Afternoon. The Wild, winners of four straight with points in seven of its past eight, practiced this morning at Ridder Arena and coach Mike Yeo said he plans to go with the same lineup Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche.
That means Justin Fontaine, who practiced today for the first time since sustaining a groin injury Jan. 29 in Calgary, won’t play, nor will Christian Folin, who will be scratched for a fourth straight game because the top-4 is healthy and Nate Prosser and Matt Dumba keep playing well.
Yeo said he doesn’t feel like anybody deserves to come out and he’s happy with what Jordan Schroeder brought in Tuesday’s 3-0 win over Chicago (four shots).
If you didn’t hear my interview with Yeo on KFAN on Thursday morning, I asked him about Folin and he explained his rationale. So check that out or read Sunday’s game notebook because I plan to toss it in there.
I’ll be on KFAN today at 4:30 p.m. I’ll also be doing my weekly podcast with columnist Jim Souhan at 5 p.m. live at O’Gara’s in St. Paul, so come on down or listen on souhanunfiltered.com.
I’ll also be on Fox Sports North during Saturday’s Wild Live and first intermission and Rosen’s Sports Sunday on Ch. 4 Sunday night.
Relatively good news for Wild vet Matt Cooke.
The timetable that was expected to be the rest of the regular season is now five to six weeks, according to Yeo, after Cooke underwent successful surgery for a sports hernia this morning in St. Louis. This means if all goes well with Cooke’s recovery, the physical left-winger could be back by mid-March.
Cooke, 36, missed 22 games from Oct. 30-Dec. 17 with a hip injury. He was injured the second game of the season at Colorado and played with the injury the next six games in agony. As it turns out, Cooke had three torn muscles, including the Psoas Major, which attaches to the femur, and two other supporting hip flexor muscles.
Yeo said Tuesday that the injury Cooke experienced really never went away and he was battling through it and the latest injury could have been a result of compensating.
I have gotten a lot of questions asking if the Wild would make a trade for a physical forward. Many are clamoring for Chris Neil because he’s a physical pest that will drop the gloves, but I’m not even convinced Ottawa GM Bryan Murray plans to trade him and plus he has another year left on his contract (as does Cooke).
The trade deadline is March 2. As of now, General Manager Chuck Fletcher said he plans to go with what he has got.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Fletcher said. “We’ve got plenty of good players, we’ve got guys down in Iowa that can come up and play and that have come up and played before (Brett Sutter, Stephane Veilleux, Tyler Graovac). We’ll go with what we have for now. It’s no different than any time, I’m always talking to teams. If something makes sense, we’ll do it. But we have plenty of players who can fill the void here right now.”
With Cooke out, Yeo said it makes Ryan Carter’s acquisition on the eve of the season even more important.
“I’ve been real pleased with his game and his commitment to his role,” Yeo said. “He’s been a real physical player for us, a real strong penalty killer, a guy who’s strong on the boards finishing checks and we’re going to need more of that. And quite honestly, we’re going to need some other guys to pick up some slack in the physical element of the game.”
Cooke, who has another year left on his contract at $2.5 million, led the Wild in hits last season and had 10 goals and 28 points in 82 games. This season, he has four goals and four assists in 27 games. He hasn’t been as physical and his skating has looked labored likely due to the injuries he has been playing with.
Yeo said the Wild will also miss his vocal leadership.
“I love our leadership,” he said. “We have the best kind of leadership and that’s the kind that will go out and lead by example, but it is nice to have some vocals guys and some guys that will stand up in the locker room and get on the group if that’s what needed. He is part of that.”
Darcy Kuemper’s rehab stint is close to ending. He’ll start tonight in Hamilton and then a decision will be made if he can play Saturday afternoon in Toronto. He’ll be back by Monday and is coming off a 28-save shutout Wednesday in Adirondack.
Devan Dubnyk will make his ninth straight start since his Jan. 14 acquisition against the Avs.
He did have his back seize up on him at one point in today’s practice when he was stretching to his right and got bumped, but after a couple scary moments where he sat frozen on the ice, he got up and finished practice and said he wasn’t even feeling it after practice.
He’ll debut his new giraffe-inspired helmet Saturday (if you don’t know why, see this story). He has used it the past two days in practice.
He said about changing his helmet in the midst of giving up three goals in the past four games, “I’m not superstitious. There’s more important things for me to be thinking about on the ice. I’ll forget I’ll even have it on.”
He said that’s why he tested it in practice the past few days. It’s the same type of helmet, so he was just breaking in the strapping, etc.
His new pads seem to have been hung up in Kay Whitmore’s office at NHL headquarters in Toronto. The manufacturing companies have to send all gear to the NHL to be measured. Once they’re deemed legal, they’re overnighted to the teams.
Dubnyk said the delay is fine because, “I’m pretty bad at breaking pads in anyway. Even when they do show up, you’ll probably see them a lot in practice before they make a game appearance.”
His new helmet still has the sketch of his son, Nathaniel, on the back and a breast cancer ribbon in honor of his mom. He has been on five teams in the past year, so he said he has had so many masks, “I pretty much documented my newborn to a year and a half years old on a whole bunch of helmets the last year. Hopefully it’ll just be year to year from now on. One each year is plenty (laughing).”
As you can tell, Dubnyk is one chill dude. Unlike many goalies in the NHL, he even talks to the media on game days.
“Honestly, being in Edmonton, I never really thought of it,” he said. “I didn’t talk too much when I first got there because I wasn’t playing very much. And then I chatted with the media and got to know them a little bit and you development a relationship with them. I try to be pretty laid back when it comes to game time. I try not to be too uptight.”
He joked that Niklas Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper may start to hate him because of the precedent he’s setting. Actually, Kuemper would have no problem talking to us on game days and sometimes sneaks a conversation, but the team implemented a no-goalie-talk policy (that’s technically against league media policy rules) so they can focus on game days.
So we’ll see if that changes.
Backstrom used to talk to the media on game mornings, but he decided to stop probably four or five years ago. In the old Northwest Division, when you go up to Canada, you can bombarded by the press on game mornings, so if I remember, he changed so he could focus more on game days.
Non-game days, Backstrom is affable and always an awesome talker.
Pretty good story cooking for Saturday’s paper. I had a pretty good chat today with Zach Parise and Ryan Suter regarding their personal play and the team. You’ll want to see what they have to say.
I better get writing because I want to try to get all my stories and my Sunday Insider (I chatted with Daniel Negreanu about NHL in Vegas while filling in on KFAN yesterday) before my KFAN interview and O'Gara's Podcast. Maybe I'll see you down at O'Gara's tonight or at the Gophers game tonight (yes, I plan to check them out for the first time this season).