The Wild visits the Philadelphia Flyers tonight, and coach Bruce Boudreau wants his guys fresh and saving their energy for the game.
In fact, in a move very similar to Jacques Lemaire (only Boudreau was wearing his game suit like he customarily changes into on the road even after morning skates), Boudreau marched out to the bench when several players were working overtime after the morning skate and yelled for assistant coach Scott Stevens to get all the guys playing tonight off the ice.
Here's a pic:
Devan Dubnyk vs., I’m assuming, Michal Neuvirth tonight (Steve Mason got lit up in Toronto last night).
Neuvirth is 4-2 with a 3.57 goals-against average and .859 save percentage. He is 1-1 with a 2.02 goals-against average and .907 save percentage in two career starts vs. the Wild.
Dubnyk is 6-3-1 this season with a 1.51 goals-against average, .951 save percentage and three shutouts. He has stopped 186 of the 191 shots he has faced in is last six starts (4-2 with a 0.84 goals-against average and .974 save percentage).
This means Darcy Kuemper will likely start tomorrow night in Ottawa. Here's a story I wrote on him today (as you can see, Boudreau did consider starting Kuemper tonight).
Lone lineup change tonight will be Christoph Bertschy in for Zack Mitchell.
Nino Niederreiter-Eric Staal-Charlie Coyle
Mikael Granlund-Mikko Koivu-Jason Pominville
Jason Zucker-Erik Haula-Christoph Bertschy
Joel Eriksson Ek-Tyler Graovac-Chris Stewart
(Another option may be moving Eriksson Ek up and playing him on the left or right side of the Haula line play Bertschy on the left or right of the fourth line. We’ll see, but judging by Boudreau's quote on Eriksson Ek below in this blog, it makes me think he'd want him playing a regular shift vs. the Flyers, not Bertschy. And the Flyers aren't the physical team they used to be, so I don't think he'd start with Stewart, the way he has been playing, higher than the fourth line).
Ryan Suter-Matt Dumba
Jonas Brodin-Christian Folin
Mike Reilly-Jared Spurgeon
Nate Prosser is scratched for the second game in a row.
Reilly only played seven minutes in Pittsburgh, so Spurgeon sees a lot of ice with Suter.
The Flyers are an interesting team. They're a young, fast team (wait til you see this Travis Konecny skate).
They are tied for second in the NHL at 3.33 goals per game (the Wild’s sixth at 3.08), but holy moly, they’re having trouble defending. They’re dead last at 3.73 goals allowed per game. The Wild’s first at 2.00.
To put this in perspective, the Wild has allowed a league-low 24 goals. The Flyers have allowed 32 more goals.
Can the Wild exploit this?
“I don’t know. We’re going to try,” said Boudreau, before adding with a smirk. “Everything goes in spurts. They’ve played more games than us.”
They have played three more games.
Where the Flyers can light ya up? The power play. They’re ranked second at 29.1 percent, clicking at 31 percent at home (fourth in the NHL; believe it or not, the Wild’s ranked fifth at home on the power play).
And, the Wild’s penalty kill, despite leading the league for most the season, has given up three in the past two games.
“They live for the power play,” Boudreau said. “They’ve got five guys that they throw out there and they stay for a minute-and-a-half. They’ve been together for a long time. It reminds me of San Jose’s five. They’re very good, and if you’re not pressuring them and if you give them a chance to make a play, they usually make a great one.”
The five guys are Brayden Schenn-Claude Giroux-Wayne Simmonds with Jakub Voracek and Shayne Gostisbehere at the point.
Funny moment this morning when a reporter was asking about how good it was to have Haula back. Boudreau was confused, asking what he was talking about. He thought he was talking about Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck
“Erik fills a big hole for us,” Boudreau said.
Boudreau said that it was just great to have an established guy back in the lineup to come back with after power plays, plus, “his speed is so electrifying that it really creates opportunities for us.”
I’m writing about Tyler Graovac in tomorrow’s paper. Graovac was a stud for the Ottawa 67s and has a ton of family and friends and his former billets coming to tomorrow’s game. It was pretty cool talking to him about how meaningful tomorrow’s game will be.
Graovac had a so-so game in Pittsburgh. He had a couple doozy turnovers, one that led to Dubnyk’s penalty and a power-play goal.
“I think all those young guys play really well and they hit a wall and then you’ve got to bring them back in,” Boudreau said. “Grao, he’s played two really good NHL games and two very average games. We just have to make sure he plays not watching the game. He goes in and he’ll contain, but he’s big enough and strong enough and fast enough that if he goes in and is deliberate with these guys, he’ll knock guys off pucks, he won’t have to make those little turnovers.”
Probably a sign that Eriksson Ek isn’t being sent back to Sweden before he’s scheduled to play his 10th NHL game tomorrow in Ottawa?
Boudreau goes, “Well, he’s playing his 10th tonight I think.”
No, it’s his ninth. But since the coach thought it was his 10th, the Wild, as GM Chuck Fletcher said in my big story about this subject last week, doesn’t seem to care about burning the first year of his three-year contract. The other thing that would do by the way is make Eriksson Ek count as one of the Wild’s maximum 50 contracts.
Eriksson Ek hasn’t been as good the last four games as he was his first four, but Boudreau noted, “I used him in the last 10 minutes [in Pittsburgh] when I went down to three lines, so I think he’s pretty responsible.”
Benched in the final 10 minutes roughly were Stewart, Graovac and Mitchell. Well, and Reilly.
A lot of people have asked me Ryan Suter's reaction to Evgeni Malkin lifting his lid after that one goal the other night. You can read his reaction in tomorrow's notebook. How good was Suter last game, by the way? I watched the game again. My Lord...That was his first 30-minute game of the season, by the way, and 93rd with the Wild.
Talk to ya tonight.