Mike Yeo planned to talk with veteran defenseman Keith Ballard after the morning skate to make sure he was still feeling good, but the Wild coach’s expectation was that Ballard would play his second game of the season and first since Oct. 17 tonight when the Wild visits the Montreal Canadiens.
Good afternoon from the Bell Centre press room.
The Wild looks to avoid its first three-game losing streak of the season against a struggling Canadiens team that has only two shootout wins in its past six games and hasn’t won in regulation since Oct. 25.
Darcy Kuemper will make his first road start since the five-goal third period against the Rangers six games ago and he’ll go against Olympic gold medalist Carey Price.
The Canadiens rank 27th offensively in the NHL with 2.07 goals per game. They have scored six goals in the past six games, which is stunning since they’re a fast team with a lineup that boasts Max Pacioretty and PK Subban, two guys who have registered hat tricks in the past against the Wild.
This will be a battle of the 28th-ranked and 29th-ranked power plays tonight. I’ll let you guess which team is ranked 29th.
Wild chief amateur scout Guy Lapointe will have his No. 5 retired by the Canadiens tonight. In a long overdue ceremony, Lapointe’s jersey will reunite with the fellow “Big Three” defensemen Larry Robinson and Serge Savard.
Reminder: the game starts at 6:30 p.m. CT even though it’s listed at 6 p.m. The ceremony starts at 5:30. Fox Sports North ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++’s coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Wild Live. KFAN’s pregame show starts at 6:15.
The Wild will be on the bench during the ceremony. Coach Mike Yeo conferred with the team’s leaders and the team decided it would only be right if the Wild players were on the bench. First of all, Yeo said, no team puts on a better show during pregame ceremonies than the Canadiens and it would be good of the Wild to witness part of the great history that is the Montreal franchise. Second of all, Yeo noted how good of a man Lapointe is and how he had a big influence in drafting many of the Wild’s players.
"We should all understand how lucky we are to be part of something so special like tonight,” Yeo said.
Yeo talked to the Wild about the ceremony. Warmups will be afterward, so Yeo said that will allow players to get their legs under them and their minds on the task at hand.
“We have to find a way,” Yeo said.
As I said, Ballard is expected to return. Nate Prosser will be scratched. Prosser had played nine games in a row.
Yeo is not happy with Prosser’s game lately. He was on for the power-play goal against in Ottawa, made the mistakes that led to the Brandon Sutter and Joe Thornton goals against Pittsburgh and San Jose and on for all three goals in Boston.
“He’s not quite there right now,” Yeo said when I asked why Prosser sits over rookie Matt Dumba. “What we’re looking for from Pross is reliability and making sure goals aren’t going in the net when he’s on the ice. I’m not pinning that on him right now, but at the same time, his game is not quite there.”
As for Dumba, Yeo said, “[Jared] Spurgeon’s absence creates a void on the power play. For a team that hasn’t had a whole lot of success on the power play to make an understatement, it’s tough to take guys out that give us a chance to get one.”
Dumba has 17 shots the past five games and second among Wild defensemen with 23 (one behind Marco Scandella and one ahead of Ryan Suter).
Also, Yeo said, “I know what Pross is going to be,” and indicated that part of Dumba’s development if the Wild’s going to have him on the team right now is to play in environments like Montreal. In addition, Yeo said, “Part of when you’re making up a lineup, you have to make sure your lineup is prepared for the type of game it’s going to be and this is going to be a skating game tonight,” which is why Yeo wants Ballard and Dumba playing over Prosser.
My guess is the Wild will really watch Ballard’s play and his ice time. He missed eight games with an illness and is just getting his energy back, so if he struggles or looks sluggish, I’d think we’d see Suter and Scandella double-shifted at times with Folin and Dumba maybe interchanging.
Lines for the Wild expected to be:
See yesterday afternoon’s blog for more on tonight’s game and of course the articles in today’s paper on players needing to step up with Spurgeon, Zach Parise and Matt Cooke out and the Guy Lapointe piece. I’ll also have a column on Lapointe in tomorrow’s paper.