Devan Dubnyk vs. Henrik Lundqvist tonight at the Garden.
Afternoon from MSG, where the Wild, losers of eight of its last nine, visits the Rangers, 8-8 in their last 16 and in a win-one, lose-one pattern during those 16.
The Wild beat the Rangers, 5-2, in December at home. Left wing Rick Nash and defenseman Kevin Klein are out for the Broadway Blueshirts.
Justin Fontaine, scratched three times in the last four games and six times since Dec. 28, returns and Chris Porter will be scratched. Christian Folin, D insurance on this road trip, will be scratched for a second consecutive game. Coach Mike Yeo said he thought seriously about playing Folin.
Yeo believes his team will be ready tonight.
“Pretty excited about the game tonight,” he said. “For whatever reason waking up this morning, I have a pretty good feeling our team is going to be ready to respond. In this last little stretch, our starts have been fantastic. We’ve played one good period, two good periods every night, but at some point in the game, adversity has struck and we haven’t handled it well. Tonight, I think we’ll be a little more prepared to handle that.”
I’ve gotten a zillion tweets and emails asking why Yeo is so married to the Zach Parise-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville line.
I asked Yeo this morning, and he said, “Not a lot of other options, I guess. We’re trying to go with some familiarity, some semblance of groups that have had success before. They’re generating chances, they just have to put it in and have to stay with it for 60 minutes.
“With that, from line to line, guy to guy, if you’re not scoring, then you have to check really well. And we have a lot of guys that haven’t been scoring, but their checking game hasn’t been as strong.”
The Wild likes Parise playing with Granlund and the feeling is mutual. Last game, Yeo tried to jumpstart the line by moving Thomas Vanek on the line and moving Pominville to the Jarret Stoll-Jason Zucker line.
The first shift after the move, Pominville scored for the first time since Dec. 22. The second shift after the move, Vanek playing a ginormous part in the Islanders scoring a back-breaking goal against less than a minute later.
When I asked if the few options – besides the fact they like Mikko Koivu with Nino Niederreiter and red-hot Charlie Coyle – was due to Vanek’s play of late (although frankly Zucker hasn't been all that great for awhile, too), Yeo said, “None of us are playing well enough. As a team, we haven’t been strong enough. We’ve tried basically every combination in the book. Last game we shuffled lines, and the game before that we shuffled lines. We’ve tried every combination and none of them have worked, and they’re not going to work until we’re all playing at [a better level]. When we’re playing at a level where every individual is going to out there and is strong in their game both offensively and defensively, then we can make switches and they’re going to look right. And right now whatever we try is not working.”
The fact Yeo thought so strongly about playing Folin makes me think he’d play Saturday in St. Louis if things don’t go well tonight.
Yeo hopes Folin’s time in Iowa helps improve his game the way it did last year for Folin and Matt Dumba.
“I think last year when he came back up after spending some time down there, his game was at another level,” Yeo said of Folin. “It was not just the confidence he was playing with, but more than anything, the pace he was playing with, executing at a higher level and I’d like to see some more of that.”
Folin did miss more than a month with a concussion and recently returned. I’ll probably write about him in the next few days.
In Friday’s game notebook, I’ll write about that Parise-Granlund-Pominville line and also about Ryan Carter, who returned last game after missing seven with a broken finger after fighting New Jersey’s Jordin Tootoo.
That's it for now. Not much more going on. Granlund held court with a huge contingent of sponsors from his old IFK-Helsinki game today. I mentioned yesterday that I have requested to talk to GM Chuck Fletcher, but as of now, he has declined the request.
That’s it for now. Talk later.