Wild and Calgary Flames tonight. Kind of a big game as the Wild, which is strangely the favorite tonight (Vegas knows all?), looks to rebound from Monday’s one-goal loss in Vancouver.
The Flames are 10-16-1 when trailing after two periods. The 10 wins are a team record and two off the NHL record. As impressive as those comebacks are, the 27 times they have been trailing after two periods are only one fewer than Edmonton and Buffalo.
So, the Wild, which held onto a 1-0 lead in Calgary on Jan. 29 thanks largely to Calgary native Devan Dubnyk’s third-period brilliance, would love to build itself an early lead again tonight to force the Flames to chase.
Even coach Mike Yeo joked when asked about the comebacks, “I’d like to see if they can try to come back again.”
The Wild has outscored its opponents 18-5 in Dubnyk’s 14 first periods as the Wild goalie. He’ll make his 15th consecutive start tonight. The Wild is 10-2-2 since his Jan. 14 acquisition. I’m planning to do a big profile on him for Sunday’s paper, by the way. I’ve been gathering yarn for awhile.
Tonight: I don’t know line combinations, I don’t even know the full lineup, and we won’t until prior to the game, so follow me on Twitter by clicking this link.
Michael Keranen was recalled for the first time this season (see previous blog), but Yeo was noncommittal if he’ll alter the lineup and give Keranen his NHL debut if winger Thomas Vanek can play.
Vanek, who has been dealing with a lower-body injury for some time, aggravated the injury Monday in Vancouver. But he took part in this morning’s skate, lasted the entire skate and said the injury felt better and better through the skate.
“”Hopefully it’ll stay that way this afternoon. I’m sure I’ll have a chat with [Yeo] and see what to do for tonight,” said Vanek, the Wild’s third-leading scorer.
Vanek said, “The way I look at it, if I can deal with the pain and still contribute, then I’ll play. But if I feel I can’t help the team, I think it’s better if a different guy plays.”
One thing that could affect Yeo’s decision to play Keranen is the Wild shuttled him in from Charlotte (Iowa played there tonight) this morning instead of late yesterday for some reason, and Keranen had not arrived as of the end of the morning skate.
So if Keranen debuts, he would have to do so without a morning skate to get acclimated and after traveling from the wee hours of this morning for much of the day.
Still, Yeo said he didn’t want to say for sure yet if Keranen wouldn’t play if Vanek does play. “We have to make sure Thomas is 100 percent before we put him in the lineup tonight. If he were not to play, then that leaves a lot of things up in the air,” Yeo said.
Yeo said most of the things Jim Mill said on the previous blog, that Keranen is smart and “very crafty when he does get the puck,” but he needed to learn the North American game, how to play in more confined quarters and how to play well without the puck.
Yeo said all of the Wild’s youngsters in Iowa must realize that while they might have skill to be plugged into a top-6 role in Minnesota if ever needed, where they help their likelihood of contributing and getting recalled is if the team has trust they can play in any role.
Mikael Granlund is excited for his buddy. Keranen and Granlund were in the Finnish Army together, played against each other in the SM-Liiga and trained together last summer.
“I’m happy for him that he finally got up here,” said Granlund.
Keranen was recalled over Tyler Graovac because the Wild needs a winger, not a center, but Mill said, “Tyler is a real young kid in the middle of his second year and having success. We’ve got to be careful with this kid’s development. We can’t have him up and down on a yo yo right now. In fact, I had a conversation with him the other day. Not that he needed an explanation because he’s that good of a kid, but I wanted him to understand why he may see guys like Stephane Veilleux and Brett Sutter and Keranen going up over him.”
Besides the fact it often has to do with the role the Wild needs (scorer vs. checker or penalty killer) and position (center vs. wing and D), Mill told him that “his development has gone very, very well the last few years. Obviously we weren’t good, but there were times at the end of last year where he was the best player on the ice. As a first-year player, that was a good sign and this year that has continued and we want him playing big minutes and having a lot of responsibilities to generate offense and things like that.”
That’s it for me. Yeo praised the job Calgary native Matt Dumba has been doing lately.
I also had a real good conversation today with Nate Prosser about how often he gets annihilated on checks. It was real interesting, colorful stuff, and (subject to change) I’ll be writing about that for Friday’s paper. I’ve also got a bunch of other interesting stuff in the can you’ll be reading about in the coming days.
Big game tonight. Talk later. I've got a lot of work to do this afternoon, like writing and practicing for tomorrow night's, uh, media curling event in Edmonton.
I'm about to google the rules. Can I curl in slacks and loafers?
Maybe I'll live tweet!!!!