Wild and Toronto Maple Leafs tonight. Leafs have lost five of their past seven. Wild has lost 11 of 17 (6-7-4).
What’s more, the Wild is 0-1-3 in its past four at home and 2-3-4 in its past nine at home.
I'll be doing another Podcast with Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan today at 3 p.m. at souhanunfiltered.com. Listen live or later on, please.
I'll be on KFAN with Dan Barreiro at 4:30.
Darcy Kuemper vs. Jonathan Bernier. Leafs are without Joffrey Lupul and Peter Holland and Nazem Kadri, who ran around like a madman last year in Minnesota (Mikael Granlund and Niklas Backstrom), is questionable.
The Wild’s sick bay got another patient. Brett Sutter, who’s stall is next to the goalies and right across from Jason Zucker, has THE BUG!
For that reason, Tyler Graovac, who was in Iowa long enough to do laundry, was recalled and may play tonight if Zucker can’t.
Coach Mike Yeo said Zucker is “definitely an if” tonight. Yeo doesn’t want to throw Zucker in if he’s not healthy enough to play after one practice in eight days. So it sounds like instead of easing him in on the fourth line, Yeo may give him another game off at least.
Regardless, with a game tomorrow in Dallas and the stomach bug still around the team, the Wild needed an extra player with Sutter sick.
Zucker said the flu is like nothing he has experienced before. This norovirus sounds very similar to the swine flu that destroyed the Wild lineup in Nov./Dec. 2009.
Erik Haula is back in tonight after being scratched in three of the past four games.
Yeo has subtly mentioned the past few days that Haula’s conditioning is an issue. I picked up on it in Columbus and mentioned it then. Today, I asked Yeo more about it and I think we finally figured out one of the handful of players Yeo indicated back in camp wasn’t in good enough shape.
“It’s something I talked to him about earlier in the year because I noticed right from the start of the year [he was] taking shorter shifts and taking a little longer for him to recover from his shifts,” Yeo said. “Since he’s been a healthy scratch, we’ve had two very, very challenging skates for him. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be right back to where it needs to be. So it’s something that has to continue to be worked on. What I expect from him is to go out and compete hard. I’m not asking him to go out and score three goals tonight. But I’m asking him to be a factor in the game in a positive way and help our team find a way to win a hockey game.”
Yeo wants better defensive play from Haula and mostly for him to find a way to make his speed more of a factor.
“More than anything just the overall compete and battle and urgency in his game,” Yeo said.
Jonas Brodin (face into boards) is returning tonight and will be reunited with Ryan Suter. Brodin had a funny quote this morning where he said it was “my bad” because he fell when hit.
Jared Spurgeon is back with Marco Scandella and Nate Prosser will play the left side of Christian Folin.
Sources say the Wild is actively shopping for a left defenseman. Remember, last year, anytime Prosser was scratched, Yeo said it’s because he couldn’t play the left side. Now he’s playing that side almost every night with Keith Ballard hurt. Christian Folin is a right shot and the Wild, like Folin, doesn’t want to put a young kid like Matt Dumba in an uncomfortable position on the left side.
Nino-Haula-Coyle (yo-yo’ed back to the right)
If Zucker doesn’t play, Graovac will center one of those bottom two lines and Carter will likely move to the wing.
Niederreiter and Coyle have to be better. Niederreiter is trending the wrong way and was just bad early in the Columbus game. And Coyle followed one or two good shifts with one or two bad ones every game lately.
Leafs are struggling but are dangerous on the counterattack.
They have scored 19 goals and given up 26 in the 2-5 streak, so they can score but are susceptible defensively. As you know, former Gopher Phil Kessel and Orono resident James van Riemsdyk are their most dangerous players, especially with Lupul in Toronto.
Yeo said Wild had a long video session of all its mistakes lately. During this 11-loss-in-17-game stretch, the Wild has basically lost nine one-goal games if you take out the empty-net goals. So Yeo said it’s all about making that one extra play offensively or defensively to win a hockey game.
Attention to details, little things were the essence of Yeo’s coach-speak this morning.