Below us in the press box, the North Stars and Wild old-timers are facing the Blackhawks as we speak.
A few hours ago, the Blackhawks and Wild practiced on the outdoor sheet here at TCF Bank Stadium in preparation for Sunday's 2:30 p.m. Stadium Series Game.
As of now, this will be the second of 17 NHL outdoor games NOT to sell out, but owner Craig Leipold set the record straight as to why.
"The fact of the matter is we sold all the 35,000 tickets allocated to us. Chicago sold all of the 10,000 tickets allocated to them. And on Wednesday, we got back from the league 4,000 tickets and we had no opportunity to sell them. So that's the only reason. This would have been sold out weeks ago. Three weeks ago, we had 400 tickets left."
Leipold, by the way, spoke for the first time today since Mike Yeo was fired. His comments will be in Sunday's paper.
On Sunday, the Wild will be seeking to win four in a row for the first time and looking to avoid establishing a new team record home winless streak of nine games. The Wild, winless at Xcel Energy Center since Dec. 28, is 0-5-3 in its past eight at home.
The Wild and Blackhawks have faced off 59 times during the regular season since Minnesota entered the NHL in 2000-01. The Wild lead the head-to-head series with 34 victories and 71 points, compared to the Blackhawks’ 24 wins and 57 points. Minnesota has won each of the past four regular-season matchups, including both in 2015-16.
The Hawks, a few days after going to the White House for the third time in this presidency, are playing in their fourth outdoor game. They're 1-2 and are expected to play in next year's Winter Classic in St. Louis.
Some news and notes of today:
1. Devan Dubnyk brushed off a "scary" puck to the neck in practice.
"It hurt," he said. "A high shot turned a little bit and hit me in the bare neck. Those pucks are hard," he said, laughing."It just killed my whole right arm, it went completely numb. Little scary."
2. Dubnyk said he had no issues tracking the puck today.
"I thought it was great out there," Dubnyk said. "With the light cloud cover, everything was bright. You look beyond the glass, it's light, which is beneficial for a goalie. I enjoyed it out there. I thought it was good tracking the puck. Maybe a different story if the sun’s high in the sky and there’s 10 shadows flying around out there. I watched the game between Washington and Chicago and didn’t envy the goalies when the puck was in the shadows."
3. Defenseman Marco Scandella, who missed the past two games with an upper-body injury, practiced today. If all goes well, he should play Sunday. If he does, Nate Prosser looked like the extra. Chris Porter looks like the odd forward out again.
4. Joel Quenneville quotes:
Talked to Torchetti? “Not yet. I’ll hopefully see him here later in the day or tomorrow before the game.”
Thoughts on his success this week and having his home opener in the Stadium Series? “Pretty special week for him. I’m sure he’s excited about the opportunity and he’s done a great job in a short amount of time, so. It will be for keeps when we start here tomorrow, but I wish him well.”
What did he mean for your start in Chicago? “He had a little bit of feel for the team; he was familiar with some of the players, and I think he worked well with those guys, and that experience helped me coming in new and fresh -- whether it was awareness of how they play, or how things around the organization and the team. It was beneficial for us, and for me, and we had a great run, a great year, a great experience right off the bat that year, and then the next year as well. It was a great process. He did a good job for us. I’m happy to see him get back to our level as a head coach. I wish him well.”
5. Jonathan Toews quotes:
On playing in three outdoor games before: "There’s no doubt your fourth one is not exactly a novelty like it was at first, but still exciting. It looks like we’re going to get some decent weather, knock on wood. I think the ice was pretty good today. When it gets cold that’s when it chips up and it’s a little bit tough to play your game.
It was fun to be out there today and I think we’re going to have a great atmosphere tomorrow with a division rival and a team we’ve seen in the playoffs for the past three years. I think it’s shaping up to be a good game so I think it will be a lot of fun to be out there in that atmosphere and take advantage of the excitement that surrounds this event.
"I think both teams will try to focus on (winning), I think that’s what it comes down to. You can do a better job of taking in the moment and enjoying it if you’re going out there and playing your game, playing the right way, so that’s what we’ll try to do tomorrow. I think we’ll enjoy it even more if we find a way to come out with a win."
On the Wild: A lot of the talk for this team, obviously we haven’t seen them for a while, but they’ve been underachieving and I think you’ve see with other teams that we’ve seen in the playoffs and have been competitive the last few years like Anaheim, Minnesota or you name it, there’s ups and downs as the season goes along. Obviously they’re starting to play better hockey. On one hand that’s something we’ll have to be ready for and on the other hand we’ve been playing much better the last couple, so hopefully we can continue to raise our game the same way and be ready for their pace tomorrow."
On Torchetti: "Well, he was a great contributor, a great coach for our power play and offensively as well. I think he did a great job of keeping things simple and reassuring guys on the bench. Just making sure guys know they’re playing their game. I was asked this question the other day and I guess you never really know what it’s like to play for a guy if he’s a head coach. I think there’s a huge difference there. But we enjoyed playing for him when he was here in Chicago and it’s nice to see him having success and getting that opportunity as a head coach at this level as well."
6. Some Wild player quotes:
I watched them play one here and now being able to play one here myself, it’s awesome.
(previous outdoor game in MN) Cold. I was outside for a period but then I called it quits and went inside and watched it. It was great. People stuck with it and I thought the atmosphere was amazing, but I thought the main thing was you’ve got to win to make it fun. They were able to do that and it looked great.
(block out the atmosphere and just play) For sure, that’s what you’ve got to do, otherwise you’re not mentally in it. You’ve got to enjoy it, but you’ve got to enjoy it in the right kind of way. Look around in warmups if you need to, or on your way there, but when the puck’s dropped I feel like adrenaline is going to take over.
(critical game) We’ve got to treat it like any other game. In the situation we’re in it’s really big right now, and we’ve got to treat it that way. It’s playoff hockey right now.
(Being a Gopher) It’s special, but just another game. I’m going to go out there and enjoy it.
(advice he’s gotten) Really you don’t change much. Just keep it simple when you have the puck and the ice gets chopped up pretty quick, but they do a great job keeping the ice up and making sure it’s suitable for us to play on and perform well.
(no outdoor ice hockey in Las Vegas) No, not much, aside from roller hockey. We had some outdoor rinks, but that was about it. Never. First one.
(concentrate on hockey) Once you get out there I don’t know if it’s going to be a whole lot different. Before the game and all those times after the game, you want to soak it in and try to see everything and feel everything. But when it comes to playing I think we’ll just be able to play the game and have some fun.
(playoff atmosphere) We’ve got to win games. This is a crucial time of year for us and we have to make sure we’re playing our game to the best of our ability and make sure we’re getting some wins.
(where is all the offense coming from) It was hidden. Hidden in here somewhere, that’s for sure.
When you throw some pucks up off the glass, it’s a different bounce so you have to take those things into consideration and just play around with it. But for the most part it’s great out there. They did an awesome job.
(similar to outdoor hockey as a kid) A little bit, except you’re playing for something, you’re really playing for something. When you’re out on the pond, you’re with your family and your cousins or whatever the case may be and you have little games for fun. That’s the best part about it, but here it’s a big game for us. Every game from here on out is a big game for us in the position we’re in, and we’ve got to treat it like that. We’re focused, but we’re going to have fun doing it. We’re prepared, and if we get that end result tomorrow it’s going to be more fun to win.
(feel like playoffs) A little bit. We’ve faced them so many times in the playoffs the last few years and we always have battles with them. We love playing and getting up for this team and I’m sure they feel the same way over there. We want to have a good game against them, so we have to prepare.