CHICAGO – The Wild should get a much-needed boost for Game 1 of its first-round playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks with the return of right winger Jason Pominville.
Pominville, who missed the final two regular-season games after being elbowed in the head by Los Angeles captain Dustin Brown last Tuesday, returned to practice Monday and traveled with the team to Chicago.
While coach Mike Yeo wouldn’t definitively say Pominville would return, all signs point to it. Pominville returned to his line with Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Kyle Brodziak, was reinserted on the No. 1 power-play unit and even practiced 5-on-3 situations.
The Wild declined interview requests for Pominville, but Brodziak said: “A guy like Pommer, he can play all over the ice, D-zone, O-zone. He’s pretty much the complete package. We’re very happy to have him back in the lineup.”
Pominville had four goals and five assists in 10 games since being acquired from Buffalo, including four two-point games. His return enables the Wild to balance out its lines and potentially gives Yeo the ability to roll four lines right along with Chicago.
Cal Clutterbuck, who with two games left was on the second line, now moves to the fourth and looks as if he will skate with Mike Rupp and Torrey Mitchell. Clutterbuck, playing in the playoffs for the first time, clearly is jacked to go head-to-head with the NHL’s best team during the regular season.
“Today I came in and the TV was on and they were showing playoff brackets, and it really hit me that it’s for real,” Clutterbuck said. “At the same time, I’m more excited about beating the Blackhawks than being in the playoffs.
“I think we really had to fight hard to get here, and I think we’ll do everything we can to win the series.”
The Blackhawks ran away with the Western Conference and lost seven times in regulation all year. That doesn’t seem to faze Minnesota.
“Game 1 it resets,” Yeo said. “We know that they’re a good team, and we have a lot of respect for them, but everything starts fresh right now.”
Owner on the mend
With his team trailing Edmonton 6-0 after two periods Friday night, Wild owner Craig Leipold left his suite and watched the third period from General Manager Chuck Fletcher’s booth in the press box.
It was a rare move that prompted speculation about the potential fallout from Leipold’s utter disgust. Turns out, he was sick in more ways than one.
“I think what’s been misunderstood about my going to the box is I had the flu and I was supposed to go to Colorado [for the regular-season finale],” Leipold said Monday. “I was up there to tell Chuck that I wasn’t going. I stayed home and didn’t get to Colorado. I was in bed all weekend and feel better now.”
Turns out, Fletcher had left his booth to go downstairs at Xcel Energy Center. “We crossed paths,” Leipold said. “He was not there.”
• In an unusual move, the Wild will return to Minnesota after Game 1 and practice at Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday and Thursday before returning to Chicago for Friday’s Game 2. The short one-hour flight allowed for that decision.
• Dany Heatley is officially supposed to be out for the playoffs, but that could be dependent on how far the Wild go. The veteran goal scorer skated alone Monday morning and already is firing pucks. Heatley underwent shoulder surgery April 8.
• Games 1, 2 and 4 will be televised locally on Fox Sports North with any Twins conflicts moving to Fox Sports North Plus. The NBC Sports Network Wild-Blackhawks telecasts will be blacked out locally. Game 3 will be exclusively on NBC (Ch. 11), but Fox Sports North will air an hour postgame show.
• The Wild will wear its green jerseys throughout the playoffs at home.