The Wild has returned from a three-game road trip to open a three-game homestand tonight against the best team in the NHL – at least in terms of the standings, the Chicago Blackhawks
That fact alone should keep the Wild from having your typical first-game-after-a-long-road-trip blues, coach Mike Yeo says (hopes).
“Coming back off a long road trip, it’s probably a good thing to be playing the team we are playing tonight,” Yeo said. “We shouldn’t have to worry about a lack of urgency or focus or not being prepared to play. A team like this has a way of bringing out the best in you.”
The Wild is coming off an impressive 3-0 win in Columbus. But even more so than the win, the Wild got back to playing the right way and showed what it looks like when it plays well.
“And especially just finally having a day (Saturday) of practice and seeing us come out execution-wise, focus-wise, just being able to get back to our game, that was [important],” Yeo said. “And seeing the result when we do it. There were a lot of positives.”
The Blackhawks are the best offensive and defensive teams in the NHL, can roll four lines, have starpower everywhere, etc. The Wild needs all four lines going tonight and playing responsibly because Chicago is dangerous and can strike quickly and often. We saw that in Chicago in early March when the game got away from the Wild in a blink of the eye late in the first.
Dany Heatley underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder this morning at the Cleveland Clinic. There is no updated timetable on Heatley, but Yeo said Sunday the hope is he returns before the regular season ends.
Matt Cullen did not skate today and Yeo had no update. “More of an update later. He’s meeting with the doctor today,” Yeo said. Hopefully that’s not a bad sign. I always felt it would be a couple weeks at least with this lower body injury. We will see. Today is one week and one day.
Yeo said they’re hoping to get Josh Harding out with them very soon. He’s still been taking the ice before team skates.
Same lineup tonight against the Blackhawks, meaning defensemen Tom Gilbert and Brett Clark are scratched.
Niklas Backstrom vs. Ray Emery tonight. Patrick Sharp returns for Chicago, because you know, the Hawks don’t have enough firepower.
I’ll be on Hockey Night in Canada Radio on Sirius 207, XM 92 at 2:30 p.m. CT. I’ll also be on the arena cam on NHL Network at 5:40 p.m.ish CT