Looked like a blast from the past this morning during the Wild skate when Kurtis Foster and Stephane Veilleux were buzzing around Xcel Energy Center in Wild practice sweaters.
Weird sight. Joining them was Nick Palmieri, the 22-year-old hopes to be a legit power forward one day in this league. The Wild hopes so, too. With three new faces in the lineup tonight, the Wild will have used 42 skaters this season -- breaking the team record of 40 used in 2009-10.
Palmieri will make his Wild debut tonight against San Jose.
Foster will play his first game in a Wild sweater since April 11, 2009 at Columbus when he scored a goal and assist in a win. That was his first goal in the NHL since breaking his femur in March 2008 after being checked from behind on an icing to tonight’s opponent, San Jose’s Torrey Mitchell.
In 181 games with Minnesota, Foster scored 21 goals and 55 assists. He hopes tonight goes as well as his Wild debut against Nashville on Nov. 19, 2005. He scored twice.
“It definitely felt weird to put the green back on today,” said Foster. “A lot of good memories in here. It’s nice to see all the familiar faces.”
Veilleux, a third-round pick by the Wild in 2001, plays his first game in a Wild sweater since April 11, 2009, as well. Veilleux ranks 8th in team history with 361 games. He’s scored 43 goals and 47 assists with the Wild. His 39 even-strength goals rank 10th in Wild history.
“I’m very excited,” said Veilleux. “Big excitement. I’m glad to be here. It’s a very good opportunity. It’s a very great feeling to be back here.”
Coach Mike Yeo said he’s excited and anxious to see them all. Foster will take Marek Zidlicky’s spot on the No. 1 PP. I assume Palmieri will play the No. 2.
“Feels like first game all over again, so hopefully I won’t be too nervous coming in,” Palmieri said. “The most important thing is to win. If I can contribute in some way to a win tonight, that would be the best outcome for me.”
Palmieri will skate right wing on the second line with Cal Clutterbuck on the left and Matt Cullen in the middle. Erik Christensen will center the third line with Darroll Powe on the left and Nick Johnson on the right. Veilleux will skate on the left side of the fourth line with Warren Peters in the middle and Jed Ortmeyer on the right.
Foster will be paired with Justin Falk
Niklas Backstrom will start.
Nate Prosser, who has been up and down since signing and particularly had a tough game in Dallas, will be scratched, along with Matt Kassian.
Horrible night for the Wild last night. LA won. Colorado went INTO Detroit and won. Calgary got a point. The Wild is five back of Dallas, LA and Colorado (8th, 9th and 10th) and four back of 11th-place Calgary.
“It’s interesting because you look at that Boston game (2-0 win last Sunday), that was one of our best games by far for sure,” Yeo said. “We went into that game and said, ‘Who cares about the standings? Let’s just go play hockey.’ And then next thing you know we win a couple games and we go into Dallas and you can see the performance we had that game because all we’re thinking about is the standings and a win and how important it is to us.
“So whether we’re fragile, whether we’re just not able to handle these type of things, when it seems like we need a win or everything is focused on a win, we don’t play as well.”
So Yeo said the Wild just needs to go out and play.
Frankly, if I’m Chuck Fletcher, I don’t continue to be fooled by the standings. The Wild’s not only five points back. The Wild has to hop over FOUR teams to get into the top-8, teams that will be playing 3-point games, teams that will be playing each other. The Wild has 21 games left. It needs to win 16 to get to 95 points, which is typically the threshold even though Dallas and LA are on pace for 90.
If I’m Fletcher, I’m selling a few guys tomorrow IF he can by the 2 p.m. deadline. Greg Zanon’s got to be able to fetch something. If Prosser’s future is in Minnesota (he signed a one-way deal, so it must be), I play him – struggles or not.
If I’m Fletcher and I can trade Josh Harding, I’d do that, too, although I’m not sure how big of a market there really is now that Ben Bishop was traded to Ottawa. Harding, who says as far as he knows there have been no talks on a new contract, says he loves Minnesota and would like to stay. I don’t know, if I’m him, I’d want to leave to try to showcase myself for a next contract.
I really believe the tandem next year here will be Niklas Backstrom and Matt Hackett. Hackett continues to look good.
In four games this year with the Wild, he is 2-0 and has allowed two goals on 96 shots for a .979 save percentage and 0.68 goals against average.
Mike Lundin is hurt, but it’s not supposed to be long-term and he did skate today, so maybe he can fetch something to add depth to an actual playoff contender. Clayton Stoner continues to be MIA.
As for Mikko Koivu, he skated today and is shooting pucks. Yeo said he’s starting to feel “better,” but there is no timeframe he would share yet.
As for Gui Latendresse and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, they continue to get treatment. The Wild’s not planning on either to come back, but as Yeo said, “Hopefully we’re wrong. It’s really easy to switch things around that way.”
Talk to you tonight.