The Wild held an optional practice down at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday morning in preparation for Sunday's 2 p.m. matinee on NBC against the Detroit Red Wings.
Odd back-to-back for the Wings, who play in Columbus in an hour. At least they'll get to Minnesota at a decent hour tonight to get some sleep.
Sunday will be the return of Thomas Vanek and John Torchetti. I talked to Vanek by phone Friday, and he had a bunch of classy things to say about the Wild and his lack of bitterness toward being bought out. That story is here in Sunday's paper.
I checked in with Torch, too, but remember, I did my Sunday column on him a few weeks ago, so I didn't really write him again. If you missed that column, here that is. I also talked to Torchetti for my Mikael Granlund profile a few weeks ago and why Granlund was first moved to wing. If you missed that, here that is.
Also, please check out Sunday's paper because I wrote my Sunday column on the trade deadline and specifically the thoughts of Bruce Boudreau and Chuck Fletcher about so-called pushing all-in to go for a Stanley Cup.
Thanks to Kent Youngblood for covering last night's Wild game against Tampa Bay. Good two points for the Wild and, believe me from years of covering this league, that was a game the Wild probably would have lost in yesteryear.
The theory: You knew Wednesday the Wild would carry the momentum of the road trip and get up for playing the Blackhawks on a second of a back-to-back. As Boudreau told the team before that Chicago game, "You're going to be tired tomorrow, but be tired tomorrow, not tonight."
But Thursday was the Wild's first off-day in Minnesota in 10 days. It was a day to catch up with families, do errands, hang with the kids again, pay bills, whatever. Get your mind off hockey.
So I can tell you the coaches and management were scared to death the team would do what so often teams do in a game following that type of day off -- lay an egg to Tampa Bay.
The Lightning's a big, fast team that can slow things down, and while the Wild wasn't at its sharpest in its tightest game in weeks, the Wild certainly worked its butt off, got strong goaltending, defended hard and mustered out two points.
"The guys came after that day off [Thursday], which was really surprising to me, with so much enthusiasm, there was no, 'I'm tired and I've got to get going,' type of thing," Boudreau said. "They were ready to play. Tampa's going to be, if anybody thinks they're done, they're wrong. They're going to be a very difficult team, especially if they get a couple healthy bodies back."
Now, the Wings come to town and the Wild hopes to continue the momentum.
With a Western Conference-best 36 wins and 78 points, the Wild’s two wins and nine points from equaling last season’s 82-game totals. The Wild is 13-3-2 in 2017 and 25-4-2 since Dec. 4.
Since Nov. 23 when Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, NBC's Star of the Game Sunday, was 7-6-1 and in danger of falling to .500, he is 23-3-2 with a 2.14 GAA and .926 SV%.
Jason Pominville has 15 points in the past 11 games. Nino Niederreiter has three goals and two assists in the past three games. Jason Zucker is a point from 100 in his career. Mikael Granlund has at least a point in 13 of his past 15 games.
The Wild’s 14-5-1 against the East this season and 10-1 vs. the Atlantic Division. Last season, the Wild went 13-16-3 against the East and 8-6-2 vs. the Atlantic.
Minnesota is 5-2-6 in past 13 games against Detroit at home.
Defenseman Jonas Brodin, who broke a finger Jan. 17 and has missed 11 games, was medically cleared to practice for the first time today. He said he knew instantly that his finger was broken after being struck by a wrist shot just by looking at it. He said he's not 100 percent yet, that he still can't bend the finger fully and it still affects his shot and ability to do one-hand stuff.
But Boudreau was clearly happy to see him out there. He's probably a week away from a return.
"It's really good," Boudreau said. "Just to see him being part of the team again was really good. He's a really good player, so it was a big loss. It's amazing how when one guy goes out we come in and fill it by committee because we've continued at the same pace. But he's definitely missed.
"You worry sometimes that when he's out you're putting too much pressure and ice time on [Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon]. We can tell we miss him and definitely in situations where you're sitting there and you don't want to play Suter 31 minutes a night. You go, 'Geez, here's minutes that Brods could eat right up.' He's missed. The puck movement, the confidence you have back there, he's been really good."
That's it for me. Talk to ya Sunday.