having torn his ACL twice. In 2006, he suffered a pulmonary embolism and after much testing, it was discovered his blood is "stickier than most" and clots easily. So on game days, he takes an injection of blood thinner, timing it so it'll be in his system before the skate through after the game because it stays in his system 12 hours. On off-days, he takes two injections a day.
I'll write more about Ortmeyer's difficult road to stay in the NHL and comeback to this level.
Richards said he's looking for Kobasew to stick it where the sun don't shine tonight for scratching him last game. Kobasew's struggled recently and says while he's not looking at it as trying to prove something to Richards, there's clear motivation there.
Almond will get his first big chance tonight with real ice time in the NHL. The Wild wants to see what the good-skating, big forward can do because next year is the year the Wild plans to start infusing some of these "prospects" into the lineup, so Almond could vie for a fourth-line center spot or higher.
As for Monday's trade deadline, GM Chuck Fletcher continues to have a lot of communication. The Wild has less than $1 million of cap space, which limits the type of player you can add.
I've gotten emails about Alexei Kovalev being traded for a 7th. First, Kovalev had a no-trade, so he was able to basically pick Pittsburgh. Second, this isn't a 28-year-old Kovalev anymore. By all accounts, he's been bad in Ottawa. Third, the Wild needs a center. Fourth, if they wanted a scoring winger, there are better ones available in my opinion and they are talking to teams about top-2 line forwards (more on that in the paper tomorrow). Fifth, Kovalev's salary is $5 million.
The Wild's cap space is about 950K. That means they could only add about a $4.3 million player without shedding salary if my math is right on their cap space, so they couldn't have taken Kovalev anyway for a 7th (although the Wild need to save cap space to get hurt and be able to bring up players), so actually they could really only bring in less than a $4.3 million player without giving up salary.
That calculation, by the way, is Cap Room divided by Days left in season (my math 41 at deadline) multiplied by 186 days in the season.
So their hands are tied a bit because they still want to add a center before the deadline.
But I do also think Fletcher loves the chemistry of this team and is very hesitant to take players out of the room. This is a close team that in a lot of ways has overachieved because of 1) goaltending; 2) defense 3) a tight room of players and leaders that are pulling on the same rope and bought into a certain way the game needs to be played in order to be victorious.
So I think Fletcher's not looking to mess with that by removing player. This team's battled hard to get to where it is, so if he can add help without subtracting integral pieces from the current room, I see him doing that. But if help will cost a significant player, I don't see him doing that.