The Wild’s last home win of last season came against the St. Louis Blues in Game 6 of the first round, and tonight, the two rivals renew that rivalry at Xcel Energy Center.
Good day from the press room. A reminder, come to Tom Reid’s at 4 p.m. to take part in the Russo-Souhan Show podcast on malepatternpodcasts.com. Also, the Wild’s having a pregame party outside the arena at 4 p.m.
Justin Fontaine remains on injured reserve and won’t play tonight. Nino Niederreiter is OK (more below) and will play tonight.
Jordan Schroeder was recalled from AHL Iowa last night and will play in tonight’s home opener. No matter what Schroeder does tonight, I’d suspect he’ll be assigned to Iowa tomorrow barring injuries to other players.
The Wild doesn’t play again until Thursday at Arizona, the salary cap is calculated daily, so with the Wild now about $600,000 from the cap, there’s little chance it’ll have Schroeder practicing here taking up cap space. Remember, the cap is calculated daily in the NHL and doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room right now.
Lots of people have asked me if there’s any chance GM Chuck Fletcher would call his old Buffalo pal, Tim Murray, and offer him Niklas Backstrom. Of course. The Wild would also retain half the salary and cap hit, too, but right now the Sabres are going with Chad Johnson and may not have any interest in Backstrom even if that falters.
Unfortunately, Schroeder may be destined for a season of being up and down because of how tight the Wild is to the cap ceiling unless there continues to be injuries.
“I’m aware of it. It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is,” Schroeder said. “That’s part of this business. You have to be able to take some punches. It’s how you respond and get back up that shows your character. I’m always going to be giving them 100 percent out there.”
It was a tough camp for Schroeder. He didn’t score in the preseason and had a groin injury, shoulder injury and strep throat all in the same week.
“I’m putting it behind me and I’m ready to work,” he said. “It’s always a great opportunity when you can come up right away. Anytime you get called back up and have an opportunity to play in the NHL, it’s an honor.”
Schroeder though admits he was stunned when informed last week he didn’t make the team and was placed on waivers.
“I was really disappointed. I’m not going to lie,” he said. “I took it pretty hard. That day was hard on me, but [I] manned up, put it behind me and got my head straight and [decided] I’m going to go down and work hard and do whatever it takes to get back up here.”
Unfortunately, like I said, without an injury, this opportunity will be very temporary. With only 11 healthy forwards, he can come up on emergency conditions and it delays when the Wild would next have to put him on waivers to continue the Iowa-Minnesota shuffle he very well may be destined for this season.
Schroeder will play the right side of Thomas Vanek and Charlie Coyle.
I personally believe Fontaine believes he’s ready to go, but this was the organizational decision and we’ll see if Fontaine plays at Arizona, where he once had a hat trick, incidentally.
Niederreiter is good to go tonight after his awkward collision with the boards in Denver in the third period. He gave us his perspective of what has been dubbed by some on Twitter at #DoctorGate.
In the NHL now, when you sustain a potential head injury, it’s a spotter’s job or in this case a trainer’s job to get that player to a so-called quiet room. He then gets baseline tested by a doctor and has to be cleared to return to the game.
Niederreiter came to the bench, told Wild athletic therapist Don Fuller his head hurt and Fuller immediately got him off to the locker room.
There, Niederreiter waited for an Avs doctor to come check him out.
“I tried to get it checked out, and the doctor wasn’t ready, I guess,” Niederreiter said. “I was just sitting there and then all of a sudden the doctor showed up and told me he had to stitch up another guy (likely Gabriel Landeskog, who headed to the locker room for repair at one point), so he was late and told me he’s the only guy that can do the [head] exam.”
This is why the Wild was under the assumption there was one doctor at the game. The league says there were a minimum of three, so the question is why didn’t one of them come and check on Niederreiter OR why did one of them not stitch up Landeskog if there’s only one doctor that apparently can do the baseline test?
“You want to go back and can’t,” Niederreiter said. “It was more frustrating that he didn’t check me out right way. You never know what happens if the game goes to overtime or a shootout, who knows? There could have been plenty of time to get back.”
Kyle Brodziak returns to Minnesota for the first time tonight. He has a ton of friends in the Wild room, and as close friend Jared Spurgeon said, “It’ll be a bit different seeing him on the other side. We’re looking forward to battling it out.”
Brodziak, too, said it’ll be different and he’ll probably have some nerves and he’ll try to have fun with it. He didn’t know too many guys in the Blues room. He played junior hockey in Moose Jaw with Troy Brouwer and skates with Jay Bouwmeester during the summertime in Edmonton.
He ranks seventh all-time in Wild history with 446 games.
“I pretty much knew I was going to be moving on,” Brodziak said. “Talking with [GM Chuck Fletcher] and knowing the team’s cap situation, he pretty much said it was probably time for both sides to move on. … Over the past year or two, you start seeing the end coming near, so you start preparing yourself for a fresh start. That’s what I was doing. I was looking forward to it and enjoying it right now.”
I have gotten a ton of questions asking why on Earth the Wild would essentially replace Brodziak with Chris Porter, who’s not making a whole lot less than Brodziak’s 900K on a one-year deal.
I’d have to think if Fletcher thought he could have gotten Brodziak at that price, he would have made it happen. But July 1 offered Brodziak the chance to move on and test the open market and by that point the Wild made its decision that it too would move on and attempt to re-sign Chris Stewart. He ended up going to Anaheim and the Wild ultimately brought in Porter on waivers late in camp.
Because of the Wild’s cap situation, Fletcher has said he was waiting regardless on any free agent.
Brodziak found free agency tough like so many guys in the NHL affected by the cap going up marginally.
“In past years, being a UFA, was usually a good thing,” Brodziak said. “Guys go to the open market and have a number of teams to choose from. This year was different talking to a lot of guys. It turned out being a pretty slow couple of days.
“The end of day one, nothing had really happened besides kicking tires but not any real offers. There were teams saying, ‘Yeah, we might be interested,’ but until you get an actual offer, the nerves were definitely going up. But once St. Louis was interested, I was excited to be on a contender.”
As I have said a thousand times, the Wild will miss Brodziak. He was a pro’s pro, a great penalty killer, played Mike Yeo’s system to a T and always stood up for teammates.
As for the Blues, Yeo said, “I don’t think it was much of a rivalry before [beating St. Louis in the playoffs] because they just beat us for fun every time. As we’ve gotten more competitive, the rivalry has grown.
“It’s gotten to the point they understand we’re a pretty decent team, too. It makes for great hockey. We have a lot of respect for them.”
Said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, “I like the test when you play teams like Minnesota because they challenge every aspect of your game – special teams, your faceoffs, your team play. They’re a good test early in the year for us.”