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Michael Russo gives you complete coverage of the Minnesota Wild and the NHL

With Eriksson Ek returning, Wild tries to 'embrace' Capitals challenge

Bruce Boudreau confirmed my story from this morning that Joel Eriksson Ek is on his way back to North America. The Wild coach said he didn't know if the plan was to yet start him with Iowa or Minnesota, but I can't imagine the Wild would recall him if the plan wasn't to eventually have him in its lineup here.

In fact, he could be on the ice for Wednesday's practice.

Sources close to Eriksson Ek say he's flying from Karlstad to Germany to Chicago to here. Can't imagine he lands and is put in a car to Des Moines, but we'll see if they do want to give him a few games there.

As I said on the previous blog, he has played left wing down the stretch for Farjestad and I'd think he starts that way here. Maybe you go with Eriksson Ek and Nino Niederreiter on the third line with Martin Hanzal and a Chris Stewart/Ryan White/Jordan Schroeder with Erik Haula and Jason Pominville.

Right now, Hanzal remains at the third line. I asked Boudreau about some folks believing Hanzal's acquisition has slowed the Wild and its game down.

"I don't believe that," Boudreau said. "I think when he's played really good, we've won. I think anytime you can have those three centers down the middle, come the time that you need them, they're going to be there. I think Marty's done everything. He's contributed offensively, and he's been really good on the penalty kill. Granted, he is a little slower, but he's always in the right position, so that makes up for it."

The Wild has won five of 16 games since the Hanzal trade, although he missed three of the losses with illness. He has one goal and six assists in 13 games, which is a production juggernaut considering the Wild's slumps right now smiley

Wild plays the Caps tonight. Nashville visits Boston.

A Wild loss and a Preds win, and the Wild's edge for home ice in the first round is down to four.

Remember, the Wild plays in Nashville on Saturday.

Who would have thunk a month ago that the Wild would be playing games that matter this late in the season?

But that's what 3-10-1 in March does. As I wrote for today here in my story documenting the Wild's individual and team slumps (check out the shooting percentage and save percentage differences), the Wild has accumulated three of 16 points since the Caps game and Caps 11 out of 12.

Most disconcerting: With the Wild trending downward, the two likeliest Wild first-round opponents are the hottest teams in the conference.

Preds have won four in a row and seven out of eight and I don't believe they've lost three in a row since October. They have scored a league-high 87 goals since the All-Star break, a 3.34 goals-per game clip, according to the Tennessean's Adam Vingan.

The Blues are 10-1-1 in their past 12.

Boudreau said he wants the Wild to "embrace the situation" tonight.

"We're playing the best team in the league," Boudreau said. "Embrace that instead of shy away from it."

Coyle-Staal-Parise

Zucker-Koivu-Granlund

Niederreiter-Hanzal-Pominville

Stewart-Haula-White

Suter-Spurgeon

Scandella-Dumba

Brodin-Prosser

No Schroeder or Folin tonight. Dubnyk, searching for his franchise-record 38th win, vs. Holtby, looking for a third straight 40-win season.

Two teams heading in opposite directions. The Wild’s regression continues with 10 losses in the past 12 games (2-9-1). The NHL-leading Capitals – the second-best offensive team and best defensive team in the league -- have won five of six since snapping a four-game losing streak with a 4-2 win over Minnesota on March 14.

The Wild’s 7-2 all-time at home against the Capitals; The Capitals, off Monday, are 34-4-3 in games when they have one day of rest.

Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin is the third player in NHL history to score 30 or more goals in each of his first 12 seasons (Mike Gartner, Wayne Gretzky). He has 400 career power-play points and 11 goals in 11 career games vs. the Wild. G Braden Holtby is a win from becoming the third goalie in Capitals history to record three straight 40-win seasons. D Kevin Shattenkirk has eight assists in 11 games with the Caps. C Nicklas Backstrom has 32 points in the past 25 games. RW T.J. Oshie has 17 points in 24 games against the Wild.

Washington has outscored opponents 92-60 in the third period. … The Capitals have scored first in 29 of their past 38 games and are 40-7-5 record when scoring first. … The Capitals are 33-5-2 when they score a power-play goal; In March, the Wild ranks 24th with a .122 power-play percentage.

Sources: Joel Eriksson Ek to be recalled by the Wild

The Wild, who was very close to recalling Joel Eriksson Ek in January before the Swedish Elite League's roster deadline, plans to recall the young forward from Farjestad now that their season is over, multiple sources tell the Star Tribune.

It's not official yet as some details have to be worked out, but I believe Eriksson Ek's travel to the United States has already begun.

