The Western Conference quarterfinals switch to Minnesota tonight at 7 when the Wild and St. Louis play Game 3.
No lineup changes for the Blues. Sean Bergenheim and Justin Fontaine return, reuniting the Game 1 fourth line with Kyle Brodziak. That means Matt Cooke, Erik Haula, Jordan Schroeder and Ryan Carter will be scratched.
Good afternoon from Xcel Energy Center.
I’ll be holding a 2 p.m. live chat (click this link), so please join. I’ll also be on KFAN at 4:55 p.m.
The Wild will release a very limited number of tickets for Game 3 today at 3 p.m. at Ticketmaster.
The Wild will also hold a pregame party between 4:30-6:30 p.m. Brian Rolston, the Wild’s three-time 30-goal scorer, will sign autographs and do the “Let’s Play Hockey” tonight.
You don’t need game tickets to attend the party, and if you’re going to buy on the street, the Wild and St. Paul Police caution about counterfeit tickets.
Notes on shadowing Tarasenko, Fontaine, Zucker playing, Dubnyk wanting to seal the posts, etc.
Jim Souhan's column on the Wild's play so far in the series and the need to win at home.
Because the top three lines and top-6 D have been stagnant the first three games, there continues to be lots of questions about the fourth line. Just not much to write about.
But it’s also a story line because Erik Haula really has been shoved to the backburner. In Game 2 with Fontaine sick and Bergenheim scratched, it was Cooke and Schroeder who played and Carter in warmups as the extra insurance policy.
Remember, Haula was good in last year’s playoffs, but Yeo explained there are multiple reasons for the decision to not play Haula, from the type of matchup it is with the gritty Blues, to the type of season Haula had, to the fact he didn’t think he played well down the stretch during the, for lack of a better term, auditioning process for the fourth-line playoff spot.
Plus, Brodziak continues to play well ay center, so if you’re playing Haula, it would be at wing.
Asked first if it has to do with the Blues’ style and the need to have a winger go in the dirty areas as Yeo kinda insinuated in Monday’s paper, Yeo said, “Yeah, that and we talked about this before the playoffs started. A lot of it for those guys was going to come down to how they were playing before the playoffs started as well. So some of it would dictate that but a good portion of it was, we talked about whether it was auditioning or a chance to show how they could be effective and how they could contribute, that was part of it as well. This is one decision we’re making tonight, but we’ve got a lot of options that are good options, and certainly he is one of them.”
So asked if he wasn’t happy with Haula’s auditioning, Yeo said, “This is not about beating down Haulzy. I think it’s been a trying year for him. Going into the playoffs last year, there was a much different feel to his game. I know there was a lot of reference to what happened in the playoffs last year. I think he was in a different place as well. So that’s a big factor in it. But again, this is a different team, it’s a different matchup and I also think that we have a lot more guys who are playing very well that make those tough decisions.”
On reuniting the Game 1 fourth line, Yeo said, “I thought both games to be honest with you, that Brodziak line whether it was Bergie and Fonzie or Cooke and Schroeds, I thought both those lines had some real good shifts in the offensive zone, forechecking, creating turnovers, going in straight lines, finishing checks, those are things that are important to us. That’s the kind of stuff that we’re looking for, especially at home here. We know the crowd’s going to be buzzing. We can get in there, we can bump them a little bit. In order to make that happen, you’ve got to be able to execute up the ice as well. And that’s where a guy like Fonzie comes into play. His execution on the wall and has very quietly has become one of our top penalty killers as well.”
On Brodziak, Yeo said, “If you’ve been watching us closely, … the way that he’s been playing the game, certainly a much different confidence that he has right now as far as making playing, creating plays in the offensive zone, just how solid he’s been in his own zone, that’s been a big factor as well. He’s been a real solid player for us for quite a long time here.”
Scratching Cooke can’t be easy for Yeo considering Cooke’s playoff pedigree and their history together here and previously. And as you know, Yeo often defers to the veteran in these decisions (I know Bergenheim is a veteran, but Yeo also usually goes with the guy who has been here and who may be here in the future; Bergenheim is a UFA, Cooke has another year left).
On how tough it was, Yeo said, “Yeah, absolutely, and just a guy who first off has a lot of playoff experience, a guy who is not an easy guy to play against. I thought that he played a good game. Again, those are tough decisions, but I give everybody credit. Whether it’s a guy like that coming out of the lineup or guys that haven’t gotten into the lineup, everybody’s had a great attitude. The team atmosphere is very good right now. Everybody is all-in for each other and obviously we’re hoping to make this a very long run here, which means they’ll factor in.”
On playing in front of the home crowd, Yeo said, “I think that we have to make sure that we understand that there’s a process that has to be followed here. We have to be ready from the drop of the puck. We have to be ready for what follows through the course of the game, both good and bad, every situation. That said, you don’t want to go over the line but let’s get close to the line. They’re going to be loud, let’s give them a reason to be loud here tonight to start the game. I think we should come out with a lot of energy.”
On Jordan Leopold’s play: “Been really impressed with his game, probably even exceeded expectations of what we thought we were going to get from him. I’ve coached him. I know what he’s capable of. Wasn’t sure where he was going to be at, at this point in his career, but the way that he’s going back, retrieving pucks, moving his feet, the defensive side, everything. We’ve been really pleased with his game.”
On Matt Dumba: “You cannot put a value on this experience for a kid like that. For him, just really pleased with how he’s handled up to this point. Just the message is similar to what we gave him during the season as he was having good nights and whether it was a bad shift or a good shift, it’s always about the next one. That’s our mindset with him. Just because things went well the last game doesn’t mean you should rest on that. He’s playing well right now, but we have to make sure that he understands every night’s a new challenge. Like I said, this experience is very important for him.”
The Blues were the third-best road team in the NHL.
The Wild expects a loud rink.
“It’s always exciting, especially at playoff time,” captain Mikko Koivu said. “We talked earlier the way the fans are more into it. The building is loud and you can really feel them when you go out there and play the game. We’re excited for that and want to enjoy it.”
Here’s Paul Stastny, who played the Wild in the playoffs previously with Colorado, yesterday: “It’s going to be a loud building, but it always is. But that’s the fun of it. Basically it’s 25 of us, and our coaching staff, against 20,000 fans and their team. We have to do everything we can to take the emotion out of it because we know they will be emotional.”
Here’s Patrik Berglund: “We've got to obviously maybe play a bit more simple on the road. Obviously they're going to come out and play really physical and have a lot of energy in the beginning of the game. I think it's really important that we stay really calm and we play the simple north game and let that (emotion) kind of die down a bit, and then we go to work. To win series and stuff like that, you've got to steal some wins on the road. Obviously, it's a big two games here.”
Why keep it simple on the road: “I don't know why. We should do it at home, too. When we play our best, I think we do keep it simple at home, too. But it's more of maybe the other team's home barn, they come out with a little more energy and their crowd is helping them out. It just kind of helps us out, too, if we not feed their transition instead of for them to go home and get their own pucks.”
I got Blues coach Ken Hitchcock talking a lot today about his best bud, Wild assistant coach Rick Wilson and former player Darryl Sydor, and I’ll write about that in the next couple days most likely.
Yeo to 10-yr old Fox 9 jr. reporter Finn Olson when he didn't want to ask the 1st question of presser: "You're my favorite reporter already"— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) April 20, 2015