Afternoon from Xcel Energy Center.
Late update from practice, I know, but I made the mistake I thought I learned a lesson from years ago: Don't write in the blog platform. Write is MS word, then copy and paste. This time I wrote in here, my Pandora script needed debugging or something and it froze my Firefox. Lots of computer jargon I know nothing about, but long story short, my blog needed to be rewritten three-quarters the way through.
As you can imagine, I handled it well.
Devan Dubnyk vs. Ben Scrivens tonight as the Wild wraps up a two-game homestand with the Edmonton Oilers.
The Wild is 20-2-1 in its past 23 at home vs. the Oil and Dubnyk is 5-0 this season with a 0.79 goals-against average against his old team. He has allowed four goals in those five games.
Dubnyk has allowed 27 goals in 17 starts with the Wild, which is 13-2-2 since his arrival and 11-1-1 since the break.
Jared Spurgeon is getting better according to coach Mike Yeo, but he won’t go on the upcoming road trip to Nashville and (most likely) Denver. He has been off the ice since getting hurt in Calgary last Wednesday.
Spurgeon has been placed on injured reserve. He can be taken off anytime he’s ready to return. He was placed on IR to open up a roster spot in case of a callup or a trade. Nothing is imminent, I’m told. Just a paper move to buy a roster spot if needed.
Nail Yakupov is out tonight with a groin injury. I went to dinner last night with the Oilers scribes by the way, and I got to meet Matt Hendricks’ parents at the team hotel as they traveled in from Blaine to have dinner with their boy. How did I know it was Hendricks’ parents?
Matt’s dad’s face is identical to his son. Very nice folks, just like their son (well, nice off the ice. Don’t mess with him on the ice. He’s the type of player the Wild needs, but I digress).
Jeff Petry, who missed the past few games with a rib issue, is returning tonight, which is a little surprising since the Oilers will likely trade him by Monday’s deadline … and why risk injury?
As Hall of Fame hockey writer Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal tweeted, it’s not like other teams need to scout him. Hey, maybe he’s trying out for the Wild. I kid, I kid.
In all seriously, I’ll be on Fox Sports North during the pregame show and first intermission tonight to talk trade. As GM Chuck Fletcher told me in today’s Star Tribune here, his main objective going into the deadline is to improve the Wild’s depth with all these injuries. And when he says depth, it could very well mean depth.
On defense, the Wild is one Nate Prosser injury away from having to recall Justin Falk as a left-shot D or miscast right-shot rookie D's Matt Dumba or Christian Folin on the left side (the Wild hates doing that because as young D, the team wants them in the best situation to succeed) or put Jonas Brodin on the left side (and my opinion is the left-shot Brodin is never as good strangely at left D as he is as right, especially next to Ryan Suter. Just my opinion though. Not sure the organization agrees with my belief).
So with Spurgeon going to come back at some point and the fact that likely Folin would come out of the lineup when that happens and be the extra if the blue line is healthy (AGAIN, Prosser is needed to stay in the lineup on the left and has played great for a dozen games now), you really only need to acquire one D that can play games but maybe waits in the wings until needed. So, it wouldn’t shock me if the type of D acquired is a third-pair type of defenseman. We shall see. But I’d be very surprised if the Wild doesn’t acquire a defenseman before Monday’s 2 p.m. deadline, and probably a left-shot one.
Right now, the Wild’s not depending on a Keith Ballard return. If he ever does, it’d be a bonus body, but he hasn’t skated with the team since that one day two Sundays ago and he hasn’t decided if he’s going to return to play anyway.
Up front, same thing. Matt Cooke and Ryan Carter are coming back at some point, and with Justin Fontaine, Jordan Schroeder and Nino Niederreiter all stepping up on three different lines at least as of now, maybe Fletcher just looks for a depth kind of winger.
I was told by a GM a couple mornings ago that the prices right now for even the most mediocre of rentals is a bit ridiculous right now. So maybe the prices come down by Monday.
One thing affecting Fletcher’s decision to make a quote-unquote "hockey trade" similar to the Jason Pominville one two deadlines ago is the cap may not be rising next year. And that’s affecting a bunch of team decisions right now.
So even though some Wild fans are asking me about some of the names out there with term (non-rentals) like Tyler Bozak, Joffrey Lupul, James Wisniewski, etc., Fletcher may not want to delve into a player with term left in the $5 or $6 million ranges. That’s pretty expensive with an uncertain cap, not to mention the fact those players cost assets in return.
We shall see. It’ll be interesting to watch how Fletcher balances the appeal of making a move to maybe put the Wild "over the top" vs. just acquiring extra bodies and allowing this team that has done so much good and been so cohesive this 11-1-1 stretch continue to mature.
Yeo is really guarding against a letdown tonight. “We’ve been harping on it the last few days.”
He doesn’t want the Wild to take its foot off the gas after finally getting into the top-8. A Wild win and Winnipeg regulation loss tonight and the Wild moves into that top wildcard spot.
The Stars are starting Jhonas Enroth though, so bet the over.
Yeo said more than being in the top-8, “What’s more important to me is we continue to perform at the level that we have been, continue to prepare for every game the way that we have. Sixty-nine points does not get you in the playoffs. The fact that we’re in the top-8 today is not really that relevant. There’s an awful lot of work to be done.
“We have to continue to march forward.”
That passage came straight from the Coachspeak 101 handbook.
That’s it for now. Highlights of tomorrow’s game notebook?
I talked to Darcy Kuemper one-on-one about how he’s dealing with this situation. Marco Scandella is now wearing the cut-resistant Kevlar socks after his scare in Edmonton near his Achilles. Mikko Koivu basically saying proof that goals don’t always show how well you played or not came the other night when he was not happy at all with his game vs. Dallas. And a Gustav Olofsson update.