The Wild, coming off a 2-1 overtime win over Nashville, looks for its first road win of the season tonight at Calgary.
Morning skate Wild news (see below for Calgary): Captain Mikko Koivu will play in his 500th game. I had a good conversation with him and will write about that for tomorrow. ... Coach Mike Yeo said Jonas Brodin is here to stay. "He's an NHL defenseman, ... and a very good one." (Brodin so far hasn't been told to move out of the team hotel though). ... Yeo wouldn't rule out defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who will miss his ninth game with a foot injury, returning tomorrow night in Vancouver. Yeo wishes though Spurgeon could get in a few more practices, but that's just not possible in this type of season. In fact, the Wild's next practice isn't scheduled until Saturday!
In an arena the Wild used to never win in during the Jacques Lemaire days, it has somehow reeled off six of nine wins (22-11 score advantage) at one of my favorite buildings, the Saddledome, including three shutouts.
The Wild will come back with the same lineup as the Predators' win and the same lines. Yeo wants to keep things intact so players can try to develop some chemistry.
Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle
Dany Heatley-Mikael Granlund-Devin Setoguchi
Matt Cullen-Kyle Brodziak-Cal Clutterbuck
Mike Rupp-Zenon Konopka-Pierre-Marc Bouchard
Ryan Suter-Jonas Brodin
Clayton Stoner-Tom Gilbert
Justin Falk-Nate Prosser
Extras: Torrey Mitchell, Matt Kassian, Marco Scandella
Niklas Backstrom starts in goal. Yeo said they'll get through tonight's game and then decide on the goalie in Vancouver.
Remember, tonight's 8 p.m. CT game is on Fox Sports North Plus. Go to their web site if you need a guide as to where to find this channel. I will be on Fox Sports North Tuesday from Vancouver during Wild Live at 9 p.m. and the first intermission.
The Wild will avoid Miikka Kiprusoff tonight because he is sidelined with a lower body injury. He is expected to return Wednesday against Dallas. No goalie has been more successful against the Wild. In 50 games, he is 29-15-6 with a 2.01 goals against average, .923 save percentage and four shutouts.
Instead, 24-year-old Leland Irving will be between the Calgary pipes looking for his third NHL win. But if you know the Wild, when the opposing team's No. 1 goalie doesn't start, it often times doesn't make a difference. The Wild's got the ability to make any backup goalie look like the combination of Patrick Roy, Marty Brodeur and Dominik Hasek.
Interesting dynamic here: The Flames picked up Joey MacDonald off waivers from Detroit to be Kiprusoff's backup. So going into tonight's start, Irving knows he likely lost his job. One's got to wonder how his head will be.
Jarome Iginla is healthy -- rarely good news for the Wild. He is the all-time leader against the Wild in goals by a 14-goal margin with 35, points with 64 and winning goals with 10. He is second in power-play goals with 10. fourth in assists with 29 and second in games with 67.
Sounds like Michael Cammalleri will return for Calgary tonight. He missed two games with a hip flexor. Michael Cammalleri won't play, coach Bob Hartley said Mikael Backlund and Sven Baertschi are out.
Veteran defenseman Cory Sarich will play. Derek Smith is coming out.
That's it for now. Very winnable game tonight against the 3-4-2 Flames. And, considering the Wild is 0-8-2 in its last 10 in Vancouver (outscored 38-14 with 2 power-play goals on 41 chances in that stretch) AND have to play on a second of back-to-back with Vancouver well rested, this is as close to a must-win as there is at this time of year.