The Wild, an NHL-best 11-1-2 on the road since the Jan. 14 trade of Devan Dubnyk, will be looking for a franchise-record eighth consecutive road win tonight when it faces the Nashville Predators at 7 p.m.
One of the Wild's most impressive road wins during this stretch came late last month in Nashville when it beat the Preds, 4-2. That was the start of a Predators' tailspin. In first in the NHL at that juncture with three regulation home losses all year, the Preds are 2-8 in their past 10 with one regulation win starting with that defeat to Minnesota. This should be a tough game for Nashville. They played back to back in L.A. and Anaheim, landed early yesterday morning, so this is usually a tough game in that scenario for the home team.
Afternoon from Nashville. I'll be on Fox Sports North tonight at 6:30 p.m. during Wild Live and again during the first intermission. We'll be talking a fair amount about what's going on at the GM's Meeting in Boca, my old hometown.
Tomorrow at 4:30 p.m., columnist Jim Souhan and I will be doing another podcast at the Liffey in St. Paul. Stop on by or you can listen live or at a later day on www.souhanunfiltered.com.
Heckuva city, Nashville is. Any Wild fan that hasn’t taken a trip here to watch the Wild knows this.
In fact, coach Mike Yeo noted that I looked like I missed curfew last night.
With left-shot defensemen Marco Scandella and Nate Prosser injured, Yeo was forced to scramble his entire blue line tonight.
The Wild loves left-shot Ryan Suter and left-shot Jonas Brodin as a pair, but with four righties and two lefties in the lineup, Jared Spurgeon will move to the right side of Suter, Brodin will move to the left side with Matt Dumba and Jordan Leopold will play on the left side of Christian Folin, who had been scratched the past four games.
Scandella is close to a return, Yeo said. Yeo said there’s a chance he plays Thursday vs. Washington, although he said that’s only a possibility. He still has not taken contact in practice yet, although he was getting in another good skate today.
Ryan Carter, after tomorrow’s practice, will also be considered day-to-day, like Scandella.
The rest of the lines remain the same, meaning Jordan Schroeder will be scratched for the fifth game in a row and sixth time in eight games.
The coaches showed some clips this morning to the team regarding faceoffs and how the defensemen and wingers need to do a better job helping win these draws and gain possession
Still, some centers, especially Mikael Granlund, must do a better job. He has won 34 percent of his faceoffs the past nine games (43 for 126). When the top line center loses 6.6 out of every 10 faceoffs, that just makes it awfully hard for Zach Parise, Granlund and Jason Pominville to create offense.
Yeo also admitted that it’s a factor as to why Granlund’s not on the No. 1 power play. Draw a power play, the faceoff starts in the offensive zone. So you want to win that draw, not waste 15 to 30 seconds retrieving the puck, breaking out and entering the offensive zone.
Mikko Koivu has the third-most faceoff wins in the NHL.
As my illustrious editor Chris Miller reported today, Matt Dumba will remain on the top power play tonight with Suter, Parise, Koivu and Pominville. Thomas Vanek goes to the second with Chris Stewart and Granlund. Because none of those forwards can play the point, Spurgeon and Brodin are expected to be at the point. That takes a forward off, and so far, it looks like Nino Niederreiter, the team’s second-leading goal scorer. He has five power-play goals but nine since Dec. 13.
Yeo did indicated that he may alternate Stewart and Niederreiter because he wants to keep both guys involved. We will see.
“That is the tough part for sure,” Yeo said of the revamped units. “We have good players not getting an opportunity.”
The GM’s will be recommending to the Competition Committee and Board of Governors for approval 3-on-3 in overtime and extended video review for goalie interference and pucks shot into the crowd.
As for 3-on-3, they don’t have a model yet, but in the American Hockey League this season, they do three minutes of 4-on-4. Then, after the first whistle after three minutes, they go 3-on-3 until seven minutes.
Last year, 75.9 percent of games were decided in regulation. This year, through March 15, 75.7 percent of games were.
Last year, 8.5 percent of games were decided in 4-on-4 overtime and 15.6 percent were decided in a shootout.
This year, 18.5 percent of games were decided in 4-on-4 and 3-on-3 overtime and 5.7 percent were decided in a shootout.
So 3-on-3 has dramatically decreased the number of shootouts in the AHL.
In overtime last year, there were 97 overtime goals and 178 shootout goals. This year, 171 overtime goals and 53 shootout goals (and again, the season’s not over).
This year, in overtime, there have been 98 4-on-4 goals and 73 3-on-3 goals.
Most interesting, the two extra minutes, of the 73 3-on-3 goals, 51 were scored then – 22 in the 6th minute, 29 in the 7th minute.
Of the 257 NHL games sent to overtime this season, 110 have been decided in OT (42.8 percent, up from 42 percent last year, so the changing of sides for the longer change hasn’t had the desired effect) and 147 in shootouts (57.2 percent).
Parise’s 38 career shootout goals is third-most in the NHL behind Jonathan Toews (40) and Brad Boyes and Mikko Koivu, who have 39 each.
But Parise said, “I believe in anything to end it not in a shootout and not in a tie. If that’ll help end games before a shootout, I’ll be all for it. It’ll be fun to play and probably be fun to watch too. Rush, turnover, rush.
“I just don’t think games should come down to shootouts. Play 65 minutes hard, why turn it into breakaways? To me it doesn’t make sense.”
Jason Pominville, who has 23 career shootouts goals, agreed.
“Rush chances up and down, it’ll be fun. It’ll be interesting to see how coaches deal with it in training camp.”
Tactically, Yeo said that’ll be the biggest thing. Do you go with two forwards and a D? Systematically, can you figure out ways to be effective in this situation that almost never appears in a game?
“It’s new to all of us. We deal so little with it,” Yeo said. “I think it’s going to be exciting for the fans. I think it’s going to be great. You get that kind of skill on the ice, you get that type of openness to the game, you’re going to see some great plays.”
Devan Dubnyk said it’s terrifying for a goalie those rare times you get 3-on-3 in the middle of a game, but he loves the ice.
But he said, “Selfishly from a goalie standpoint, I’d like to see some separate statistics for 3-on-3 just like they have separate shootout statistics. If you have guys in a lot of 3-on-3’s compared to other goalies, it’ll significantly affect goals against and save percentage.
“As a goalie I’m biased toward that.”
In the AHL, all OT stats count in a player’s individual statistics.
In the AHL, any penalties in 3-on-3, you go to regular OT rules, so it would be a 4-on-3, not a 3-on-2. I’d assume it would be that way in the NHL, too.
As for coach’s challenges, a coach would have to have his one timeout in order to challenge.
This would be like the scenario in Denver a few weeks ago when the Avs scored on a dump-in after Cody McLeod pushed Dubnyk into the net.
Yeo said, “I’m all for it. I think it’s good for the game. What you definitely want is the outcome to be true. If a call’s made, you want it to be the right one. I know the refs wants that, I know the league wants that as well.”
Dubnyk loves this, too, and hopes the ref will be able to make the decision himself through a video monitor in the press box like college hockey. That doesn’t appear to be the plan.
“I think it’s good,” Dubnyk said. “It’s a real tough play for the ref to call. They’re only on one side of the net, it depends on the angle they see, they have to be watching for a lot of different things. It’s a lot for them to watch, but I think the ref needs to review it after a challenge because it’s important for them to still be part of the game. Refs are part of the game, plain and simple. They’re the ones making the call.”