Wild and Colorado Avalanche tonight at Xcel Energy Center in the first of a home-and-home that ends Monday in Denver.
If you get to downtown St. Paul early, come to Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub at 4 p.m. to listen to the Russo-Souhan Show. We’re taping it there and you’re invited to ask questions. We give out gifts!
The Avs have won a couple 2-1 games on this road trip and have tightened things up lately, which is quite the coup for a team with the league’s fourth-highest goals against per game.
They just look like they’re starting to figure things out, and obviously they can be as prolific as anybody with Matt Duchene riding high with 13 goals in the past 15 games, Gabriel Landeskog also heating up and Nathan MacKinnon being Nathan MacKinnon. Plus, as my old joke goes, it’s 1-0 already because Jarome Iginla, the highest scorer in history against the Wild, is playing tonight.
As of this second, the Wild is third in the division, tied with the fourth and fifth teams in the division – Nashville and Chicago – with 30 points. Winnipeg, which hosts Washington in a few minutes, is sixth with 26 points. The Avs are seventh in the division with 23 and coach Mike Yeo said he made his guys aware that “they’re looking at this as a huge moment in their season, a huge opportunity.”
These next two games give Colorado the chance to peel off four points in the division and catapult back into the conversation, so the Wild best be ready.
Remember, opening night was the game the Wild rallied from 4-1 down in the third against the Avs by scoring the four fastest goals in Wild history (5:07). Zach Parise had a hat trick and usually enjoys playing Colorado, so perhaps this is a chance for Parise to break out again.
Devan Dubnyk (barring childbirth) vs. Semyon Varlamov tonight.
Same Wild lineup, meaning Mike Reilly is scratched again.
The defense pairs to start will be:
Scandella-Brodin (for the first time that I can remember)
But as the Wild has shown the past few games, the D pairs change as often as the wind blows.
The last nine games, Ryan Suter has averaged 30 minutes, 21 seconds a night and is now averaging a league-high 28:14 a game. Remember, the first 10 games of the season, the Wild did what they set out to do this season, scale back Suter’s ice time (26:20).
That’s gone out the window lately because Marco Scandella’s missed seven of the past 11 games and because Nate Prosser and Matt Dumba has seen less ice time.
Yeo said now that Scandella’s back, it’s an “opportunity to scale things back a little bit.” Yeo said it’s a big difference when they’re chasing games, so it would help if they had a few more leads.
But he acknowledged, “It’s something we have to keep an eye on. He’s been doing a good job even though his minutes have been jacked up. He’s still getting involved in the rush” and doing good things offensively. But Yeo said, “We have to make sure we keep an eye on it and give him the best chance to do those things.”
Speaking of Scandella, his dad, Francesco, died Wednesday of prostate cancer. Scandella still go through Thursday’s game against Toronto, but he said, “It wasn’t easy. I just want to carry on the legacy of my dad and be strong. It’s very tough for me and my family right now, but I’m going to keep pushing. He was a great man. I learned a lot from him. But it’s a new game today. Big rivalry against Colorado. I’m excited to play.”
Dubnyk is starting to get worried his second son’s going to come during the Colorado portion of the upcoming road trip. Depending on the timing if his wife goes into labor will determine whether Dubnyk is on that road trip.
“I’m not asking a lot of questions,” Yeo said, laughing. “I feel sorry for poor Jennifer. There’s an awful lot of attention on this.”
Dubnyk joked, “My wife has been mentioned on the highlights more than I have lately.”
As I wrote the other day, it is the most famous childbirth in Wild history if for no other reason than the way the Wild rides Dubnyk and the fact if he misses a game, Darcy Kuemper will be thrust into goal seeking his first win of the season … AND NIKLAS BACKSTROM would get to dress for his first game.
I’ll be doing a notebook item tomorrow on how Darryl Sydor’s trying to teach Reilly during his temporary stay in Minnesota.
I also talked to Brian Rolston today about the alumni game he gets to take part in, what it’s like to be a coach now and one of his favorite topics, Zach Parise. I’ll write that in the next few days.
Chico Resch, who recently had his No. 1 retired at University of Minnesota Duluth, took in the Wild’s skate today with the Brainerd High hockey team. They’re in town to play Bloomington Jefferson today and Resch, retired now from being the Devils color analyst, lives up there and is helping Dave Aus with the Brainerd goalies.
“We’ve never been to state,” Resch said. “We’re hoping this will be the year we get there, but you’ve got to go through Bemidji.”
Resch brought this really cool old North Stars program to show Parise today. It was one of the first games his late father, J.P., played for the North Stars. In the program, it has J.P.’s name hand written on the roster because he was just called up.