Happy Hockey Day Minnesota everybody.
Man, am I getting old. Just got out of the Coyotes locker room, where I was shooting the breeze with Connor Murphy.
I remember him as a toddler learning how to skate at Gold Coast Ice Arena in Pompano Beach, Fla., when I covered his dad, Gord Murphy, on the Panthers. Across the room was Sam Gagner, who I remember as a kid dominating youth hockey at Incredible Ice in Coral Springs when I covered his dad, Dave Gagner (the former North Star).
Connor said there are actually pictures of he and young Sam together on the ice as kids.
Wild and Coyotes tonight – two struggling teams, with the Coyotes about to begin a severe rebuild that was started with Devan Dubnyk being dealt to Minnesota and Keith Yandle and Antoine Vermette at least likely to be traded this season.
Dubnyk, three days after being traded from Arizona, vs. Mike Smith (the NHL’s worst qualifying goalie in SV% and GAA, tonight.
“He was just solid,” coach Dave Tippett said this morning of Dubnyk. “I’d like to say he came in and just reinvented himself, but he just came in and played a solid, simple game. I don’t think anybody anticipated Smitty’s struggles and when Smitty was struggling, he just came and stabilized things. Probably that’s why Chuck [Fletcher] thought he’d be a fit here right now. There’s nothing extraordinary about his game. He’s a big guy, just plays strong position and is very settling in there.”
Dubnyk was only in Arizona half a season, but he created quite a bond with his ex-teammates and went to dinner with a bunch of them last night.
“I made a lot of good friends there in a short period of time,” Dubnyk said.
But he said this is a great opportunity in Minnesota and said the Buffalo win was “One of the best games I’ve ever been a part of.”
He said he came to Arizona hoping for an opportunity at some point, whether it be this year or next and to get the opportunity to “get in the net and play again and to get it so soon, it’s real exciting to think about.”
Niklas Backstrom, one of the best pros around, was treating him royally today despite his future is in severe flux. Darcy Kuemper was back on the ice today with a new hipster haircut. I said, “Did you ask for the Scandella?” Turns out he did go to Scandella’s barber.
He’s getting close. Mikael Granlund has a doctor’s appointment today to see if he can get cleared to return for tomorrow’s practice. Ryan Suter has a game left in his suspension. And Scandella will be surprisingly put in the lineup tonight, so Yeo said, “We’re getting close to what our group should look like.”
Yeo does not have an answer yet how he’ll manage the three goalies once it arises. Only one can start, only one can back up. He said the most important thing is to make sure they’re all getting the reps, so to speak. Rachel Blount will have more on the goalie situation most likely in Monday’s paper because it’s expected they’ll make Backstrom available tomorrow.
Scandella did have a concussion from that puck to the head Jan. 6 and missed the past five games.
“Extremely frustrating. Team got a big win last game and just want to come in and hopefully help out,” he said. “I’ve been skating a bit, so you just go out there and play simple. I feel good, my head’s good. I’m just ready.”
On returning with zero practices under his belt and only a few days of practice, Scandella said, “That’s the luxury that sometimes you don’t get. But I worked hard on my way back. I feel great. Head, mind, everything, body feels great. Little rested too because the time off obviously helps with bumps and bruises.”
Yeo said he’s “very happy to have him back. I thought the defense did a great job last game, but he’s a huge part of our defensive group.”
On playing him with no practices, Yeo said, “He’s got a good base. He’s been skating,” and that he hasn’t been out for three or four weeks like Granlund, “so the fact that he hasn’t been out very long and given where we’re at in this season, I think we’re confident that he’s OK.”
Yeo has a busy day.
He was sprinting over to the airport to watch his son, Kyler, play for Hill Murray outdoors against St. Thomas Academy. His daughter, Braeden, has senior night at 3 for East Ridge against Roseville. Yeo had to go there to take part in the opening ceremonies and helped last night with her senior night posterboard.
“I’m pretty good with the arts and crafts,” he joked. “Typically on a gameday I go home and get my beauty sleep, but these are things you can’t miss as a parent.”
Yeo said most important is the Wild must get back to being a good home team tonight. This is a team that has won once in the past eight home games. It also hasn’t won two in a row since Nov. 16-20.
“Since I’ve been here we’ve always had stretches where we get on six-, eight-game runs,” Yeo said. “I guess one positive is we haven’t done that yet. I am optimistic that will happen at least once this year and hopefully more than once. Generally when we play a consistent game,” it gives them a chance to win every night.
We talked to Suter today about his time off and he had a lot of interesting stuff to say I’ll put in Sunday’s paper. Great stuff on what it’s like to watch the game from upstairs and also if he thinks the time off will help him. Also good stuff on Dubnyk.
Same lines tonight, meaning Jordan Schroeder is scratched.
Blum is scratched. Shane Doan is hurt for Arizona.
Yesterday was J.P. Parise’s funeral. Suter lost his dad, Bob, in September.
“It was a good tribute to Zach’s dad,” Suter said. “It’s so sad and brings back memories to see him going through that, good friend, close friend. It went smooth. Hopefully it starts the healing for them.
“For him to be playing and then go bury your dad, it would have been hard to do. Now that’s it over, hopefully we can all move on.”
Yeo said, “It really hurts to see a teammate hurt.”