The Wild closes out the regular season tonight against Niklas Backstrom and the Calgary Flames.
Devan Dubnyk is expected to play half the game for Minnesota. Darcy Kuemper will play the second half. In the preseason, a backup goalie can come in and take a couple shots to warm up. That’s not the case in the regular season when it’s in relief of a healthy goalie. So Kuemper said he’d warm up in the locker room during the first intermission. Dubnyk and Kuemper joked he should come out with a glove full of pucks and accidentally drop them resulting in players shooting them at him.
Dubnyk, for the first time, will wear his “new” white pads in a game. I write “new” because as you’ll see, they’ve got plenty of puck marks on them because he has used them in practice for awhile.
Zach Parise again is out tonight for maintenance reasons. Thomas Vanek is injured. Jarret Stoll, Jordan Schroeder and, I believe, Nate Prosser won’t play tonight.
Ryan Carter will play for the first time since sustaining an upper-body injury March 19.
I believe these are the lines:
The Wild really worked the power play for most of today’s skate.
The No. 1 unit was 64-9-3-20-46. The No. 2 unit was 16-29-22-24-6.
John Torchetti hasn’t been happy with the power play of late. It’s 0 for 11 the past five games and he wants players to start to get dialed in because as you can see from the 2.2 per game the last five, it’s that time of year where power plays are less and less. So Torchetti says it’s imperative that players start to realize that make sure they take advantage of the previous few they may receive in the postseason.
What’s Torchetti expect tonight?
“Play a hard game and structured and get the power play working right and getting a win.
“You don’t want the emphasis as life or death, but it’s a win at home. Our fans come out to watch us play a game and we want to make sure we come out and work hard for them,” Torchetti said.
The past few days, the Wild has really, really worked the neutral zone on both sides of the puck. Torchetti charted the Wild with 18 turnovers near center the other night against San Jose.
“Too many,” he said. “That’s the No. 1 thing we want to shore up [heading into the playoffs].”
Torchetti spent a half hour talking with Flames coach Bob Hartley this morning. Hartley won a Cup with Colorado, but Torchetti called Hartley “one of my favorite coaches that I looked up to growing up” stemming from the days he coached Hershey in the AHL.
“I watched the team he built in Hershey,” Torchetti said. “I was just starting out when I’ve seen that team, and probably one of the hardest working teams I’ve ever seen win a Calder cup or a championship.”
Tonight could be Backstrom’s last NHL game. It’ll be his 212th start and 223rd game at Xcel Energy Center and Flames players apparently have all talked about wanting to get Backstrom a win.
“He’s been a big part of the success of this organization in the past and I’m sure he wants to leave on a winning note, but we want to make sure he doesn’t,” Torchetti said, coldly (ha).
Backstrom gave up six goals on 29 shots in St. Paul a few weeks ago to the Wild.
“The first game in Minny didn’t go his way, and we want to give him [another chance],” Hartley said yesterday. “And he earned it. I don’t want to sound like we’re giving him a favor. I like to reward guys with great attitudes and guys who work relentlessly. Many times, he’s the first guy on the ice for us. And many times, on the same day, he’s the last guy coming off the ice.”
So, in other words, Backstrom hasn’t changed.
Lastly, if by chance the Wild plays Dallas, Dallas Morning News reporter Mike Heika just reported that star Tyler Seguin (Achilles) is expected to practice Monday.
I’ll be on KFAN at 11:15 a.m. and on Fox Sports North around 5:45 p.m. tonight and the first intermission.
Also, at 2 p.m. at Tom Reid’s, I’ll be hosting the Russo-Souhan Show. My guests are Mark Parrish and Cities 97’s Paul Fletcher.