A number of factors are in place for the Wild's game tonight with Chicago to be a high-intensity affair. This is the first of five games for the Wild this season against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs the past three seasons.
This is a Central Division game. And while division games are always very important, the tightness of this division through the early going of this season has added even more emphasis to that. As of this morning Minnesota was both fourth in the division and fourth in the Western Conference. Six of the seven teams in the division are in the top eight of the conference. Only four points separate Chicago, sixth in the division, and first-place Dallas.
“It’s nice,” Charlie Coyle said after this morning's optional skate. “You get more excited for a game when it’s like that. We like that, to have teams that will give you a game every night.’’
Still, listening to coach Mike Yeo, it sounds as if he wants his team to be aggressive but composed. Too much emotion could lead to mistakes that, against a counter-punching team like the Hawks, can be costly.
So he’s asking his team to walk a fine line. “It’s your own division,” he said. “You watch, around the Central Division, and night after night these teams are getting points. They’re winning. Every game is so important. The head-to-head matchups will be important. There is no question. There will be a lot of emotion in this game, based on what’s happened in the past. And that it’s a division rivalry. But bottom line is that can help you and it can hurt you. … It’s a fine line. You have to be aggressive. We have to go out and try to create offense against them. But it’s a team that counter-punches very well. And so, if you’re turning the puck over at the blue line or through the neutral zone, this is a team that can quite easily turn those into opportunities going back against you.’’
Here are some other items from this morning:
Nate Prosser has played in just three games this season. But he’s played in two of the past three, and it sounds like Yeo has liked what he’s seen. So Prosser should play tonight. “I really like his game,” Yeo said. “He’s not a guy who’s going to go out and make incredibly dynamic plays. But he’s going to make a lot of winning plays. He’s going to pay a price for his teammates, and he’s going to help you on the penalty kill. He’s going to defend well.''
Yeo said he hasn’t given any thought yet to who will play goal in Saturday’s game in St. Louis. But there appears to be a good chance that it will be Darcy Kuemper, who was pulled after giving up four goals Winnipeg in his last start. Kuemper said that he watched film of that game with goaltenders coach Bob Mason, has made the necessary adjustments, and is ready to go after two good days of practice.
The Blackhawks are on the second of a back-to-back, having lost in Winnipeg last night.