Casey Wellman didn't make his NHL debut tonight, and although he was obviously disappointed, especially because his parents aren't coming to Nashville for his potential debut, he took it like a man.
Todd Richards' decision made sense.
Yesterday Wellman was in college. Today, he leaves for the airport at 5 a.m., has a 7 a.m. flight, gets to Minnesota at 10 a.m.ish (minus, predictably his luggage), gets to the arena midway through the morning skate, dashes onto the ice, doesn't get to really skate with his teammates and had to cram in some system work off video.
Oh, and then he had to go clothes shopping (no state tax at least!!!) since his luggage, at least as of this afternoon, was probably in Tokyo or something (funny story, but my Atlanta to Philly luggage once went to Maui and I tried to get frequent flier miles for my suitcase's commute. It didn't work).
It just made sense to hold Wellman off for a bit, give him a practice and then play him.
The question now is does he play in Nashville?
Who do you take out? Andrew Ebbett? No way. Guy's en fuego (another goal and assist, 11 faceoff wins, speed and creativity tonight). Not Kyle Brodziak. And even though James Sheppard doesn't have a point in nine games since Eric Belanger was traded, what kind of message does it send if he's removed after playing so well tonight against the Oilers? In fact, Richards said the organization's seen a change in Sheppard's play the last three or four games. So unless Richards moves Sheppard to wing and takes out somebody else, Wellman may have to wait even more.
I watched Wellman closely in warmups, and the kid can play. Undeniable NHL shot. He was picking his spots in net, which wasn't bad for somebody allegedly jittery because he thought he was making his NHL debut. He wasn't told until after warmups that he wasn't playing.
So his parents, whom I interviewed this morning and are real cool, didn't get to see their son play in person, but they did smooch on Kiss Cam, so they'll always have that.
Justin Falk didn't debut either, and with John Scott and Jaime Sifers playing well and Greg Zanon able to play, I'd think he'll be on a plane bound for Houston on Wednesday.
As for tonight, the Wild played a strong game. Had the better of the chances, skated real well and generated most its offense off a strong forecheck and good cycling. Most impressively to me was the way it reacted after Edmonton twice tied the score. Minnesota kept coming.
Martin Havlat had another fine game with Ebbett and Guillaume Latendresse with a big goal and an assist, streaky Antti Miettinen scored for a second straight game and Chuck Kobasew, a healthy scratch last week in Buffalo and goalless since Nov. 27 (of course, missed 23 games with a knee injury), scored the winning goal.
Josh Harding was solid again with 34 saves, and he's got 113 saves and a .950 save percentage in three consecutive wins. He had to be good because for the first time in history, the Wild gave up 20 shots in a period in the third.
The Wild, winners of 13 in a row at home vs. Edmonton, moved back to six points behind Detroit, but most importantly, it moved up to 10th place. So now it's only looking up at two teams as opposed to five at the start of last week when it was still in 13th place.
Talked with Derek Boogaard in the locker room. He's got about four or five stitches on above the nose. Couple black eyes, but he says his nose isn't broken. "Good fight," Boogaard said. He just laughed at hysterically at the hypocritical comments by Cam Janssen, who showboats by wiping his hands clean after every fight.
OK, that's it for moi. I'm still feeling like absolute gook. I will talk to you between Wednesday's practice and my afternoon flight to Nashville.
Lastly, as I reported Tuesday afternoon, the Wild did end up signing goalie Matt Hackett, its 2009 third-round pick, to a three-year entry-level deal. He'll turn pro next season, the goal being to play in Houston. His playoffs in Plymouth start Friday, and if the Whalers at any point lose out, the plan is for him to report to Houston this season.
“Matt is a big goalie who has played a lot of minutes the last two seasons in Plymouth,” GM Chuck Fletcher said. “His numbers have improved in each of his junior seasons, and he was recognized this season by being invited to Canada’s World Junior camp. We look forward to continuing to see Matt develop in our system.”
From the Wild press release: Hackett, 20 (3/7/90), went 33-18-3 with a 2.62 GAA and a .925 SV% in 56 games with Plymouth of the Ontario Hockey League this season. Hackett ranked second in the OHL in SV%, third in wins, tied for fourth in shutouts (four) and fifth in GAA. Hackett represented the Western Conference team at the OHL All-Star Classic, attended Canada’s World Junior selection camp, and also played for the OHL All-Stars at the Canada-Russia Subway Super Series game in Windsor. In the 2008-09 season, Hackett went 34-15-3 with a 3.04 GAA and a .913 SV%. Hackett also set a Plymouth franchise record by starting 40 consecutive games Jan. 9-April 11, 2009. He ranked as the top North American goaltender available in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the Central Scouting Services. The 6-foot-3, 170-pound native of London, Ont., was Minnesota’s third-round pick (No. 77 overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Hackett is the nephew of former NHL goaltender Jeff Hackett.