Update: Martin Hanzal has strep throat and won't play in Carolina. Defenseman Gustav Olofsson will miss "multiple days," GM Chuck Fletcher said. It sounds to me like he has a concussion.
Wild and Washington Capitals tonight here in snowy, slushy D.C.
Devan Dubnyk gets the start for the Wild. Tyler Graovac was recalled and will skate on the fourth line tonight with Chris Stewart and Ryan White. Jordan Schroeder is the lone healthy scratch, but I can see him back in Thursday at Carolina for White or even Stewart. Read the quote from Bruce Boudreau in my advance today on Washington's fourth line, and that's why I don't think White's paying for his big gaffe in Chicago.
Boudreau wants him in.
The Wild was barely able to get Graovac on the one nonstop flight from Austin, Texas, where the Iowa Wild was, into Washington Monday night before the storm.
His gear was another story. Iowa’s equipment was already back in Des Moines, and the Wild didn’t want to chance overnighting it because of a potential FedEx ground stoppage due to the storm.
So the team flew an Iowa equipment staffer and Graovac’s gear to Washington through Minneapolis. A near canceled flight, delays and flight diversion got the gear to Washington at 3:30 a.m.
“The gear will be tired. Grao shouldn’t be,” joked GM Chuck Fletcher.
It feels like I'm playing with two teams this year," Graovac said. "Obviously I am. Here I'm just playing my way, the right way, and using my size and speed. And Iowa has been fun. It's been a blast down there. It's such a great group. We had two wins this weekend. We are playing for a playoff spot. And up here we are trying to stay on top. I'm trying to help the best that I can."
On playing against the Caps, Graovac said, "It's very special. It's my first time here in Washington, my first time at this rink, my first time playing this team. I'm looking forward to the challenge. This is what playoffs are going to be like. This is a Stanley Cup type game tonight. I'm really looking forward to that battle and being a part of it."
On facing Alex Ovechkin, who has no goals in a career-long 10 games, Graovac said, "You watch them on TV and growing up. It's going to be an experience for sure. To be on the same ice surface as him is going to be fun."
Martin Hanzal is back in the Twin Cities sick. Fletcher said there's no chance he'll be able to join the team in Raleigh, but Boudreau said they haven't gotten a report as to how he's feeling today and if he's feeling better, they'd definitely fly him in for the Carolina game.
Coincidentally last season when Boudreau and the Ducks came to D.C., the area got pelted by a blizzard and the game was scrapped. That shouldn't be the case tonight.
As I wrote in today's advance here, the Wild and Capitals could be pretty ornery tonight as they both try to, as Barry Trotz said today, wipe the blood off their face and jump back in the ring tonight.
Wild has lost four of six. The Caps four in a row.
Both teams are awfully close to losing their spots on the top of their respective conferences.
"Hey listen, they’ve lost four in a row. I don’t think they're not going to be ready," Boudreau said. "They’re going to be champing at the bit to get on the ice again, is my belief. We’re the ones that have to be ready."
Boudreau says the Wild has played well enough to win two of the three games on this trip, but he still wants the Wild to "lock it up a little better defensively."
He's clearly not happy with the play of some of his defensemen. It's not hard to figure out which ones.
"I’m concerned every time somebody doesn’t play good," Boudreau said. "The consistency thing has been something that has been ongoing the whole year. Even when we were winning 12 in a row, you’d hear me saying in meetings like this that we had nine forwards going and four defensemen, and those guys were carrying it. And the next night there’d be a different nine and a different four."
Here's the telling quote: "Right now, the guys that are having an off night aren’t necessarily having a great night the next night. So we’ve got to get that back together. For us to succeed, we have to have 20 people going. It’s just the only way to win."
I had an incredible day yesterday. A big Wild fan that gave me a tour of the Capitol a few years ago offered a behind the scenes tour of the Pentagon yesterday. A Major General wound up conducting the tour, and I brought a couple other media colleagues and the TV broadcasters along for the ride.
Just an absolutely incredible experience to see the inside of that place. The stories, the places we went were fascinating.
Similarly, defenseman Ryan Suter set up a behind-the-scenes tour of the Capitol building for himself, teammates Eric Staal, Jason Pominville and Jared Spurgeon and video coach Jonas Plumb.
They got to see the ins and outs and got to go on Speaker Paul Ryan's balcony overlooking D.C.
"Unbelievable view from up there. It was fun to get to take that in," said Suter.
Several Wild staffers also had a neat experience Monday night. Owner Craig Leipold, a bigwig in the Republican party in Wisconsin, took the Wild coaches and training staff for dinner.
There was secret service everywhere. It turned out White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was having dinner at the same restaurant, as were Senators Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell, and his wife Elaine Chao, the Secretary of Transportation.
Leipold has known Priebus, the former chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, for 15 years, so Priebus, Cruz and the others all came over to the Wild’s table to say hello and chat.
Couple other notes:
Every year, Boudreau donates a day with, as he kidded, “the Wild or Ducks or Caps – whatever team I’m coaching” to an auction at the Congressional Country Club.
Tuesday morning, brother and sister Jack and Dylan Carroll – two huge Capitals fans – spent the day with the Wild after their grandparents made the winning bid.
Boudreau showered them with a giant duffle bag full of Wild gifts, and the kids sat on the bench during the morning skate, bussed back to the team hotel, had a pregame meal with the players and attended the game.
“We’ve got two new Wild fans,” Boudreau said.
Lastly, the Wild’s fuming the American Hockey League suspended defenseman Nick Seeler three games for checking the head of an opponent. Assistant GM Brent Flahr said the “video clearly shows it was a hard but clean hit. The initial point of contact was clearly through the body.”