Q: Hey, Randy, it seems like the deck is stacked against the Wild right now, playing in a tough division, with the COVID factor and shaking off the rust from this layoff. Does it all seem like too much to salvage this season? — Chris in Roseville.
A: Did we give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor, Chris? No. And it's way too early to give up on the season. The Wild is fourth in win percentage in the West with games in hand on most of the teams in the division. Of course, games in hand mean little if you don't win them, but I'm telling you there's a chance for the team to get in the top four in the division and still make the playoffs. Arizona, Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose are the teams in the Wild's way, and I don't see any of them being the 1977 Montreal Canadiens. First thing, though, is that coach Dean Evason must find a way to fix that horrendous power play (3-for-50).
Q: Whatever happened to Mat Robson? Seems like the Wild could use him right now with Cam on the COVID list. Kaapo's been OK, but this seemed like it would have been a chance for Robson. – Mike in Faribault.
A: The Wild let go of former Gopher Mat Robson after last season, in which he went 11-10-7 with a 2.97 goals-against average and .901 save percentage in 26 games with Iowa of the AHL. Robson landed with the Straubing Tigers of the Deutsch Elite League, where he has a 3.25 goals-against average and .881 save percentage. The Wild felt it had better long-term options in its system, including Kaapo Kahkonen, Dereck Baribeau and 2019 second-round draft pick Hunter Jones.
Q: Is it safe to assume that Gophers hockey needs to finish in the top two of the Big Ten to assure themselves of an NCAA tournament bid? – Mark Pryor.
A: I don't believe they have to finish in the top two to make the NCAA field, though that's a very safe route. I believe that three Big Ten Tens will make it – Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. It'll get tricky if a team outside of the top three in the regular season wins the Big Ten tournament and its automatic NCAA bid because I'd be surprised if four Big Ten teams make the NCAA field. The situation became more interesting Thursday when Penn State had to cancel is series against the Gophers because of positive COVID-19 tests in the Nittany Lions program. With teams now playing unbalanced schedules, the Big Ten will use winning percentage instead of total points for its standings and tournament seedings.