The Wild will be facing a motivated bunch tomorrow night at Xcel Energy Center.
As first reported by TSN's Darren Dreger, John Tortorella -- the fiery, combustible John Tortorella -- is back behind an NHL bench. Tortorella, who was awesome as a TV analyst these past several months, will make his Columbus Blue Jackets coaching debut against the Wild after former Wild coach Todd Richards was fired this morning in Columbus.
Richards was replaced in the early morning hours after the Blue Jackets suffered a seventh consecutive regulation loss to open the season. The former Gopher was 127-112-21 behind the Columbus bench. In 2011, Richards was fired by the Wild after 13th- and 12th-place finishes, going 77-71-16.
Mike Yeo has coached the Wild in the five seasons since.
The Blue Jackets, who go from players coach to abrasive coach, will surely be jacked up to play the Wild. All teams playing for the first time under a new coach are. The Wild hasn’t played since Sunday. Its last two games were against Los Angeles and Anaheim – two teams that entered winless and left with a victory.
The Blue Jackets, who entered this season with lofty expectations after a strong finish to last season and acquiring Brandon Saad this offseason, have been doomed so far by subpar defense (minus-21 goal differential, 18 third-period goals allowed, 0 one-goal games) and abysmal goaltending.
Even with Richards’ job on the line, the beleaguered coach couldn’t start Sergei Bobrovsky the past two games as the goalie worked to get his act together and head on straight. Bobrobvsky complained after a recent 7-3 loss to Ottawa that he had “zero confidence.” The next game against Toronto, he cracked dramatically in the third period.
He is 0-5 with a 5.07 goals-against average. One would think he’ll debut for Tortorella tomorrow.
Tortorella, 57, is 446-375-115 as a coach with the Lightning (2004 Stanley Cup), the Rangers and Canucks. He leads all U.S.-born coaches in victories – five more than Nashville’s Peter Laviolette.
It’ll be an interesting time now in Columbus. Brandon Dubinsky, for one, can’t be feeling too good. After Tortorella was fired by the Rangers, the then-Blue Jacket Dubinsky, long in Tortorella’s doghouse in New York, said publicly their relationship fell apart and Torts’ relationship with many teammates did as well.
Hockey is a small world and you never know when reunions will occur. This reunion should be an uncomfortable one.
Rachel Blount is covering Wild practice today, so follow her on Twitter for Wild news at www.twitter.com/blountstrib. I’ll be on Fox Sports North tomorrow night and I’ll be co-hosting my podcast with Jim Souhan at Tom Reid’s tomorrow at 4 o’clock. Come on by.