The Wild will be looking to avoid its first three-game losing streak of the season tonight when it takes on the struggling Montreal Canadiens, who have eight regulation losses in their past nine games.
Darcy Kuemper vs. likely Mike Condon tonight.
Erik Haula, scratched in three straight, will draw back into the lineup for Chris Porter, who has a lower-body injury and is not quite 100 percent. This gives the Wild some fresh, motivated legs tonight. Coach Mike Yeo said the decision was made yesterday to play Haula regardless, but Porter’s injury gives him the chance to get Haula back in.
With the Christmas break coming up and the Wild not able to practice the next three days, Porter can rest up.
Haula will likely start at left wing on the fourth line with Jarret Stoll and Ryan Carter, but Haula will certainly see shifts at center, too. So we’ll see what that does to the rest of the Wild’s lines.
After last night’s 6-3 loss to Dallas, Yeo said, “For everybody, I want to make sure that we take out of this what we need to take out of it. The last couple games haven’t been good enough by our standards. This is what you worry about when you get on a bit of a streak and things are going well and then we scored a bunch of goals at home. You worry about what that’s going to do to the group. We’re playing in tight games and we knew we had to defend and we were focused on that. We weren’t scoring a lot of goals, so we had to do it. And next thing you know you score a bunch of goals and we’d forgotten about some of the things that created those situations for us.”
So I’d assume tonight the Wild tries to re-focusing on defending hard and well. Both teams played last night, so we’ll see if fatigue is a factor tonight on national TV. The game is on NBC Sports Network with John Forslund and Brian Boucher at the mics.
On the Porter-Haula swap, Yeo said, “Very happy with Porter’s game. Last night, he had four hits. He was involved, he’s doing a good job killing penalties.”
On Haula, Yeo said, “He’s defended well, his penalty killing has been stronger here the last little bit, I think he had a pretty good series of plays in the San Jose game and even the game before he came out. … But the message to him was just, ‘You haven’t done quite enough to ensure you don’t come out of the lineup.’ I’d like to see him play at the level he was playing at and doing the things he was doing, and then maybe add on a little more.”
On Kuemper, Yeo said, “Maybe at the start of the year and probably last year, we would have looked at this as an opportunity to [play Devan Dubnyk] given the fact we have a nice little break after this, but the way Kuemps has been playing has provided us this opportunity to give him the ice.”
Kuemper is 3-0-2 in his past five games (four starts) with a 1.31 goals-against average and .943 save percentage.
Mikael Granlund has been a hot topic lately. He's getting points (15 points in the past 19 games), but the Wild wants much more from him offensively and he continues to aggravate with the passing up of shots. Frankly, this is one big reason why I keep writing in my Sunday column and saying on radio, TV and podcasts that the Wild has shown hefty interest in Columbus' Ryan Johansen.
Yeo was asked about Granlund this morning: "With Granny, he's a guy who's underrated defensively, he's a guy you can put on against top lines. When he's on top of his game, you can see a guy that's playing very fast, he's playing confident, he's making plays. I think he's still a young player who's, ... he faces the toughest matchups night after night, which is not easy for any player, especially when you're trying to create. He's kind of on the bubble right now of showing that he can be a full-time producer, but he's still struggling to learn how to do it a little bit."
It looked like Mike Reilly was reassigned. He’s in the area because of the holiday break if the Wild needs him anyway.
Talk to you tonight.