Good evening from the Bell Centre press room, where I am sitting next to the great Marc De Foy, who's punching out an article in French for tomorrow's Journal de Montreal.
Wild's legs are mush right now, but here's the big difference between present and past -- the Wild keeps winning even though it's game has deteriorated the last few days.
But Richards is real concerned with the way the Wild is playing. Fatigue clear, folks. This is a team in the last 12 days has been to Nashville, Phoenix, Denver, Calgary, Vancouver, Minnesota, Montreal. As I wrote the other day somewhere, that's not easy and you can see it.
Yet, since Nov. 20, they're tied with Pittsburgh as the hottest team in the NHL (10-1-2, .808 points pct.)
I don't know what Richards will do tomorrow. He's got to give these guys rest, but the last time he scrapped practice the day before a game was Phoenix, and the Wild forgot how to play hockey against Phoenix.
Eerily similar to Tuesday night against Columbus, the Wild had a very strong first period and then fizzled into nothing. The Wild barely had a forecheck against Jacques Martin's TRAP the last two periods, yet gutted out a win behind Niklas Backstrom's 30 stops and goals by Robbie Earl, Mikko Koivu and Cal Clutterbuck.
Koivu was real good, especially defensively. Honestly, is there a better defensive forward in the NHL? He tracked down countless guys on backchecks tonight and stole pucks. Remember, at one point at the start, he was minus-11. He's now plus-5. He hasn't been a minus since Nov. 13. That's an even or better for 15 straight games (plus-14).
Greg Zanon again very good. Kim Johnsson assisted on Earl's goal and basically assisted on Koivu's because he saved possession by sprinting left to cut down a clear at the blue line. Nick Schultz was very good. Marek Zidlicky had a huge backcheck to break up one of Montreal's several odd-man rushes.
Niklas Backstrom raved about the job of the D tonight, and even though he bailed out the Wild many times, he was not happy with his performance.
Guillaume Latendresse got taunted all game by many of the fans here. Chanted his name, and that of his famous girlfriend, who you can read about in my Thursday notebook. He said he was freaking out all game. He said he was more nervous than his NHL debut, and other than the last 10 minutes of the second period, he never could relax. He still had five hits.
Clutterbuck had a season-high 10 hits, which ties his team record.
Backstrom raved about Clayton Stoner's NHL debut. You can see those quotes in the notebook.
This morning on Stoner, Richards said, “He’s a big guy, moves the puck well, has some grit and some toughness. He’s been in this organization a long time and has worked hard, so this is an opportunity and bit of a reward for everything he’s done.”
OK, I'm done for the night. Onward to Ottawa. I may scout Tyler Cuma tomorrow night vs. the Peterborough Petes because I don't see enough hockey.