Good afternoon from very snowy Washington, where the Wild faces the Capitals tonight at 6 p.m. CT. Love coming to D.C. Almost every trip, I try to do some sort of sightseeing.
Last year, it was the Newsium and Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Yesterday, an Air Force Major from Mendota Heights emailed me and graciously offered a private tour of the U.S. Capitol. I took the TV broadcasters and my colleague from across the river, and it was a great behind-the-scenes look. I saw a couple "celebrity" politicians and got a peek at the Congressional Black Caucus conducting a press conference, which was real neat. Also, I infiltrated a couple offices and wrote some policy.
Braden Holtby vs. Devan Dubnyk, whom I wrote about in today’s paper. Interesting story about how a game early this season here in Washington helped turn his year around.
The big news of the day is Alex Ovechkin, who leads the NHL with 43 goals and is tied with teammate Nicklas Backstrom for the league-lead with 67 points, is questionable with a lower-body injury. He is a gametime decision, Caps coach Barry Trotz announced after their morning skate at their practice facility.
For the Caps update, here’s a pregame blog from Washington Post beat writer Alex Prewitt, a former Star Tribune intern extraordinaire.
Same Wild lineup tonight. Jared Spurgeon skated, but coach Mike Yeo said the Wild doesn’t want to risk him by playing back-to-back games (the Wild’s at Carolina tomorrow night). He said Spurgeon is a possibility for tomorrow, although my guess is a lot will have to do with tonight’s outcome. If the Wild wins and/or nobody gets hurt, Yeo probably won’t change the blue line, especially with the likely odd guy out playing well – Christian Folin.
Spurgeon will miss his seventh game since taking that Mark Giordano shot to the chin in Calgary on Feb. 18. He sustained what he says is his second career concussion.
“It’s tough. Not a lot of practice time, so you use these pregame skates like practices,” Spurgeon said. “But it’s tough because with what I had, you can’t do much, so you lose it pretty fast when guys are playing every other day.”
The schedule is so condensed right now, the Wild, like all teams, barely practices because of the necessity to use the off-days as recovery days.
For instance, Sean Bergenheim was acquired Feb. 24. On the off-days since, he gathered his stuff in Florida on the first off-day, and the Wild didn’t practice Friday, Sunday, yesterday and won’t on Saturday. The Wild’s only practice in the past week was Monday.
So to put that in perspective, when Bergenheim plays his sixth game Sunday against Colorado, he will have practiced once (excluding morning skates). How about this one? Jordan Leopold and Chris Stewart were acquired Monday. By the time Sunday comes around, he may play in their fourth Wild games with no practices.
It’s a good thing they’re all veterans, so they’ve deal with this stuff before. But just imagine how tough it must be to be traded this time of year, be immediately dropped into games and yet get no practices to get acclimated to teammates and systems, etc. That’s why it often takes awhile for teams to pick up right where they left off from a chemistry standpoint and why it takes new players a little while to get accustomed to their new surroundings.
Not to mention the fact these guys dropped everything in one city, moved to another and have to get their real lives in order.
Jordan Schroeder will be a healthy scratch for a second consecutive game.
Thomas Vanek, who didn’t seem to mesh with Mikko Koivu and Chris Stewart, will skate with Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle and Sean Bergenheim will move up to the Koivu-Stewart line. That’s the way the lines finished in Tuesday’s shootout win over Ottawa, which did Minnesota a favor last night by beating Winnipeg.
That means a Wild win tonight, and it moves into the top wildcard spot. That would be quite the achievement since Minnesota was 14 back of Winnipeg coming out of the All-Star break Jan. 27. But that’s what a 14-2-1 record since the All-Star break accomplishes.
Nate Prosser is feeling better. He had a nasty case of food poisoning the other night. He went for his normal pregame lunch, had some chicken, immediately got sweaty and hot, thought he could sleep it off, took an hour-and-a-half nap and then all heck broke loose.
Prosser raced down to Xcel Energy Center to get some fluids and very descriptively told me he threw up 15 to 20 times “violently”, including the first intermission.
“I got lightheaded and dizzy and thought it probably was not good for me to get back out there,” said Prosser, a plus-10 his past 16 games (even or plus in every one of those). “I wanted to play. We only had five D, and just thought before the game I should try to help the guys out on the back and try to get in as many minutes as I can. But it came to the point I couldn’t play anymore.”
Prosser gave the Wild seven first-period shifts.
The Caps are good, especially at home. Their power play is second in the NHL, the Wild’s PK is second in the NHL and on a 47 for 48 hot streak since the All-Star break. The Wild’s power play is 1 for 17 the past nine games (1.9 power plays per game amazingly enough).
The Caps are sixth-best offensively and defensively. The Wild allows the fewest shots per game in the NHL.
A good start is imperative tonight. The Caps are 30-1-4 when scoring the first goal, 28-1-3 when leading after two, so Yeo said the Wild needs to “get on the hunt” tonight, be aggressive and not respect them too much.
Yeo said Marco Scandella’s injury isn’t considered serious and he’s only supposed to be out a week.
Yeo said the Wild hasn’t decided yet which goalie will start tomorrow in Raleigh. They’ll decide that after the game in concert with Dubnyk and goalie coach Bob Mason. If it’s Darcy Kuemper, it’ll be his first NHL start since Jan. 6 and appearance since Jan. 20.
“Especially early in the game, it’d be nice to give [Kuemper] a really good chance to settle into the game,” Yeo said IF Kuemper plays. He said practices are a “different intensity, a different feeling, so we’ll have to give him a chance to settle into the game.”
The Wild asked Jordan Leopold and his wife, Jamie, if 10-year-old daughter, Jordyn, who wrote the infamous “Letter” if she’d like to do the Let’s Play Hockey before Sunday’s game against the Avalanche.
Jordyn is pretty shy, so the Leopolds asked family friend Paul Allen, the KFAN morning host who made that letter go viral, if he would do it with her.
Allen was touched and honored and agreed.
The Wild has been inundated with dozens of national media requests to interview Jordyn and the Leopold family. Jordan said the family plans to do only one and has pretty much decided which national outlet they will sit down with.
That will be revealed soon, he said.
“We’re humble, private people, so this is tough,” he said.
“I am very old school as far as technology,” Leopold said. “Everybody had Blackberry’s and I still had the old [flip] phone. I’m not on social media, so I don’t even know what’s out there. People had to tell me.
“Quite honestly, I don’t know how big it really is because I’m not on Twitter, not on Facebook, not on all the sites. The only thing I see is what’s on your site and the TV. The response has been tremendous. My daughter has become somewhat of a folk hero or whatever you want to call it. She’s liking it. I asked her today how she’s feeling about it, and she said, ‘It’s good.’”
Leopold knows that if the Wild’s healthy, he’s probably going to be in and out of the lineup, but “whatever my role is here, I don’t care. I’m happy with it.”
“It’s funny, this is my hometown, but I played for the Gophers 13 years ago. I looked in the stands the other night and saw all these little kids and they have no idea who I am. But I think this is special for people who shared those experiences of the Gophers [national championships].
“This is home. This is where I always wanted to be. I can’t think of a better time to be here. Most likely I will end my career in this jersey. My family isn’t going to move again. It’s been fun so far. We have things to do as a team and goals to accomplish.”
Leopold isn’t saying he’s necessarily retiring after this year, but if the Wild doesn’t want to re-sign him after this season, he’s saying he’s probably not willing to sign anywhere else. All that will depend obviously on how he plays and what it has planned in terms of adding depth defensemen.