Wild (5-0-1 in the past six) and St. Louis Blues (lost three in a row) at the X tonight in Minnesota’s penultimate game of the regular season.
If the season ended today, the Wild and the Blues would meet in the first round with the series beginning likely next Thursday in St. Louis.
Again, the Wild will face St. Louis, Anaheim (starting next Wednesday or Thursday) or Colorado (starting likely next Thursday).
John Curry vs. Ryan Miller tonight.
For Curry, it’ll be the Shorewood native’s first NHL appearance since Jan. 11, 2010. If you didn’t read Tuesday’s feature on the former Breck School goalie, see the link of the previous blog.
Not too many goalies are his size in the NHL anymore. He looks like the Beezer -- John Vanbiesbrouck -- or Mike Vernon in the cage – two guys I covered in, ahem, Florida.
Coach Mike Yeo, who his familiar with Curry from his days with Pittsburgh, said he makes up for it by being a battler.
“He doesn’t have the size of a Bryzgalov,” Yeo said. “I don’t know that technique is his strength. But he’s a gamer.”
It’ll be interesting to watch him play. Not only is he facing the league’s 5th-best offensive team, he hasn’t had any game action since March 26.
In his last start for Iowa, Curry gave up a touchdown with an extra point and he has allowed 22 goals in his past five Iowa starts.
Yeo won’t rest his big guns tonight. This is an organizational decision in consultation with those big guns.
“We wanted to make the playoffs, but we want to make sure our game is ready,” Yeo said. “So with those guys and our team, just because we made the playoffs, it doesn’t mean all of a sudden we’re satisfied and we’re happy. This is about making sure that we continue to stay ready and sharp for game 1 of the postseason.”
Mike Rupp will play for the first time since Feb. 1 and fifth time since Dec. 31. Dany Heatley is in. Stephane Veilleux and Justin Fontaine will get the night off.
Christian Folin will make his NHL debut and Jared Spurgeon will sit.
Rupp said, “I’m excited to get an opportunity. I think our team has been playing really well and making some strides in our game and I just want to be a part of it and go in and do my job.”
His agent, Allan Walsh, tweeted after the Chicago shootout loss that the Wild had been targeted for two games in a row and asking if it was time to play Rupp.
“I just want to play,” Rupp said. “I think the team’s been playing awesome. We’ve got a great group of guys in here and a nice blend the last few games and really hit stride. I don’t want to shake that up. I just want to come in and do my job.”
Rupp is a tough guy and said he won’t change the way he plays. Obviously, the Blues have challenged the Wild physically throughout their nine-game winning streak (0-6-3) against the Wild, so Rupp may add an intimidating element tonight.
Not only is Rupp going to have to quickly get used to the NHL game tonight, but as I joked with him, it’s not like he’s been walking the streets getting into fights. He has gotten into one fight this season and none since Dec. 2.
“You’ve got a lot of pent-up energy,” he said. “I’m not going to go look for anything, but it’s one of those things where you’re not concerned about it.”
Yeo said, “I want to get those guys (Rupp and Heatley) some action before the end of the season. We want to make sure that these guys get an opportunity so if called upon that they feel like they’re ready to play.”
On Rupp, Yeo said, “I don’t expect miracles. He’s been off for a long time, but those guys have all been working real hard. It’s not like he’s a young kid. He knows what his game is. He plays a pretty smart game as far as knowing the system and position.”
On Folin, whom I wrote about today, so check out that story, “I want to give him an opportunity to test the waters and see where he’s at. It’s a chance for him to really show us what he can do.”
Folin was excited and said he would have a big smile on his face. He may see some time on the No. 2 power-play unit with Jonas Brodin, Matt Moulson, Heatley and Nino Niederreiter.
My guess on lines and D combos:
Keith Ballard, who skated the other day, is shut down again with a groin injury.
Clayton Stoner took part in the morning skate and is very close to a return. Perhaps, Sunday?
Josh Harding continues to practice.
Mikael Granlund, Yeo said, “I talked to Granny today and it’s really encouraging just how good he felt.”
I’d think it’d be hard for Granlund, who hasn’t skated since March 31, to be ready for the start of the playoffs, but we’ll see if Granlund begins skating this weekend.
No update on Darcy Kuemper beyond Yeo saying he’s “progressing.”
David Backes (foot) is likely out the rest of the regular season, but he’ll be ready for the playoffs, coach Ken Hitchcock said.
The Blues have lost three in a row and four of six.
Hitchcock: “We saw this coming with the looseness. Thank God this didn't happen Monday. We've got lots of time to fix it. You go from looking at championships to fixing problems. That's just coaching."