UPDATED: Morning from the bowels of Air Canada Centre, one of the great venues in this great league.
I’ll be on HockeyCentral on Sportsnet TV and the Fan 590 in Toronto at 11:40 a.m. CT/12:40 p.m. ET with Doug MacLean and Daren Millard, and tonight, I’ll be on NHL Live on NHL Network at 4:30 p.m. CT/5:30 p.m. ET live from the Air Canada Centre penalty box arena cam.
The Wild's lost 10 in a row on the road and 14 of 16 overall. For those fans who wanted more national attention when the Wild was going hot, they'll get it now that they're running cold. ESPN.com, Yahoo and Canadian Press were all at Wild practice yesterday.
Also, tonight's game is coast to coast in Canada on TSN (Gord Miller and Ray Ferraro).
For the first time since Oct. 31, the Wild's not in the top-8 in the West. Mike Yeo said that doesn't stress him out: "It's not how you drive, it's how you arrive."
The Wild just has to pray its car isn't totaled. (I came up with 16 jokes to insert here and that's the one I came up with. Sad, indeed).
Niklas Backstrom, as expected, has fattened up and will make his first start since Jan. 7 – the night he came down with the nastiest stomach virus around and lost a monstrous six pounds (must be tough). Perhaps the rest will have helped because in his previous six starts, he had given up three or four goals in each. I’ve got him at 1-5 in his last six with a .890 save percentage and 3.54 goals against average (and I got a 690 on the math portion of my SAT’s – or was that combined?).
Jonas Gustavsson will be in the cage for the Leafs.
The Wild's lines tonight:
Devin Setoguchi-Warren "Poor Man's Mikko Koivu" Peters-Dany Heatley
Cal Clutterbuck-Matt Cullen-Casey Wellman
Darroll Powe-Kyle Brodziak-Nick Johnson
David McIntyre-Carson McMillan-Brad Staubitz.
Greg Zanon returns (part of the reason being, Yeo didn't want to make his dad fly all the way from BC without getting a chance to see him in a game). Justin Falk sits. Yeo said he talked to a disappointed Falk, who played real well in St. Louis, in hopes of picking his confidence up after being plucked from the lineup for one so-so game in Philly.
Caught up with Jake Gardiner this morning, the Maple Leafs’ puck-moving defenseman who graduated from Minnetonka and went to Wisconsin. The rook will play the Wild for the first time tonight and is pumped. He’s also pumped his younger bro, Max, committed last night to Penn State. Max left the U after his freshman year.
That’s it for now. Father-son trip wraps up tonight. The dad will spend the afternoon touring the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Who's Wild goalie coach Bob Mason and who's former NCAA ref Bill Mason? Answer at 11.