Wild and the Broadway Blueshirts tonight at Xcel Energy Center.
Devan Dubnyk vs. Antti Raanta, who is 4-3-1 with a 2.03 goals-against average and .922 save percentage.
As expected, Jarret Stoll will make his Wild debut. As expected, Erik Haula will be the casualty of that debut and sit in the press box for the first time this season.
The Ryan Johansen scratch in Columbus tonight overshadows this one a tad, though.
“It’s not a matter of what he needs to do better,” coach Mike Yeo said. “Unfortunately, he’s in the mix of guys that could come out of the lineup. We really haven’t had this before [this season]. Competition is a good thing. You don’t want guys going out there completely afraid of, ‘I’m going to be the next guy,’ but that’s the reality right now.”
The Wild has really had no extra bodies up front all season. In the past when he had extra bodies, especially on D, Yeo has rotated guys so they all “still feel a part of it.”
Asked if that could happen again here with guys like Chris Porter, Ryan Carter and Justin Fontaine, Yeo said, “Haulzy will get back in. Whether it’s next game, I’m not sure. I’m not disappointed with his game. I guess the one thing I would say is he just really hasn’t put himself in a position where he can’t come out of the lineup. I would say there are a couple guys probably that are like that. It’s a good thing. Guys are going to be motivated every night,. You know that you can’t really have an off night. Again, you don’t want people being afraid of making a mistake and playing the game in fear, but you want to make sure that the motivation is there to be at your best and compete the way that you need to night after night.”
Frankly, this was the obvious move. Stoll, at this stage in his career, is a fourth-line center and Haula, who has two goals and two assists in 28 games and no points in the past 12 games, is a fourth-line center.
In New York, the Rangers have an overabundance of centers because Oscar Lindberg wowed in camp and made the team.
They tried Dominic Moore at wing, they tried Stoll at wing. Stoll wasn’t as good as Moore was at wing, but the Rangers like their team better when Moore’s playing center, not wing. So that and the need to clear cap space was why Stoll ended up on waivers.
Yeo said Stoll playing with Porter and Carter creates the identity the Wild wants right now with the fourth line.
“Committed to playing the game well defensively, competing hard and being a line that is tough to play against,” Yeo said.
Stoll said he has watched a lot of video the last couple days to try to get up to speed with the Wild’s system and the Wild does a lot of things he used to do with the Kings.
Yeo said because Stoll is such a vet, it should be quicker for him to pick things up.
“I don’t want him going out there and thinking too much,” Yeo said. “I just want him going out there and playing the game. Hockey’s still hockey. We have lots of time to get him fully up to speed with our game. I want to see him go out there and show us what his game is.”
Yeo addressed coming back with Dubnyk yesterday, but I liked this quote today from Yeo on Darcy Kuemper. Frankly, I like it because this is how I feel. Just because Kuemper won games doesn’t mean there’s a goalie controversy like some people have emailed me and tweeted me.
Kuemper is supposed to win games. That’s what backup is supposed to do.
“Devan’s our starter. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of question about that,” Yeo said. “Kuemps came in and did a great job. He played great. The reality is that’s what Kuemps is supposed to do. He’s supposed to not just come in and give rest. He’s supposed to come in and win hockey games.
“Most good teams have more than just one guy that can win hockey games and we feel that we’re there now too.”
I have received a lot of tweets asking if now’s the time to trade Kuemper. Unless there’s a no-brainer trade out there, if I’m Chuck Fletcher, I wait til the summer. Dubnyk is coming off a groin injury and has been inconsistent this season. Kuemper, if he keeps playing the way he did the past 10-12 days, is one heck of an insurance policy for the Wild.
If you trade Kuemper now as opposed to the summertime and don’t get a goalie back in a trade, your goaltending situation if Dubnyk got hurt or falters suddenly would be a rusty, dusty Niklas Backstrom and minor-league goalies who are not NHL-ready.
So I think trading Kuemper would be a risk.
The Rangers didn’t skate this morning, but former Gopher Brady Skjei will play his second game in the NHL. He became the 109th former Gopher to play an NHL game the other night vs. Edmonton.
Here is Skjei, a Lakeville native, in the Record (N.J.): “I’m pumped up, I couldn’t ask for more. It’ll be pretty cool to have family and friends there. I grew up watching games, I was a season ticket holder. When they started in 2000 I went to the first game there. I’ll probably buy 20 tickets and there are probably 50 who are getting tickets to watch.”
Reminder, Russo-Souhan Show today at 4 p.m. at Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub. FOX, NBC and MSG play-by-play guy Kenny Albert will be our special guest, so come on by. All of our podcasts are on malepatternpodcasts.com.
I’ll also be on with Barreiro on KFAN at 3:15 p.m.