Devan Dubnyk vs. Karri Ramo tonight at Xcel Energy Center as the Wild faces a hard-working, desperate Calgary team that was knocked into ninth last night thanks to the Kings winning at the Islanders.
I missed Flames coach Bob Hartley’s pregame media scrum, but apparently before announcing Ramo was starting, he announced to the media that he talked to Colorado coach Patrick Roy two days ago and the Hall of Fame goalie is still angry with me.
It was said in jest (Hartley’s one of the NHL’s funnier coaches), although I’ve got no doubt St. Patrick is still peeved at me. I’m fairly sure I got under Hartley’s skin a few times during those old Thrashers-Panthers rivalries, too.
I'll be on KFAN at 4:30 p.m. today.
Calgary’s Ramo has never played in Minnesota. In fact, he has only played 18 minutes against the Wild, stopping 6 of 6 shots in an eventual 4-3 overtime win by the Flames. Ramo started that game last year in Calgary, but he got hurt in the first period.
Tonight is Dubnyk’s 33rd consecutive start and 34th overall, tying Antti Niemi for the most consecutive starts in the NHL since 2010-11. When he inevitably starts tomorrow night against the Kings, it’ll be the most consecutive starts since Edmonton’s Dwayne Roloson started 36 in a row in 2009.
Dubnyk is 24-6-1 with the Wild with a 1.71 goals-against average and .938 save percentage. He is 33-11-3 this season between Minnesota and Arizona and ranks second in the NHL with a 2.07 goals-against average and second with a .930 save percentage. Montreal’s Carey Price is first in both categories.
Same Wild lineup tonight, meaning Kyle Brodziak is out with an upper-body injury and both Sean Bergenheim and Jordan Schroeder will play.
Ryan Carter will wait until at least tomorrow’s Kings game. Yeo said he didn’t want to take out anybody and he wasn’t keen on Carter playing back-to-back games after being sidelined since Feb. 9.
Rare back-to-back home games for the Wild. This is the sixth time this has occurred in Wild history. The Wild is 6-2-2 in home back-to-back games and this season is 6-5 on the front end of back-to-backs and 5-2-4 on the second half of back-to-backs.
It’s an oddity. The Kings’ equipment bags are already in the arena and the Kings’ coaching staff is credentialed for tonight’s game. I plan to put Darryl Sutter to work, like spotting for me in the third period and running some quotes. I may make him even transcribe.
Nate Prosser skated for a second day in a row before practice and is progressing.
Jason Zucker continues to skate and “still not even close to being cleared for contact,” coach Mike Yeo.
I asked Yeo point-blank if Zucker’s not allowed to return until that original three-month timetable, and Yeo said, “I believe so.” I hate to tell you, but 12 weeks from surgery is May 7.
We’ll see if medically that much be abided by. Zucker skated again today, and afterward, reunited on the Flames bench with former DU teammate Drew Shore, who’s playing tonight.
Round 2 of Mikael Granlund vs. Markus Granlund tonight.
Last year in a 3-2 Wild win in St. Paul (the arena Markus was drafted in by the Flames), Mikael had two assists and Markus one.
They’re a year apart and Mikael Granlund said his kid brother was his “first buddy to play hockey with.”
He said of last year’s meeting, “It was kind of exciting and kind of weird. I never played against him in professional games. It was fun and a big thing for my parents.”
Mikael Granlund said the biggest thing on his mind tonight is playing better. “The last couple games, I have not been on top of my game and I have to get back on track.”
One reason Granlund said he hasn’t been playing well is because that line almost every shift starts by having to chase the puck.
Granlund has slowly become of the NHL’s worst faceoff centers statistically. Among qualifying guys in faceoff stats, Granlund’s .464 faceoff winning percentage ranks 73rd, which is actually better than Charlie Coyle (.456) and Erik Haula (.444).
The difference with Granlund is he centers Zach Parise and Jason Pominville, and if he’s not winning draws, that affects the production of a very important line for Minnesota. Yeo admitted today this is a big reason why he put Mikko Koivu with Parise and Pominville on Long Island, and it certainly worked.
In the past 14 games, Granlund has won 69 of 193 faceoffs. That means he has won in the past 14 games 3.5 of every 10 faceoffs.
“It’s a big part of my struggles the last little while,” Granlund said. “I have lost a lot of faceoffs. I think there’s some good things here, but right now I’m really pressing it and getting really tight about it. Right now, it’s in my mind all the time. It’s a confidence thing.”
Granlund said he’s practicing faceoffs with Koivu and assistant coach Darby Hendrickson at the end of every practice and before every game he watches video of the opposing team’s centers to see their tendencies.
“He is carrying his last faceoff into the next faceoff with him, and he has to forget that,” Yeo said.
Yeo said he feels Granlund and Coyle have to take advantage of their strengths in the circle. He said Granlund’s strength is his quickness, Coyle’s is his power and he feels right now both centermen going into faceoffs trying to adapt what the other center’s doing rather than using their own strengths.
Yeo said he moved Koivu between Parise and Pominville against the Islanders in the third period to create a little momentum for them. Koivu ranks 11th with a .557 faceoff win percentage and ranks third in the NHL with 923 faceoff wins.
“I would say three games now, I feel like that line’s started without the puck every time they’re on the ice,” Yeo said. “It’s a big factor. It’s a line we do have confidence the way they play without the puck. But at the same time, they’re a lot more dangerous if they had the puck.”
Yeo said though that Granlund has won a lot of big draws for this team and he still has confidence in him in the circle.
Washington’s Tom Wilson was fined $2,000 for his embellishment in last week’s game against Minnesota. He had been previously warned. Money well spent though. That alleged dive resulted in a 4-on-4 and turned a scoreless game into a 2-0 Wild deficit in an instant.
I do feel these public fines, although insignificant monetarily, have decreased the amount of dives in the NHL. A few years back, I felt it was to epidemic proportions. I don’t see dives being a huge issue anymore.
Lastly, in February, I got to moderate a Q and A at the Lagoon in Uptown after director Gabe Polsky screened his awesome documentary, Red Army. It’s opening today at a bunch theaters around Minnesota. Here’s a list: