Wild vs. the Dallas Stars tonight. The game is on NBC Sports Network with TSN’s Gord Miller on the call with … … … great Minnesotan Bret Hedican, who won a Cup with Carolina and but is best known as, of course, a former Florida Panther.
“Hedi” was involved in two big Florida trades, coming to the Panthers in the Pavel Bure blockbuster and eventually being traded to the Canes in the Sandis Ozolinsh deal.
Devan Dubnyk vs. Jhonas Enroth tonight. Remember, the Dubnyk era (I wrote a profile on Dubnyk in today’s paper here, and I left a lot of the cutting room floor for later stories) began Jan. 15 in Buffalo with a 7-0 win against Enroth.
The Wild is 12-2-2 since. Ales Hemsky, who typically stinks against the Wild dating to his Edmonton days, may be out tonight. Brendan Ranford had been recalled if Hemsky can’t play. If Hemsky can, Ranford will probably be reassigned.
Wild has won four straight at home against Dallas, is 3-1 against Dallas this year but last got pounded 7-1 there.
For the first time since the Wild’s 10-1-1 post-All-Star break run began, there’s no reason for you or the Wild to scoreboard watch tonight.
If the Wild wins, it’s at least temporarily inside the top-8 for the first time since Nov. 24 without the need of somebody losing.
Coach Mike Yeo said the Wild is aware of the standings, but just “because we’re closer now doesn’t mean we should change our approach.” He said the Wild has done a good job “not being clouded with outside noise” and the standings and he knows the Stars, who are four points behind Minnesota, will be a very desperate hockey team tonight.
They lost 7-6 in overtime last night against Detroit.
The Wild is 5-1-1 since the injuries to Jason Zucker and Ryan Carter (if you include the Vancouver game that they were hurt in during the first period).
No changes to the Wild lineup. The Wild will again be without Jared Spurgeon tonight, who remains day-to-day with what sounds like concussion-like symptoms. So same D tonight: Suter-Brodin; Scandella-Dumba; Prosser-Folin.
Coach Mike Yeo cautioned Dumba after his terrific game in his hometown of Calgary (he had 30 friends and family members there) that often kids take a step back the following game, so Yeo was very pleased with the 20 minutes Dumba played in Edmonton. Same with Folin, who played 16:55 and mostly a necessary regular shift because Marco Scandella missed the second half of the first period to have a wound closed after having his ankle stepped on.
Yeo said of missing Spurgeon, “It’s a difficult player to replace in your lineup. We’re losing a valuable player and a guy that provides a lot to our group in many different roles,” but Yeo said you need guys to step up and the two rooks are certainly doing that.
Yeo said Dumba is a “kid who wants more and he recognized the opportunity with Spurg being out of the lineup and he had himself ready to play the right way.”
Dumba has a lot of confidence in his overall game, not just offensively. He said, “That’s when I play my best hockey when I can be trusted and relied on and can make plays out there. It’s easy playing on a team that’s playing with so much confidence and trust in each other. We have something really good going on right now, and hopefully we keep building on that.”
Folin said he feels in great shape right now and he said that’s a testament to the work assistants Darryl Sydor, Andrew Brunette and Darby Hendrickson put him through while he was a healthy scratch six straight games. He felt in Edmonton he carried the momentum from playing four games in Iowa into that game.
Yeo loves Folin’s ability to defend, execute through the neutral zone and get shots through from the blue line like he did on Justin Fontaine’s first goal in Edmonton.
Yeo said right now they’re going day-to-day with the goaltending.
GM Chuck Fletcher told me the Wild won’t be allowed to get Darcy Kuemper to Iowa on another conditioning stint to get some action before he starts next, so he’ll just have to play.
Yeo talked to him today and told him that especially with not a lot of practice days, “it’s increasingly important for him how he handles these pregame skates, how he handles the extra work when he goes on earlier or after practice. Bob Mason is doing a good job with both those guys (Niklas Backstrom). We have to make sure we’re keeping them sharp. It’s not just the repetition. It’s the habits. Quite often in the pregame spot, you don’t have the urgency you would in a practice.
“He’s mindful of it right now, and we’re just trying to stay on him about it.”
Yeo said there is no plan as to when Kuemper will make his first NHL start since Jan. 6. “We’re going day by day,” Yeo said. The Wild has four sets of back-to-backs next month, so Kuemper will be needed at some point. But as of now, Dubnyk will make his 17th consecutive start tonight.