The Wild, which has the NHL's second-best road points percentage at .694, kicks off a tough five-game trip tonight at the Tampa Bay Lightning.
This could be a low-scoring game against another desperate opponent. The Wild’s 3-2 since its bye with four goals in its past three games (1-2), including an empty-netter. The Lightning is 1-1-1 in its past three games with one goal in regulation in its past two games. The Wild’s 4-1-1 in its past six against Tampa Bay.
The Wild's 15-6-1 vs. the East this season, including 11-1 vs. the Atlantic. Last season, it was 13-16-3 vs. the East and and 8-6-2 vs. the Atlantic. The Wild has not allowed a power-play goal in 11 straight games (22-for-22), just shy of the franchise record of 12 games (30-for-30, 1/27-2/20/15).
Defenseman Matt Dumba didn't fly with the Wild to Tampa, but Dumba and equipment manager Tony DaCosta were feeling better from the Wild's latest ailment (the norovirus) and arrived in Tampa last night via a commercial flight.
However, Dumba still hasn't eaten much, so he won't play tonight. The hope is he can return tomorrow at the Florida Panthers.
Strange, and I don't know if it's a correlation, but two years ago when the Wild had the mumps, right after the Wild got done with the mumps came the nasty norovirus (Jared Spurgeon, Niklas Backstrom). Seems a little too coincidental, no?
I hear lots of Wild guys have been sick the past week (Jonas Brodin had it bad a few days ago), so maybe this also explains the lack of energy in Minnesota's game the past week.
Devan Dubnyk vs. Andrei Vasilevskiy tonight. Vasy is 3-0-1 in four starts since the Ben Bishop trade with four 30-plus save performances.
With Dubnyk starting tonight, I'd assume Darcy Kuemper starts at Florida.
Lines tonight are similar to the San Jose game two games ago with a slight tweak: Ryan White on the third line and Charlie Coyle on the fourth.
Coyle (at LW)-Haula-Pominville
"We pretty well went back to the San Jose [lines]," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We played so well that game. ... We've got to start trying to get combinations and leaving them together to get accustomed to each other."
On why Coyle at left wing? "We've talked about Coyle on the left side because he protects the puck better, and then when he's coming down the boards and he goes to the middle, he's on his forehand to get a better shooting possibility. If we can get away with it, that's a pretty good fourth line."
Asked though if that's an indictment of Coyle, who has no points and is minus-7 in the past nine games, Boudreau said it wasn't. "I'm always trying to get balance. If we're using [Hanzal] as a secondary checking unit type thing, then this makes sense."
Coyle has been bouncing around left and right -- now literally -- for six weeks. He had no goals and six assists in a 13-game stretch, then had a goal and five assists in four games before this latest drought.
Asked how trying this period has been, Coyle said, "I've just got to play my game night in and night out, and don't worry about the points. Points will come, and as long as we get the two at the end, that's the main thing. I just have to stick to my game and bring that every night."
Boudreau said if Dumba was completely healthy, he'd be playing.
On this new virus, Boudreau said, "We find different viruses every week it seems for the last little while, so hopefully it's ended here and Dumba and Tony are the last two."
That's it for now. I'll be on Fox Sports North tonight during the pregame show and first intermission to talk about the happenings at the GM's meeting in Boca Raton and my sitdown this morning with Henry and Linda Staal, Eric's folks.
The Russo-Souhan Show will be tweeted by me soon, and will be on mnspn.com later.
I'll also have a neat note on this Mikael Granlund emoji being downloaded bigtime around Finland right now. I talked to Granlund this morning about it, and it was much to Mikko Koivu's delight, who had some fun with it ... at Granlund's poor expense.