Zenon Konopka's back in Minnesota and Mike Rupp won't play tonight against a big, aggressive San Jose Sharks team tonight. That's two tough guys out, meaning it'll be interesting to see how the Wild handles guys like Raffi Torres running amok.
Also, Marc-Edouard Vlasic should probably consider himself safe tonight, but mostly because Priority No. 1 for the Wild is getting two points, not retribution for Vlasic ending former teammate Dany Heatley's season April 3.
Torrey Mitchell, Vlasic's former Sharks teammate, said the Wild remembers the incident and will finish checks on him like the team normally would. But again, a win is the most important thing.
If you didn't read, here is my Charlie Coyle profile from today's paper after talking to his cousin, Tony Amonte.
Tonight will be interesting because while the Wild didn't play well in this awfully tough building 15 days ago, the Wild will have a very different lineup tonight, one that is more intact too. First, Matt Cullen is back. Second, Jason Pominville will play. Third, Mikael Granlund will play. Fourth, Nate Prosser won't be playing forward. Fifth, Brett Clark will be in. Sixth, the sky is blue and I'm in a good mood.
That game against San Jose the first time was the first game without Cullen. The Wild traded Johan Larsson that morning, so Charlie Coyle started the game at center and all the lines changed. The Wild has since rediscovered chemistry on all lines, is getting real good play again from the top line and great play from that recently-assembled Pierre-Marc Bouchard-Kyle Brodziak-Pominville line.
"Pominville is a huge addition for us, but he's really helped to elevate Brodzy's game and Butchie's game as well," coach Mike Yeo said. "The impact is felt more by adding just one player."
Pominville, by the way, raved about Yeo's communication today, saying how the coach called him into the office before taking him off Zach Parise's and Mikko Koivu's line to explain his decision-making. Basically, the Wild was shut out in three of four and he wanted to bring better balance to all the lines.
Speaking of Parise, he scored a great goal in Edmonton by essentially passing to himself from one end of the goalmouth to the other. He chased it down by skating to it from behind the net.
Parise said it wasn't intentional.
"I was trying to tuck it in on the short side," Parise said. "I think my blade hit the post before I could wrap it to get the angle. I was able to go around the other side and get it in. Unfortunately I can't say I did it on purpose."
The Sharks, though, are 10-0-4 in their past 14 home games, have lost once all season in regulation at home and are supremely confident and healthy right now.
Niklas Backstrom (23rd start in 24 games; 27th in 29) vs. Antti Niemi (22nd straight and 31st out of 32) tonight.
Those Finns, all they do is play go ... and give steely glares!
The AHL Board of Governors has approved the relocation of the Houston Aeros to Des Moines, Iowa. The team will be renamed the Iowa Wild, sources say. They will play at the Wells Fargo Arena. New conference is expected in Des Moines on Monday.
“Our organization has enjoyed tremendous support from the loyal, passionate hockey fans in Houston since 2001,” Wild Assistant to the General Manager/Aeros General Manager Jim Mill said. “There is a great hockey history in Houston, beginning with the Apollos in 1965, and continuing with the Aeros in the WHA, IHL and AHL. We are honored to have been a part of this hockey tradition.”
“We are grateful to our corporate and community partners, as well as our hard-working staff in Houston,” Mill added.
“We were not able to find agreement on terms of a new arena lease which would allow us to continue to successfully operate our franchise. We thank Toyota Center for the partnership we’ve had since moving there in 2003,” Wild Chief Operating Officer Matt Majka said.
“We have enjoyed a very strong relationship with the Aeros dating back to Toyota Center's inaugural 2003 season. Both parties worked diligently and in good faith during this process, but unfortunately we were unable to reach an agreement. We wish the Aeros continued success,” Houston Rockets/Clutch City Sports & Entertainment CEO Tad Brown said.
“On behalf of our Board of Governors, I would like to thank the fans of the Houston Aeros for the terrific support they have shown their team and the American Hockey League for the last 12 years,” American Hockey League President and CEO David Andrews said.
You have to feel for the Aeros fans down there and my colleagues who cover the team and work for the team.