Wild and Philadelphia Flyers tonight at Xcel Energy Center.
The Wild has just signed Luke Kunin to his three-year entry-level contract starting next year. His agent (no longer advisor), Pete Rutili, is currently meeting with the Wild to iron out his travel to meet up with Iowa and some other details in the contract, like bonuses. For the rest of this season, he'll play for Iowa on an amateur tryout. That's 12 regular-season games and the playoffs if they make it.
Kunin, 19, the first sophomore to captain the Badgers in 41 years, led the team with 22 goals and 38 points in 35 games one year after leading them with 19 goals. The 2016 Wild first-round pick captained the United States to gold at the most recent world junior championships.
The Wild, 3-8 this month, snapped a five-game losing streak with a 3-2 win over San Jose on Tuesday. It magic number is two, meaning it can clinch its fifth consecutive playoff berth with a win, if it gets one point and the Kings lose in any fashion or the Kings lose in regulation.
Years ago, this would be celebrated here. Not anymore.
“My expectations are a lot higher,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
The Flyers are toast, but they’re desperate. They’re 2-5 in their past seven. But, they’re full of stars, can score, draw more penalties than anybody in the league, have a good power play and since 2003-04, their .767 points percentage against Minnesota is second-best in the NHL.
Nick Schultz is in for the Flyers. Kevin Falness and I had him on the radio yesterday and he indicated his career could be wrapping up, so this may be his final game in St. Paul. Remember, Mikko Koivu broke Schultz’s record a few years for most games in a Wild sweater.
Victor Bartley was on the ice for the Wild this morning?
Who, you may be asking?
The veteran defenseman, signed to be a leader in Iowa, tore his triceps in training camp and has been on the Wild cap for the most part ever since. He has accounted for 72 of the Wild’s 179 man games lost to injury.
Because he wasn’t cleared to play by the trade deadline, he couldn’t be loaned to Iowa. That means he can’t play for Iowa the rest of the season and at this point is playoff depth for the Minnesota Wild.
He had a funny start today. After his bag skate, he didn’t know Bruce Boudreau meets with the Wild at 10:45 a.m., so he accidentally walked right into the locker-room meeting and abruptly slipped back out.
Then, after meeting with the media, Bartley was locked out of the locker room.
“It’s been a long season definitely,” he said. “Basically five months away from hockey. It feels good to get back out there and start moving again with the guys.
“It was a lot of time in a cast basically from my wrist to my shoulder for about three and a half months and then the next month was slowly rehab and then last month and a half has been basically strengthening day in and day out.”
Bartley went back home to Nashville and in January started skating with former Wild Eric Nystrom, who then signed to play in Norway. The last month he has been in Iowa skating.
“It’s about getting back in the groove again, going through the same things we do every day, warm ups, bag skates, getting my shooting back, range motion, all that stuff. It just takes time and I think overtime it’ll come back just like anything else,” he said.
The injury, in a preseason game, came on a random faceoff play and it instantly popped.
“It was just a freak accident,” Bartley said. “I knew instantly something was wrong and then after I came off I kind of touched my arm and I noticed there was just a big hole in my arm right here and I definitely knew I had torn my tricep. The doctor was like, ‘No. You couldn’t have done that during a game?’ I was like, ‘Trust me. It’s torn.’ Then right away we got the MRI and it was completely torn off. The doctors did a great job, reattached it, and now we’re back at it again.
“Things were feeling good in training camp. You know, stuff like that happens. Just stay positive about it and good things will happen. I’ve still got another three or four weeks here so hopefully I’ll be back playing soon.”
He said his conditioning is “getting back there. It’s getting back there. I’d say another week and a half, two weeks of skating, then I should be back. I’ve been down in Iowa the last 3 ½, 4 weeks skating and training there, so I’m feeling good. The puck feels good on my stick, shooting’s good, skating’s getting back there again.”
The Wild’s 4-8-1 against the Metro, and has lost six straight.
So, they better me ready.
I’ll be on Fox Sports North tonight and on KFAN at 5.