As coach Mike Yeo said after the Wild’s 4-0 shutout over the Nashville Predators tonight, good bounceback win for his squad after a substandard 1-2-1 road trip and three-game winless streak.
The Wild improved to 8-1 at home and tonight for a change didn’t have to chase a hockey game from the outset. The Wild is now 9-1 when scoring first.
This will be a stream of consciousness blog, and as always, please check out the game story and game notebook on startribune.com/wild.
-- Also please check out my Sunday Insider where I talk about the 3-on-3 All-Star “Tournament” and also the Travis Hamonic trade talk. Here’s that link.
-- I have been asked over and over when the Wild will officially unveil its Stadium Series jerseys that will be worn Feb. 21 at TCF Bank Stadium against the Blackhawks. The answer, I’m told, is “really, really, really soon,” like by Thanksgiving.
-- Mikko Koivu played his 700th game tonight and assisted on Jonas Brodin’s first goal of the season. Koivu reminded me of a funny story this morning that I tossed in my notebook here about Nick Schultz. Schultz did email me today and said, “We had a great time being roomies. Mikko and Willie Mitchell, who were my two roommates in Minnesota, are two of my closet friends in hockey just from the amount of time you spend together. Congrats to Mikko on 700, a great accomplishment to a great friend and teammate.”
-- Ryan Suter continues to be great for the Wild. He scored his first career goal against his old Predators team tonight and registered his seventh career 3-point game. He now has 12 points in 15 career games against Nashville and has 13 points in his last 11 games for the Wild. He leads the Wild with 19 points, which ranks third among NHL defensemen.
He has especially been great lately when the Wild has been playing without Marco Scandella, with a sick Jared Spurgeon, with a sick Jonas Brodin and a banged-up Matt Dumba. But his game has not slipped, and Yeo gave him mad props tonight, stuff I’ll toss in my Sunday for Monday follow story (no practice Sunday).
-- This just popped in my head, but if you saw David La Vaque's article today, Richfield High School had to cancel its season because of too few players. I talked to Richfield alum Darby Hendrickson tonight and I’ll toss his thoughts of this sad story in Monday’s paper as well.
-- Nate Prosser got lots of praise in the locker room for fighting James Neal. Neal injured Zach Parise with a check in the previous meeting (the Wild’s only home loss this season) Nov. 5, hurt Prosser and took a run at Charlie Coyle in that game. Prosser and Ryan Carter each challenged him to fights on their first shifts against him tonight, and with the Wild up 3-0, Neal and Prosser fought. Prosser came up bloodied, either from a punch when his jersey was over his head or after he hit the ice when Neal disobeyed “the code” and punched him again.
“It shows how we feel about what he did to our best player,” Dubnyk said. “It was important just for the symbolic part of it. Guys are going to fight for each other.”
Prosser’s just a funny dude, and if you know him, very Minnesota Nice. He’s always smiling. He came out to talk to the media, had blood on the bridge of his nose, in his nose, in his ear, all over a towel he was holding. Yes, he smiled through his entire press scrum.
“I asked him the first shift of the game, and he wanted to wait I guess,” Prosser said. “But I felt like it was going to happen. That was kind of a perfect storm there and we squared off and easy time to do it. I felt it coming.”
Yeo praised Prosser, saying assistant coach Rick Wilson made a comment recently about Prosser: “He’s just a gamer. That’s what I like. He’s a guy that’ll just go out and do whatever it takes for his teammates. He might not be a sexy player, and he’s not going to lead your team in points. But those are glue guys, those are important guys for your locker room and those are important guys for winning hockey games.”
-- Near the end of the game, I noticed Neal crashed the net and start yapping at Dubnyk. I asked Dubnyk, who had 23 saves for his third shutout of the season and 17th of his career, what Neal said.
“He told me that he hopes that I don’t get a shutout,” Dubnyk said, laughing and drawing laughter from us media jackals. “I imagine you don’t. You’re on the ice.”
Dubnyk, who played briefly with Neal last season in Nashville, said Neal was part of that Ireland golf outing he went on with several NHLers last June.
“I didn’t really want to be laughing with him. I don’t really like what he did to Zach,” Dubnyk said.
-- Thomas Vanek was outstanding all game. Yeo loved his game in the offensive and defensive zones. He was a constant scoring threat, was a constant net-front threat and was rewarded with a goal and assist. Mikael Granlund also had a goal and assist and is heating up with six points in his past six games after five in his first 13. He has two 2-point games in his past three. Jason Pominville had two assists and was a big part of a power play that scored twice. For the first time I can remember with the Wild, he played kinda sorta the right point – basically the top of the right circle spot that had previously been occupied by left-shots Parise, Scandella and Jason Zucker.
Yeo credited Andrew Brunette for the adjustments, something he saw on Nashville’s penalty kill.
Pominville’s 19 games without a goal now but was good on that Vanek-Granlund line that played so well tonight.
-- Big deal tonight was finally scoring first after not doing so during the four-game road trip. The Wild is 9-1 when scoring first as I may have written already in this ginormous blog.
“That’s a huge difference when you’re not chasing games, but good teams don’t lose every night when you give up the first goal, and I just don’t think lately we’ve been as strong when we give up the first goal,” Yeo said. “We’re usually a good comeback team, but part of being a good comeback team is you have to stay strong defensively. Too many times giving up the first goal has weakened our game.”
Yeo said the Wild just did the little things that had been ailing them recently with more purpose.
-- Yeo didn’t have an update on whether Parise was cleared for practice Monday, so we’ll have to wait and see.
-- Final thought from Yeo: “This was a real good bounceback game. The blueprint of it looked a lot more the way that our game should look identity-wise, feel-wise from the bench.”
-- Friday night, I went down to St. Louis Park Rec Center to watch Mark Parrish coach his first Orono High game against St. Louis Park. 5-2 loss, yet they pretty much outchanced em. It was cool seeing Parrish’s debut behind the bench considering I covered his first NHL game in Florida, his first All-Star Game for the Islanders in L.A. and his first Wild game here. He had no voice afterward and got in his exercise, running back and forth behind the bench. I joked with him after, “You moved your feet more behind the bench than you ever did as a player.” Zing. Just a fun night and they have a couple real quality players.
By the way, Orono just hired on Matt Cooke to help out and the folks who judged Parrish’s tryouts were Ben Clymer, Ryan Malone and Geno Parrish.
Josh Harding is helping out at Edina, too, by the way.
-- That’s it for moi. Talk to you after Monday’s practice.