My first question to Josh Harding during my interview with him today just may have been my single greatest to an athlete ever:
"Do you have a pen?"
What good is he, well, other than stoning the Detroit Red Wings' long list of stars every night? His last four starts have come against Detroit, including all three this season. In consecutive wins over the Red Wings, Harding stopped 72 of 73 shots, and he's stopped 110 of 114 shots in three starts this season against Detroit.
He helped get the Wild four points in the standings despite the Wild scoring three goals in the two games. For that reason, coach Mike Yeo will naturally come back with Harding Thursday night against the Vancouver Canucks.
Yeo said, how could he not? Plus, he probably is curious to see if Harding can stop pucks shot by a team not wearing red on their sweaters.
Yeo said Harding earned the reward of another start, but on the same token, he doesn't want to sit here and say "Let's let Hards run with it now" because he doesn't want to get two weeks from now and Niklas Backstrom hasn't played a game.
Yeo made sure to point out how well Backstrom has played this year. I thought the only exception was the Pittsburgh game. But he's been good, and sorry, for all the fans that wanted to call for his head after the Anaheim game, three superstars scored three backdoor open-net goals on broken plays and breakdowns. I don't buy that's on Backstrom.
"We’re spending a lot of time talking about it like we have a goalie controversy or something right now," Yeo said. "To me, it's just a guy who's earned an opportunity to go out and get the net again tomorrow. We go day by day here."
Now, obviously the Wild needs points and wins. If Harding continues to be in the zone, it'll be awfully hard for Yeo not to keep giving him the gate. But let's see if that happens before we start getting ahead of ourselves and talking like the Wild has a $6 million backup.
Speaking of expensive players, Marek Zidlicky, the $4 million defenseman, and Yeo had a long, long, long, at least 20-minute chat on the ice today. Oh, to be a fly on the wall. At times it looked to get animated, at times it looked like Yeo was lecturing him, at times it looked like Zidlicky, whom I haven't seen speak this much English in my life, got heated as he chatted back.
Obviously, as documented in the notebook in Wednesday's paper (I trust you read it here), Zidlicky has not been playing well and Yeo is trying to "help" him "get better," as he put it today.
Zidlicky will move back to the No. 1 power-play unit against the Canucks, although Yeo said that decision was made well before their talk. He will stay on the right side, where they want him getting shots from the circle. Frankly, I think Zidlicky prefers the left -- which could have been a bone of contention. But Zidlicky said the conversation stays between he and Yeo, and he certainly went back to his not-knowing-a-lot-of-English style with the media.
He admitted he didn't want to say anything to get in trouble and admitted he's not happy with his game.
Yeo often has 1-on-1 meetings with players in view of the media on the ice, so this wasn't a rarity. Usually it doesn't last this long though, and usually it doesn't appear to get this serious in our view. I've got to think if Yeo knew it would, he probably would have done it in his office. But it was interesting to see. Yeo was firm and confident with the veteran, and he didn't back down. Zidlicky has been way outplayed by the Wild's youth and the Wild desperately needs steady, quality and point-producing hockey from him -- minus the brain cramps.
More on this in the paper.
Couple other things:
-- Clayton Stoner (finger) practiced today and felt good, although Yeo indicated it may be hard for him to switch the lineup after the way the Wild's 6-man D corps has played the past 2 games.
-- Told ya on previous post Matt Kassian is on waivers, and Marco Scandella, Justin Falk and Nick Johnson have been told they can find places to live and check out of the hotel. I swear to you know what, this entertaining Kassian feature I've had in the can for a while will run in the paper at some point if it's the last thing I ever do.
-- Great breakdown of the Mikko Koivu-Nik Kronwall no-call in the corner before the Devin Setoguchi winner last night by former ref Kerry Fraser on the tsn's web site. Here is the link
Here is the relentless play and setup by Koivu. Just click the video camera next to the Setoguchi OT winner.
Lastly, I'll be on KFAN from 9:55 a.m.-10:30 a.m. Thursday live from the X.
Ton of writing to do. BYe.