Battle of the deadpan one-liners today between crusty (just kidding), old-school coaches Lindy Ruff and Bruce Boudreau.
Ruff, the Dallas Stars' coach whom I was lucky enough to cover two decades ago in Florida, was asked about the NHL's new goalie pants being mandated Feb. 4. I've written about it a bunch, and here's Devan Dubnyk's latest thoughts (not positive ones) from Monday's paper.
The Wild has the NHL's second-best save percentage behind Washington at .925 (Devan Dubnyk's is .935, but it drops because Darcy Kuemper is at .901).
The Stars have the NHL's 27th-ranked save percentage at .896 in front of Colorado, Philadelphia and St. Louis (poor Ken Hitchcock and Mike Yeo, but the Blues can't get a save and are falling because of it).
So back to Ruff on the pants: "I'm so far away from that, I've got other fish to fry than to worry about the goalies' pants right now. ... I had no clue that the goalies had new pants. I hope they're bigger."
Ouch, says Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen, who gets the nod tonight after Niemi got shellacked when the Wild was here less than two weeks ago.
Now, to Boudreau, the Wild's lovable coach.
I talked to GM Chuck Fletcher about the Wild's center depth this morning and you can read in tomorrow's paper about that and his thoughts on if he plans to try to fix it because the trade deadline.
I asked Boudreau specifically if he's comfortable with the Wild's fourth-line center spot if Tyler Graovac's play doesn't markedly improve.
Boudreau paused five seconds and goes, "Hmmmm, Let’s hope it improves. Let’s hope it gets better."
He continued: "It’s not my call. We have who we have and we play who we play. If we need players at different positions, I’m sure we’re going to look at it and see what has to happen. It’s not just him. It’s every spot."
Graovac, scratched two games ago, has one point in his past 28 games. One issue is Zac Dalpe's hurt again in Iowa. He hasn't played since Jan. 7 with complications with the same knee that was operated on in Minnesota and is expected to miss at least the next few weeks.
So, the Wild's center depth is what it is right now. Graovac and Jordan Schroeder.
Boudreau noted how important it is that Mikko Koivu is back tonight against Dallas "because he's so important on faceoffs alone."
Boudreau mentioned how much his absence hurt against Nashville, saying, "If you're matching lines at all, we’re matching his line against the best line on the other team. When Schroeds was in there -- taking nothing away from him, but it’s not the same defensive makeup. So it was pretty well just running four lines, there were no matchups.
"[Koivu’s] very valuable."
Boudreau had all the one-liners today. When a reporter asked how much Schroeder has grown, Boudreau quipped, "He hasn’t grown a frigin' inch."
Then asked how much his confidence has grown, Boudreau said, "His confidence has probably gotten better. Look, he’s played 12 or 13 games. Let’s not anoint him yet. Sorry."
So, no Christoph Bertschy or Christian Folin
(DON'T EVEN THINK OF ASKING ME THE LINES ON TWITTER, OR YOU'LL GET A GIANT #RTFB)
The Wild, after a 2-2 homestand and 4-2 loss to Nashville, looks to avoid consecutive regulation losses for the second time this season (Nov. 1 and 5). The Wild’s looking to extend its road point streak to 13 games (10-0-2), which would break the franchise record. On Jan. 14, the Wild blew a 4-0 lead in Dallas but survived on Jason Zucker’s late winning goal. The Wild is 7-2-4 in its past 13 regular-season meetings with Dallas, 4-1-2 in its past seven in Dallas.
Dubnyk starts. He is 7-2 but with a 2.91 goals-against average and .894 save percentage. Zach Parise has no goals and two assists in the past eight games. Mikael Granlund has a seven-game point streak and 25 points in the past 22 games. Zucker has 15 points in the past 15 games.
After allowing 60 goals in the first 32 games (1.88 goals per game), the Wild has allowed 44 in the past 14 (3.14 goals per game). … During the Wild’s 12-game road streak, the Wild has a 44-30 goal edge, 21.9 percent power play and 87.5 percent penalty kill.
I'll be writing about this at some point, but one big reason I think the Wild and lots of teams and goalies are cracking right now is because there's so few practices. You don't have a chance to get on the ice and go over specific D-zone coverages and the goalies aren't getting reps because of the compressed schedule. Most off-days are legit days off right now.
That's it for me.
I'll be on NHL Network at 4:35 p.m. CT.
Also, TIME CHANGE, Russo-Souhan Show will be at Hell's Kitchen on Wednesday now at 4:15 p.m. because I'm getting together with a player for an upcoming feature.
Speaking of which, the Star Tribune is sending me out to All-Star Weekend in L.A., so some really cool features and coverage coming up this weekend. Talk later