Good afternoon from suddenly sunny Tampa, which is sooooooooo Florida. One minute it looks like you're about to get struck by lightning, the next minute you're about to get heat stroke.
I once got heat stroke on a golf course in South Florida. My grandparents got the call to get down to the clubhouse stat, but they weren't told what happened.
They were convinced my brother hit me over the head with a golf club.
Wild will go with the same lineup tonight. I asked Owen Nolan if he was on Martin Havlat's line the other night because I didn't cover the game: "No, he was on my line."
By the way, Havlat's a Lightning killer!
Coach Todd Richards said the club hasn't determined whether Niklas Backstrom or Josh Harding will start Friday in Washington. The decision will be made after tonight's game.
Harding hasn't started since Oct. 16, and I'd suspect he'd get the nod tomorrow unless the Wild somehow give up 10 shots tonight and Backstrom needs a rocking chair. The Wild will get into Washington in the wee hours of the morning Friday, and the Wild has an afternoon game Sunday in Raleigh.
So I'd think you'd give Backstrom the rest, but I could be wrong.
Kurtis Foster is indeed scratched tonight. Wes Walz bagged Foster and Matt Smaby, but when it was over, Walz looked like he had been bagged.
Paul Szczechura, whom I pray does nothing tonight so I don't have to spell that name on deadline, will be in the Lightning lineup. Sz, uh, Paul was called up because the Red Wings took Drew Miller off waivers. Sz, uh, Paul was leading Norfolk with 14 points in 14 games.
What else? Apparently Mikko Koivu and Bolts goalie Antero Niittymaki are good pals. Niitty is absolutely on fire right now, which throws a little intrigue into the eventual Finnish goalie situation for the Olympics. The odds-on favorites for No. 1 are Miiiiiiiiiikkkkkkkkkka Kiprusoff and Niklas Backstrom (whom I appreciate only has one 'i' and 'k' in his name), but remember, Niiiiiiiiitttttttttymakiiiiiii was the MVP of the 2006 Olympics.
(Between you and me only, Backstrom had to remind me of that fact because I can't remember yesterday).
How bout them Lightning? One of two teams in the NHL to have no regulation home losses. The other? The San Jose Sharks.
Chatted some more with Stephane Veilleux. He's one of six NHLers to be wearing the Messier helmet designed to prevent concussions. I'll write about that, and head shots in my Sunday column. There will eventually be at least a seventh NHLer to wear the Messier helmet, I am told. He plays for your Minnesota Wild.
His name is .... Buy the paper Sunday
Had an interesting conversation with Rick Tocchet, one of the great power forwards in NHL history, about head shots yesterday, and he thinks he's got the solution. It's .... Buy the paper Sunday.
Actually, not kidding. Read Sunday's coverage by the way because I think I'll have a real good Wild story that day, too.
How annoying are these smileys though, eh?
Lastly, and as usual I bury the lead, Richards is back in Florida. He played just up Interstate-4 in Orlando. For six years he played for the Solar Bears, captaining them for four. In 2001, Richards and Orlando won the last-ever Turner Cup in 2001, which he says is very special. Richards' stats in Orlando are off the hook, his first year scoring a career-high 19 goals and 73 points as a defenseman.
Most special about Orlando he said? Richards' two sons are Floridians.
OK, really lastly, Got an email from Washington Post's Tarik El-Bashir. Alex Ovechkin is officially questionable for tomorrow's game. Ovechkin, out with a shoulder injury, practiced today and said he wants to play against the Wild. But it's up to the team, and Tarik doesn't think he'll play. Caps are 3-1 without him.
I'll give you some more Caps information in Friday's advance box, but don't look for Jose Theodore to rediscover his '07 playoff magic tomorrow. He looks to be out for Semyon Varlamov, probably because he was spectacular in that 11-round shootout last night.
OK, must write. Bye Bye.