After a delay to get his work visa, Eriksson Ek, 20, scored in his NHL debut Oct. 22 in New Jersey, had a three-assist game Oct. 25 in Boston and scored the winning goal Oct. 27 in Buffalo.

The 2015 first-round pick went without a point his next five games and the Wild decided to return him to Sweden before he played his 10th game as not to burn the first year of his deal and so he could play with his peers the rest of the season. He captained Sweden in the world junior championships.

By recalling Eriksson Ek now, he will burn that first year of his three-year deal once he plays one more game. He is playoff eligible.

In early February, GM Chuck Fletcher told the Star Tribune he preferred for Eriksson Ek to stay in Sweden and play in the world championships. “Hopefully we’re still going late in the spring, and we could bring him back then."

Obviously things have changed since with the Wild's situation as it could desperately use some skill and speed in the lineup.

The Wild's 2-9-1 in its past 12 games and 3-10-1 this month.

On Feb. 21, the Wild was leading the West and had a 17-point lead for home-ice advantage in the first round. On Feb. 28, the Wild had a 15-point home-ice advantage lead.

That lead has dwindled to six over Nashville and seven over St. Louis with the Washington Capitals, who lead the NHL and are 5-0-1 since beating the Wild 14 days ago, in town tonight.

Eriksson Ek can play center or wing. He finished the season for Farjestad at left wing.

Here's my story today on the team-wide slumps on the Wild

Here's the chart of slumps

TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Tampa Bay at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm on FSN

  • Timberwolves at Indiana

    6 pm on FSN PLUS, 830-AM

  • Washington at Wild

    7 pm on NHLN, 100.3-FM

  • Twins at Boston (spring training)

    12:05 pm on 96.3-FM

  • Twins at Tampa Bay (spring training)

    12:05 pm

  • Ottawa at Wild

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, 100.3-FM

  • L.A. Lakers at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Rochester at Twins (exhibition)

    11:05 am

  • Wild at Nashville

    1 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Real Salt Lake at Minnesota United FC

    7 pm on Ch. 29, 1500-AM

  • Sacramento at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Colorado at Wild

    5 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Kansas City at Twins

    3:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Portland at Timberwolves

    6 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Carolina at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

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Today's Scoreboard

  • Baltimore

    Atlanta

     

    - F

    5

    4

  • Houston

    Miami

     

    - F

    7

    3

  • Tampa Bay

    Minnesota

     

    - F

    0

    1

  • St. Louis

    NY Mets

     

    - F

    3

    3

  • Texas

    Colorado

     

    - F

    4

    3

  • San Francisco

    Chicago Cubs

     

    - F

    10

    7

  • LA Dodgers

    Cincinnati

     

    - F

    3

    9

  • Chicago White Sox

    Kansas City

     

    - F

    4

    7

  • San Diego

    LA Dodgers

     

    - F

    1

    3

  • Cleveland

    Milwaukee

     

    - F

    12

    13

  • Oakland

    LA Angels

     

    - F

    3

    14

  • Arizona

    Seattle

     

    - F

    15

    6

  • Boston

    Pittsburgh

     

    - Bot 6th

    9

    1

  • Detroit

    NY Yankees

     

    - Bot 6th

    4

    1

  • Toronto

    Philadelphia

     

    - Bot 5th

    8

    4

  • Miami

    Washington

     

    - Bot 8th

    4

    2

No NFL games today

  • Milwaukee

    Charlotte

     

    - 3rd, 1:59

    92

    73

  • Minnesota

    Indiana

     

    - 3rd, 5:36

    82

    73

  • Phoenix

    Atlanta

     

    - H

    44

    47

  • Miami

    Detroit

     

    - H

    55

    50

  • Philadelphia

    Brooklyn

     

    - H

    58

    57

  • Golden State

    Houston

     

    - 2nd, 9:28

    41

    25

  • Denver

    Portland

    9:00 PM

  • Washington

    LA Lakers

    9:30 PM

    NBA

  • Nashville

    Boston

     

    - 2nd, 0:50

    0

    2

  • Detroit

    Carolina

     

    - End 2nd

    0

    3

  • Buffalo

    Columbus

     

    - End 2nd

    1

    2

  • Winnipeg

    New Jersey

     

    - 2nd, 1:13

    2

    3

  • Ottawa

    Philadelphia

     

    - 2nd, 0:58

    1

    1

  • Dallas

    Montreal

     

    - 2nd, 15:20

    1

    0

  • Florida

    Toronto

     

    - 2nd, 15:31

    0

    2

  • Washington

    Minnesota

     

    - 1st, 1:29

    1

    0

  • Los Angeles

    Edmonton

    8:00 PM

  • Anaheim

    Vancouver

    9:00 PM

  • NY Rangers

    San Jose

    9:30 PM

No MLS games today