The 0-0-2 Wild and 0-2 Predators each are looking for their first wins tonight when Nashville’s rabid fans invade Bridgestone for the Preds’ home opener.
This is actually going to be at least my second time witnessing a Nashville home opener. I covered the first-ever Predators home game – a 1-0 loss to America’s team – the Florida Panthers.
Ray Whitney scored on a third-period breakaway. I still remember the lead to my game story. It was something like, “Well, if that didn’t kill hockey in Nashville, nothing will.”
Yeah, it was that dreadful of a game. A couple nights later, some dude named Andrew Brunette scored the first goal in Preds history, if I remember correctly.
Good afternoon from Nashville, where it’s a beautiful day. It usually is by my experience in this awesome city.
I’ll be on Fox Sports North tonight during the pregame show and first intermission, so WATCH.
Niklas Backstrom vs. his former Karpat Oulu backup tonight, Pekka Rinne. Wild coach Mike Yeo said he thought long and hard about starting Josh Harding tonight. But he feels Backstrom’s played well in this building, but he says he’s “anxious” to get Harding, who had a good preseason, a start.
Since Harding’s almost assured of starting either next Monday’s game in Buffalo or more likely Tuesday’s game in Toronto, my guess is Harding would get one of the two home games against Winnipeg or Dallas as a tuneup so he doesn’t get too stale.
No Roman Josi, Viktor Stalberg and Wild killer (not joking) Nick Spaling for the Predators. No Charlie Coyle and Mike Rupp for the Wild.
The Wild hopes it’s just those two. All healthy players were on the ice this morning for the Wild, but there are a few guys feeling under the weather, so Carson McMillan was recalled as insurance. He arrives in town around 3:30 p.m., but as of now, he’s not expected to play unless the bug renders somebody useless.
Zach Parise does fully expect to play after leaving practice yesterday sick.
Coyle was officially placed on injured reserve today … for all you fantasy people who keep emailing incessantly because you need it published so Yahoo or ESPN or whoever put him on IR (free add, I get it).
Shot the breeze this morning for awhile with former Wild players Matt Cullen and Eric Nystrom and local boy Matt Hendricks, who is already becoming a fan favorite in Nashville. Hendricks is a valuable player. He does a little bit of everything, hit, fight, score in shootouts. But the Minnesota native is already getting integrated in the Nashville community and working toward getting Defending the Blue Line entrenched down here.
Cullen and Nystrom are stallmates, Cullen’s got his kids into hockey already. None of his three boys have inherited a southern drawl just yet. They will. Tom Fitzgerald, who’s from Boston, used to joke that his kids gained that down here when he captained the Preds.
Clayton Stoner does get in for the Wild. Rookie Matt Dumba will be up in the press box shadowing me. Maybe he can write my game story (only would be an improvement, I know). Or, maybe I’ll have him run me some postgame quotes just as a rookie hazing thing (kidding).
Ryan Suter used to play in Nashville, in case you didn’t know. Last year he was lucky enough to visit once and was booed profusely by the Predators faithful.
Recently, coach Barry Trotz has been exasperating the situation by saying he hopes Nashville always kicks the Wild’s butt because they “stole” Suter and calling on the fans to keep booing the Norris Trophy runner-up from a year ago.
To get him ready for tonight, Suter’s Minnesota teammates humorously booed him during the morning skate the first time he touched the puck.
Suter and Trotz ran into each other before the skates today.
“He said, ‘I thought you liked me?’ I do like Ryan. I just know Section 303’s not going to let him off the hook. So I’ve just played along with it,” Trotz said. “Ryan’s a big part of our history. He’s an exceptional defenseman, and we know it. One thing you’ll find out about the Nashville fans, they are passionate.
“Ryan is like one of our family, seeing him as an 18-year-old, but he’s the enemy now. So if they want to stay tough on them, that’ll be 303’s decision, not mine. But I read all the blogs. I’m pretty sure he’s not going to be let off the hook for awhile.”
I have some other funny stuff I’ve gathered the past few weeks on this subject that you can read in tomorrow’s Star Tribune, from owner Craig Leipold to GM David Poile showing his sense of humor by having Suter and the heir apparent, Seth Jones, room together at the U.S. Olympic camp.
Suter from today on his bumping into his former coach Trotz: “I asked him why he’s telling everyone to boo me. I said, ‘I thought we were a little closer than that.’ He said it’s part of it. I think he was a little, uh, a little embarrassed by it, but it is what it is.
“A year’s gone by now, and I’ve moved on and we have a great team here. I’m just looking forward to the game. Just another game.”
You can tell – actually, I know – this stuff does bother Suter. He feels like he was a good citizen for a long time in Nashville, and he also feels that at any point in his career and especially during his last season, the Predators could have traded him. So he feels like he did nothing wrong by signing elsewhere via free agency and that communication was crystal clear as to his intentions to Preds management leading up to free agency. After all, as I’ve written for years, how many times ever does a potential free agent get up to July 1 and end up just re-signing with their teams? It almost never happens post-July 1. So it couldn’t have come as a shock to anybody that’s been involved with pro sports as management or watched pro sports as a fan that Suter was leaving. Those were the signals his entire final year in Nashville.
I always find it funny how teams and fans expect players to always be loyal to them, yet a team will up and trade a player at any point if they want to (obviously as long as they don’t have a no-trade).
You'd think if Preds fans would be mad at anyone, it'd be Shea Weber for signing an offer sheet with Philly as a restricted free agent. At least Suter waited til he was unrestricted.
I’m rambling again. Talk to you tonight, but first, a cool endeavor below:
MINNESOTA WILD BETTER HALVES TO HOST PAJAMA DRIVE
AT GAME THIS SATURDAY, OCT. 12
SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Wild of the National Hockey League (NHL) today announced that the Wild’s “Better Halves” group will be hosting a Pajama Drive at the game this Saturday, Oct. 12. All donated pajamas will be distributed by Wild players and their Better Halves to local pediatric cancer patients.
The Pajama Drive is part of the Wild’s Hockey Fights Cancer month. Fans are asked to donate new, unused pajamas, from ages infant up to 18 years. Wild Better Halves will be accepting donations at Gates 1-4 of Xcel Energy Center from the beginning of the game through the start of the first period. Gametime is 7 p.m., and gates open at 6 p.m.