Every seat at Xcel Energy Center as a white rally towel on it and the Wild will wear its road whites tonight when it faces the NHL- and Central Division-leading Dallas Stars in the first of back-to-back home games. Montreal comes to town tomorrow.
Afternoon from the arena, where the Wild is asking all fans to wear white tonight. I’ll be on Fox Sports North during the pregame show and first intermission tonight and co-hosting a podcast with Jim Souhan at Tom Reid’s at 4 p.m., so come on by.
As of this morning, same Wild lineup, meaning Devan Dubnyk starts and Erik Haula is scratched for a third consecutive game.
But I am hearing from sources that defenseman Mike Reilly is being recalled under emergency conditions, meaning somebody may be sick or the brass wants to make sure Marco Scandella, who hurt his wrist in Nashville, is able to play.
If Reilly plays, it’ll be his NHL debut. He’s minus-28 in 28 games for Iowa, which is last in the AHL (981st).
Kari Lehtonen starts for Dallas, the NHL’s top team in terms of points with leading goal scorer Jamie Benn and second-leading scorer Tyler Seguin. John Klingberg is second among defensemen in points, and those three guys have roasted the Wild in two previous overtime wins by the Stars this season.
The Wild will be trying to put Saturday’s awful-looking loss in Nashville behind it.
As for Haula being scratched again, he said, “It’s a different situation. I think there’s a mutual agreement that I’ve been playing well. Obviously I’m not happy that I’m not in the lineup and there are decisions are made and there’s nothing I can do about it. I just try to work and take some of those lessons that I learned from last year (when he was scratched). Just like going into last year, you just got to be ready, but it’s a different situation and that means that I’ve been playing well.”
Haula said he didn’t realize the Jarret Stoll pickup would affect him even though they’re both fourth-line centers. “Honestly I wasn’t ready sure if it was going to hurt me or help me when it happened and didn’t think much of it,” Haula said. “Then coming to the rink game day against the Rangers was a bit of a shock to me and something that you don’t think about when you play well, but things happen and you just got to move on.
“It’s brutal that I’m the one out, but the decisions are made that are made and there’s nothing about it. But in the sense for my own mind, there’s nothing I can do about it. I’ve been playing well. I just have to keep working and moving forward. You never know.”
Coach Mike Yeo reiterated, too, that this is a numbers game.
“This is nothing against Haula,” Yeo said. “I thought very hard about him coming into this game, but we decided to go with the same lineup. But I feel that Haula was playing good hockey. And I don’t think that he was playing necessarily great hockey, but he was playing well defensively, his penalty kill was coming along, his faceoffs were coming along. He’s not a guy by any means that we’re giving up on or don’t think that he can come in and contribute and help us win hockey games.”
With back-to-back games, it wouldn’t shock me if Haula plays tomorrow. That’d give the Wild fresh legs and motivated ones at that.
Nino Niederreiter has gone 15 games without a goal, not scoring since the Nov. 14 game in Dallas when a puck deflected in off his body.
“I just think he’s thinking too much,” Yeo said. “He knows the game, he knows our game. It’s not a matter of care, it’s not a matter of effort. It’s just he’s heavy between the ears right now. Pretty simple conversation this morning – just trust your instincts, play the game and have fun doing it.”
Niederreiter said the Christmas break is coming at a great time for him so he can stop thinking and reset. Yeo said, “He should trust is habits, he should trust his instincts right now. But that’s what happens when you’re thinking too much – you play a little bit slower and you start second guessing yourself. Quite often your first decision is the right one but if you’re not sure if that’s the right one then three other thoughts enter your mind and it’s going to be too late. I just feel like there’s a lot of that in his game. He knows what his best game looks like. He knows what he’s doing when he’s playing well and being effective. I have a pretty good feeling he’ll play a strong game tonight.”
For the first time in his career, Mikko Koivu got a weekly honor, being named Third Star of the Week for scoring eight goals in three games.
He was so hot right now, Koivu at first got credited for Zach Parise’s goal in Nashville while sitting on the bench.
“I told him, he’s going to have to try to get 14 points in his next three games to try to bump it up to No 1,” Yeo said. “We always look at points and goals and assists, but what you don’t factor into that is how many goals they prevent as well. If you have somebody who gets 100 points, but they’re responsible for about 30 goals against, then you have to factor that in. If you have somebody that gets 70 points but prevents 30 goals I think you should have to factor that in as well. Mikko’s defensive game hasn’t changed. He’s rock solid. … He’s doing all the things defensively he always has and you can just tell he’s feeling it right now.”
I'd think Darcy Kuemper starts tomorrow vs. the Habs. Yeo indicated last week the goalies would split these two home games, but Yeo indicated today that tomorrow's decisions will come after he sees what happens tonight.