Saturday morning: Anton Khudobin has been recalled. We'll find out at the skate, but very good chance he starts vs. Dallas (see below as to why).
Afternoon from Steel City, home of Pascal Dupuis, former Wild winger and 24/7 star. Some priceless Pascal Dupuis moments throughout the HBO series.
I just came from Consol Energy Center, where the Wild had a meeting, a pickup soccer hackysack game and a draft for this afternoon's outing for a little Ten Pins.
Brent Burns went No. 1 in the team's bowling draft, because as Nick Schultz said, Burns lied and told everyone he could roll a 150. The last pick? Assistant coach Dave Barr, but only because Schultz said nobody wanted to pick the coaches and look like kissups.
Red-hot Jose Theodore, one of the best free-agent pickups in the NHL, will get his fourth consecutive start Saturday night vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins. Theodore's had a lot of real good starts this season, but last night he was just tremendous in a building he loves to play in (TD Garden, but Fleetcenter in my heart).
Theodore is 18-4-3 with a 2.41 GAA, a .914 SV% and one shutout in 25 starts lifetime against the Pens. Theodore's won three in a row, and it's clear the Wild's confident whenever he's in the cage. You just don't miss a beat with Theodore in net, and I've got to think a handful of teams are kicking themselves (Tampa) for not snatching this guy up in the summertime.
I mean just think about this: Jose Theodore, a former Hart and Vezina winner, a guy that was 30 games last year and didn't lose in regulation basically in the second half, was signed in OCTOBER by the Wild. Crazy.
There is a slight issue, though, with the Wild's goaltending. The Wild plays a home game at 5 p.m. against Dallas on Sunday. That is a tough, tough back-to-back. Road, then home, and an early game to boot.
Niklas Backstrom is still hampered by what we're thinking is a groin problem. Coach Todd Richards said there is concern as to whether Backstrom can start Sunday against Jamie Langenbrunner and the Stars, and with such a tough back-to-back, can you really risk Theodore's health less than 24 hours later with tough travel by starting him again? Plus, the Wild hits the road again Monday for Nashville.
So, Richards said he planned to talk to GM Chuck Fletcher about maybe calling up a goalie from Houston, potentially to start vs. the Stars. IF, and I stress if, this were to happen, I'd assume it would be Anton Khudobin considering he's 2-0 with the Wild with a 0.87 GAA and .979 SP.
But again, this is just conjecture now. Maybe Backstrom can start, or maybe Theodore says he's good to go two in a row despite it not being your normal back-to-back.
The Wild didn't skate today, so Antti Miettinen will give it another try in the morning and be a gametime decision against the Penguins, Richards said. Miettinen was wrapped up pretty good today and seemed to have trouble pushing on that bruised leg yesterday, so the Wild may go with the same lineup.
Wild will catch the Penguins without Sidney Crosby. Crosby is out at least a week with a concussion. Slight loss for the Pens, who still has a few other weapons. Although, Evgeni Malkin looked like he hurt his knee last night, so he may be a bit banged up.
I don't want to put a classic Russo jinx out there, but I meant to mention this after last night's game, how darn good is Clayton Stoner playing right now? He's getting 17 to 24 minutes a night the last three games and playing steady, hard-nosed, good minutes alongside Marek Zidlicky's usual partner, Greg Zanon.
Big blocked shots by Stoner, too. He looks confident, and this is what you get when you play everyday. It couldn't be easy for Stoner early in the season to be in and out. And this is what the Wild needs with Zidlicky out long-term. If Stoner can keep this up, it's just a real good story considering this is a guy who's stomach basically exploded last season (OK, I'm exaggerating, but the guy had two sports hernia surgeries back to back and all sorts of other abdominal issues).
Starting Saturday, by the way, Minnesota Wild Country will be seen throughout the rest of the season on KSTC-TV, Channel 45 at 6:00 PM on Saturday and again with an encore performance on Sunday at 11:00 PM. The half hour show is hosted by Chris Long, weekend sports anchor for 45 Local News and 5 EYEWITNESS News.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, one of the good guys in the game, was hanging around the Wild's area today. He reunited for 20 minutes with old Ducks teammate Matt Cullen, then knocked on the coaches office door, spied on the Wild's secrets (just kidding) and took a walk with Richards, who was head coach in Wilkes-Barre when Bylsma was assistant.
Remember, but many, many people believe that if Richards doesn't leave Wilkes-Barre for San Jose as an assistant, Richards replaces Michel Therrien as coach, not Bylsma, the year Bylsma coached the Penguins to a Stanley Cup.
Lastly, Consol Energy Center is a gorgeous rink. I walked around everywhere today. They borrowed a lot of stuff from Xcel Energy Center. I also ransacked "Suite 66," Mario Lemieux's tremendous suite across from the Penguins' locker room. All his trophies and stuff are in there, a nice fireplace, lots of wine. Here's some pics:
From the Penguins' bench
(Left to Right) Kyle Brodziak, Cam Barker, PR guy Aaron Sickman, Tom Reid, John Madden and Martin Havlat checking out the barn