Wild right wing Justin Fontaine will miss Game 2 with what I'm told is a groin injury.
Coach Mike Yeo said it's the type of injury that could be day-to-day or a week or so. Fontaine was being seen by Wild doctors during the Wild's optional practice today after Friday's series-opening 4-3 loss to the Blackhawks.
Yeo said there are several options, but he wouldn't divulge who will play for Fontaine.
Normally, Yeo would put the right-shot Jordan Schroeder in that spot, and he has played well against the Hawks and had one game with seven shots this year against them.
But Yeo also reminded that Erik Haula had a great series against Chicago last year. He hasn't played yet in the postseason as he's been deep in the doghouse after a tough regular season.
If Haula were to play, my guess is Kyle Brodziak would move to right wing. Yeo also said there's Ryan Carter and Sean Bergenheim, but my guess is Yeo will want to put a speedster in the lineup, so I'd think it would be Haula or Schroeder. Haula would be able to play penalty kill for Fontaine. Schroeder is an offensive weapon, but there is no doubt the Wild hasn't been pleased with his play in his own zone.
"It’s been tough for sure, but I’m so full of excitement," Haula said. "It’s hard to describe what it feels like being out and feeling kind of helpless. But I’ve been working hard. If they call upon me, I’m going to give it my all and make sure it’s going to be tough to take me out."
The Wild's looking to respond Sunday. This is the first time it has trailed in a series this postseason and it has fallen behind 2-0 in a series in three of its past four series.
"We still feel fine," Zach Parise said. "We’re not freaking out or anything. … We’re not sitting here thinking, ‘Oh here we go again.’"
The Wild hasn't lost consecutive games in regulation in the Devan Dubnyk era and he responded impressively from two losses in the St. Louis series.
"All year, we’ve done a good job of putting things behind us and moving on – win or loss," Dubnyk said.
The gist of today is the Wild felt the first period was not nearly as bad as a 3-0 deficit would seem to indicate and that the pushback in the second period off a terrific forecheck and more speed has the Blackhawks' attention.
"I know one thing against this team, I think we have their attention probably a little more than we have in the past," Yeo said. "But with that comes maybe a greater sense of preparation on their part going into every game and I think we’ll see that again tomorrow."
"It took us to go down 3-0 and start from scratch and start building," said Chris Stewart, who is still looking for his first goal this postseason. "We know we’re going to get our chances against them. The more we get in their zone and grind them down and make them work 200 feet for their chances and frustrate them will play more into our gameplan.
"They won the game, but they're probably not feeling too well about the pushback we had. We came here to get one and hopefully we get one."
Added rookie defenseman Matt Dumba, "Our first period [Sunday] night will be a lot better than that. I think we’re going to bring a lot more speed to our game. I think that’s going to be a big one and that will play a big role in the game. I think we weren’t up to speed where we wanted to be and we need to pressure them into situations they don’t want to be in."
Yeo said, "Looking at the game again, there are a couple things we can do a little bit more consistently on a little bit more throughout the entire course of the game. I think speed is number one. We only saw it enough in spurts, so picking up the pace of our play, but also the forecheck, pressure, the physicality. Once that started to come into play, we started to find our game a little bit more.
"Our first period, I would say, was actually pretty decent. But pretty decent’s not going to cut it. I think we spent more time in their zone than they spent in ours. We had some shots, we had some moments, we had some opportunities, but I would say the assertiveness of our start and making sure we’re not giving up quality chances that we did early in the game, I think being a little bit more whether it’s aggressive or physical in the puck strength battles, I think that’s something we have to be a little bit more prepared for. Whatever the case is, whether it was rust or whether it was just not being ready from the drop of the puck, we have to make sure that we change that for tomorrow."
On the Blackhawks' rush goals, "They’re a great team, but again I’m not overly concerned about those two plays that developed. I don’t know that there should have been a penalty on the play, but they tried to chip it in and [Brandon Saad] grabs [Ryan] Suter’s stick and kind of slingshots himself past him. That’s an odd play on that one. And on the second one, we got caught in a little bit of a bad gap. That’s something we’re a little bit more prepared for now. But again, maybe the rust, maybe the time off – normally we’re a very strong 1 on 1 team so that’s not a big concern."
On the importance of Game 2, Yeo said, "That’s a good question. I don’t really want to get into what ifs to be honest with you. If you ask me if I want to win that game tomorrow I would say yes I would definitely like to. Being 1-1 would definitely be better than being down 2-0. Last year we proved that being down 2-0 doesn’t mean the end of you. We were able to come back, but certainly we are putting a great emphasis on that game tomorrow. It’s a much different situation if you can grab a game and go back, as we saw last series."
On Thomas Vanek's game, "If you’re talking to him, you hear his comments, our thoughts as well, not to say that this is the type of series where he could be more of a factor but certainly when a player has that type of feeling it leads to a lot more confidence and I think we saw that confidence from him right from the start. He was involved in an awful lot of scoring chances for us last night and he certainly is a guy, if you want to call him an X factor, he’s definitely a guy who can be a difference maker in a series like this."
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville expects the Wild to push hard Sunday.
"Minnesota’s going to make you deserve everything you get," he said. "They’re not going to give you anything. We’ve got to be ready for a hard game. You’re going to be seeing progression the emotion, the intensity, every game we’re going to be playing. And I would expect the pace to be like that, as well."
Most shocking about the start of Game 1 was just how rusty the Wild's defensemen were. They quickly learned the Blackhawks have a different push the pace rush style than the chip and chase Blues.
“I think their defense and defensive schemes as a group of five defend better than anyone, beating guys one-on-one or getting those situations,” Quenneville said. “You have to take advantage of them but don’t anticipate getting many of them. We cashed in on them. … But getting scoring chances against Minnesota is not easy."
Couple interesting Blackhawks things:
Antoine Vermette won 11 of 14 faceoffs in Game 1, none bigger than the defensive-zone draw that Brad Richards turned into a Patrick Kane goal in seven seconds.
It was like the perfect storm of bad for the Wild just because the way its set faceoff play was being deployed, Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella were on their wrong sides.
Vermette shoveled the puck forward toward the Blackhawks blue line for Richards to skate into. Scandella never looked comfortable and took a strange route to Richards and the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner took advantage of the poor gap.
Vermette indicated the shovel ahead was because he noticed that Wild center Mikko Koivu looked to be trying to win the draw to Spurgeon for a one-timer.
“The way the centerman was taking his draw, I gave a look to Ritchie and fortunately enough it worked out,” Vermette said.
Also, prior to Saad’s goal 75 seconds in, Suter (as you read above, Yeo) felt Saad ripped his stick out of his hands. By the time Suter caught it, Saad was behind him before scoring Chicago’s first goal.
Asked if he had a hand in Suter losing his stick, Saad said, “It’s a hockey play and it worked out.