Monday morning update: Guillaume Latendresse has been cleared to practice and is on the ice now wearing a gold no-contact jersey. He hasn't played since Oct. 25.
Evening. Late blog because after writing for the paper, I figured I'd get out into the raging snowstorm and home first before blogging.
Then I began watching the Heritage Classic. Then I was hypnotized and put into a deep slumber by the Calgary Flames' dizzying uni's. The Flames, of course, won because they always win and because the East never seems to ever, ever, ever show vs. the West.
Wild played a sizzling-hot, super-skilled Detroit team today, put forth a good effort, got terrific goaltending from Niklas Backstrom but ultimately fell in the shootout.
But in the NHL, shootout losses sometimes feel like a win, mentally and theoretically.
Minus its leader, Mikko Koivu, the Wild felt it was a "character point" and battled hard against a great opponent. That was the mental "win."
The theoretical "win," only in the NHL can you move from 10th to 7th with a "loss." The Wild would have actually moved to 6th with a Calgary loss. But the Calgary win puts Minnesota 7th. The Wild's atop four other teams in the 68-point club, but sits on top because it has the most non-shootout wins of that group.
More on the game in a moment, but onto Koivu.
The Wild's expected to update Koivu's situation and hand injury Monday or Tuesday. But according to multiple sources, he has a broken left index finger. On Monday, he'll see a hand specialist to 1) see if there's any damage not seen by x-ray; 2) what the best course of treatment is.
One option, and it's the likeliest one I'm hearing, is surgery.
But there is actually relatively good news. I'm hearing that Koivu will be back. Even if he has surgery, he should be back at some point into next month but definitely before the end of the regular season. But I hear at the very least the Wild can expect to be without him for three to four weeks.
I wrote three stories in the Monday paper. The gamer, the notebook, the Koivu separate. Read all of them, of course (ha), but definitely the Koivu one to find out the issues Koivu's having and why a broken finger is causing so much havoc for a hockey player you know would sooner tape it up and play.
Multiple league sources say GM Chuck Fletcher has begun the search for a center. Something will have to be done some way or another I think because Cody Almond played 4 minutes tonight.
Kyle Brodziak played a career-high 23:30, Matt Cullen 21, John Madden almost 20.
The Wild cannot play three centers at these type of minutes for the next three weeks or longer. Just can't be done. They'll put em into the ground.
So either Almond's got to gain the coaches confidence so he gets more minutes, Jed Ortmeyer's going to have come up from Houston, Casey Wellman's going to have to get healthy (he's practicing) and develop enough for the Wild to feel confident he can play here down the stretch or Eric Nystrom or Pierre-Marc Bouchard will have to move to center.
Or, Fletcher will have to make a trade before next Monday's trade deadline.
As I wrote the other night, don't expect a big trade. Expect a depth trade.
For many reasons: 1) Koivu plays in a million different big-minute situations and there's nobody available that can fill that many roles; 2) the free-agent rental centers are not of that upper-echelon quality, plus the Wild's not going to give up the type of assets for that type of player anyway; 3) the centers available are lower-tier players or players that have extra years on their deals at a lot of money. The Wild's not looking to take on somebody's problem and have an extra year of their cap.
Right now you can bet the prices for even the most marginal of centermen are high just because teams know the Wild would love to add another center with Koivu hurt. So it'll be interesting to see what Fletcher can get done, if anything.
It's not a good situation because you don't want to remove depth on the big club in another area just to get a marginal center. Like I said, expect a depth move eventually. I mentioned Rob Niedermayer the other day. More I talk to people, more I don't think it'll be him. People pretty much tell me he doesn't play center anymore and isn't the same skater he once was.
Not a lot of great names, but some ones that catch the eye: New Jersey's Jason Arnott, Buffalo's Tim Connolly, Montreal's Jeff Halpern (college teammate of Brent Flahr), Washington's Brian Sutherby and Boyd Gordon, Chicago's Ryan Johnson.
See what I mean.
The good news is Koivu will be back. Niklas Backstrom said after the game that the Wild owes it to Koivu to stay in the race so they're in it when he returns.
In the meantime, Brodziak's getting Koivu's minutes and tonight played on the Brunette/Miettinen line. I would have thought Matt Cullen would go there just because Brodziak has played well with Marty Havlat and Cullen didn't have the best chemistry with Havlat in the first month. But Richards moved Bouchard up and put him on the Cullen/Havlat line, and Havlat likes playing with Bouchard.
It'll be a juggling act I'd suspect for the little while. Havlat scored yet another clutch tying goal on a third-period breakaway soon after Nick Lidstrom gave Detroit a 1-0 lead. Havlat's tied five games this year to get the Wild at least a point, including the other night in St. Louis in the final minute.
He joked he didn't do too much thinking on this breakaway shot considering he did too much thinking after that great Kyle Brodziak pass against Anaheim the other night. Havlat waited so long, he put himself behind the net.
Marek Zidlicky went from 11:55 the other night to over 17 tonight. Richards said at Monday's practice they'd check on his shoulder and conditioning to see if they continue to play 7 D. While playing with 11 forwards instead of 12 allows Richards to double shift guys like Clutterbuck and Havlat, Richards said he's worrying about messing up the rhythm of certain defensemen used to playing in a 6 D rotation.
Anyway, Kent's supposed to cover Monday's practice, but he's already whining about the snowstorm messing up the roads in his community. So I may be on. Either way, we'll talk to you Monday.
OK, there's you're very long blog yet very quick blog, so hopefully it reads legibly.