Doug Risebrough took a lot of criticism from the media when he made the trade to bring Chris Simon to the Wild, but the team president and general manager believes that the veteran NHL forward -- who was just coming off a 30-game suspension when the deal was made with the Islanders before last month's trade deadline -- already has paid some dividends.
"Our team needs size. Some of our skill players, even going to Marian [Gaborik], they're not big players, and they need to play with guys that have size," Risebrough said.
"I know against Vancouver [Friday] we put more size in the lineup, Simon was in it, we had a one-goal [2-1] victory there. Even Saturday [a 5-4 loss at Calgary], I mean, I look at the size that was in the lineup against a physical team.
"[Simon] had a big tilt with one of their big guys [Jim Vandermeer] and did very well, and when you're playing teams like this -- and we're going to play them again -- those are things that I think are building blocks. We've got one more game against [the Flames], and we're going to have to play well against them to win. That might be the difference in us finishing ahead of them."
However, Risebrough is saddened by the loss of Kurtis Foster, who is out for the rest of the season after breaking his leg Wednesday at San Jose, because the defenseman was starting to play some of his best hockey.
"[Foster's] shot from the point was a critical factor for us on the power play, so those are the things that happen, and you've got to deal with it," Risebrough said.
"For the most part we have been problem-free injurywise, so it wasn't going to stay like that. So, the biggest concern right now for Kurtis is just getting himself back and getting his career back on track from a major injury, after major surgery. Fortunately what he has is time, and it's going to take a long time for him to be back, obviously next year."Selected by computer
As chairman of the NCAA men's hockey selection committee, Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi is getting some criticism because Wisconsin received an at-large bid to the tournament while Minnesota State Mankato did not. But the teams that get the bids are determined by computer rankings, meaning the sub-.500 Badgers (15-16-7) were the sixth WCHA team in the tournament, rather than the Mavericks (19-16-4).
"We, as a committee, seed the people, but we have nothing to do with which 16 teams make the field. So, this was all determined by the PairWise numbers," Maturi said.
"For hockey, it's completely done by that, and as it turned out, going into the weekend Minnesota State Mankato was ahead of Wisconsin, but due to who won and who didn't win, and it has to do with your record, your record vs. your opponents and your opponents vs. their opponents. And because of that, Wisconsin was able to make the tournament."Royston sets meeting
Kim Royston, the former Cretin-Derham Hall defensive back leaving Wisconsin after two years, wants to transfer to the Gophers and said he will meet with Badgers coach Bret Bielema today and try to get his release. Apparently Wisconsin will give his release to go to any school not on a future Badgers schedule, so Minnesota is prohibited for now.
"I'm finishing up my semester, and then I'm going to meet with the coach as far as the release papers and all that stuff," Royston said.
Until Wisconsin releases Royston, he can't have any contact with Gophers coaches to see if Minnesota is the right fit for him.
"Hey, you know what," he said. "I still like Minnesota a lot, but I just want to make sure I look at all my options."Jottings
Gov. Tim Pawlenty realizes the importance of the Vikings getting a new stadium, but he claims there isn't any way this came happen -- now or later -- unless the Vikings get a partner, such as Hennepin County, to get the project built. There is no chance of a vote at this legislative session, although there might be some conversation about what can be done in the future.
Twins owner Jim Pohlad should be commended if the Twins come through and sign Joe Nathan to a multiyear contract. I can't remember getting a bigger reaction from readers than I got from fans who agreed with me that after losing Torii Hunter, Johan Santana and Carlos Silva this offseason, the Twins need to sign the best closer in the game, rather than losing another star. Nathan sounded very optimistic Sunday about a deal getting done. ... The Mariners signed Silva to a four-year, $48 million contract, and his contributions to Seattle this spring have been posting a 0-2 record and giving up 15 earned runs in 14 2/3 innings for a 9.20 ERA in Cactus League play. Silva has given up 28 hits, including two home runs. ... Matt Garza, traded from the Twins to Tampa Bay in the deal for Delmon Young, is having a good spring for the Rays, with a 3.05 ERA in 20 1/3 innings. Shortstop Jason Bartlett, who went to the Rays in the same deal is hitting .286 with three stolen bases this spring.
Antoine Walker is being paid some $8.5 million this season to watch the Timberwolves from the bench, and according to club owner Glen Taylor, the team doesn't have any plans on of buying out this season or next on the veteran's contract. And coach Randy Wittman said the present plans are not to play Walker unless somebody gets hurt. Walker hasn't played since Feb. 19.
Target Center and Xcel Energy Center each are looking for $60 million to repair the arenas, but from the tone of members of the Legislature, there isn't any interest in meeting those demands.
Former Gophers hockey player Kyle Okposo, who quit the team in the middle of the season, scored the winning goal in the New York Islanders' victory over New Jersey on Friday and it came against famed goaltender Martin Brodeur. Okposo, who was recently recalled from the American Hockey League, also had an assist in that game.
Dr. Sheldon Burns, the doctor for the Vikings, Wolves and U.S. Olympic athletes, recently returned from Spain, where the U.S. women's basketball team trained for a week. Among the players there for the Americans were several with Minnesota connections: former Gophers Lindsay Whalen and Janel McCarville, Lynx players Seimone Augustus and Lindsey Harding and former Lynx star Katie Smith.
University of Miami sophomore Brittany Viola, the daughter of former Twins ace Frank Viola, won the platform diving title Saturday at the NCAA women's swimming and diving championships in Columbus, Ohio.