The latest border battle between the Wild and Winnipeg Jets occurs tonight at Xcel Energy Center.
Devan Dubnyk vs. Ondrej Pavelec.
Good morning from Xcel Energy Center, where Kurtis Gabriel will be the second Wild rookie in as many games to make his NHL debut tonight against the Jets, who beat the Wild in Winnipeg on Oct. 25, 5-4.
If you didn’t read my profile on Gabriel in today’s newspaper, here is the link.
The Jets are a big, physical, fast team, but they actually haven’t gotten into a ton of fights. They’ve only gotten into two, the Wild only one, so the Wild says it didn’t call Gabriel up just to drop the gloves but more bring some size and toughness and physicality.
Of course, both Anthony Peluso and Chris Thorburn look like they’re playing for Winnipeg, so the chances are fairly good that Gabriel gets his first NHL fight.
Anthony Peluso was originally in line rushes and Nic Petan wasn't, but now Peluso's working with the scratches.
But coach Mike Yeo said his message to Gabriel will be the same he gave to Christoph Bertschy the other night: “You only get one opportunity to have your first game in the NHL,” so while you have to be mindful of the system and try not to make mistakes, show what you can do.
But Yeo said Gabriel has to try to play his game effectively within the Wild’s concepts and gameplan.
After a very sloppy first four games of the season from a penalty point of view, the Wild has taken two or fewer minors in eight of the past nine games and are the second-most disciplined team in the NHL (6.1 penalty minutes per game).
“We’re obviously not a team that likes to run around and take stupid penalties, so this will be a good test [for Gabriel],” Yeo said.
Remember, the Wild may do some shuffling of Iowa and Minnesota players for a bit, so if the Wild's not planning on Gabriel to be in Thursday's lineup at Carolina, don't be surprised if he's sent down after the game and maybe a guy like Bertschy is brought back up again.
Marco Scandella will be away from the team at least tonight due to a family matter, so Nate Prosser will play the left side of Christian Folin. It’ll be interesting to see if this is one of those games Ryan Suter gets close to 30 minutes a night.
With Zach Parise out and now Scandella out, Jason Zucker will assume that left-shot role to the right of Suter on the power play.
“He’s there to be a shooter, that’s for sure,” Yeo said.
A lot of Zucker’s play on the No. 2 unit this year has been Zucker playing off the flank on his forehand side. Now he’s on the right up top, so Yeo said it’ll be a little different for him and an adjustment in terms of the looks he’s getting, how he faces the net and where the puck’s coming from. But Zucker can obviously let it rip and told me he played this role in college, although the power-play setup was different at DU.
Charlie Coyle not only takes Parise’s spot on the Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville line, he gets Zucker’s spot on the No. 2 unit with Nino Niederreiter, Thomas Vanek, Jared Spurgeon and Matt Dumba, whom Yeo says is fine. CT scan on his injured you-know-what if you’ve followed social media the past 18 hours was negative, Yeo said.
Players are often banged up and it's never reported. Dumba's just happened to be photographed ... and posted by a store.
Yeo said this is an “earned opportunity” for Coyle. “I keep trying to find a way to increase his ice time. He’s been earning more and more penalty kill time.”
Yeo said Coyle is a luxury to have because since he can play center and wing, there are lots of times in a course of games where Yeo shortens the bench and Coyle’s versatility helps him through those times.
Wild-Jets games are usually fun, always tight, always intense. It helps especially here that Jets fans come down and create for a lively atmosphere, which Yeo joked usually makes for an “ornery” Wild crowd, so it makes for a fun game. We have to make sure we’re ready at the drop of the puck because we know they will be.”
I think that’s it. Last night, Wild owner Craig Leipold came to Tom Reid’s and taped a real fun, informative podcast with Jim Souhan and I. That podcast will be posted tomorrow morning on iTunes (you can subscribe to malepatternpodcasts.com on your podcast app on your iPhone) or just go to malepatternpodcasts.com.