This wasn't the Wild's bye week. Just felt like it.
The Wild's bye -- the first season the league has implemented that stupidity, I mean, thing -- doesn't come until late February, but finally, the Wild resumes its schedule tonight in San Jose when opening a three-game road trip against last season's Western Conference Cup participant.
The California swing has been dubbed the NHL's Bermuda Triangle. It often triggers losing streaks around the NHL, Bruce Boudreau noted, so the Wild wants to avoid that.
In the past five seasons, the Wild's 1-5-1 in San Jose, 3-2-1 in L.A. and 1-6 in Anaheim.
A Wild point tonight and a regulation loss by Chicago against Buffalo, and the Wild takes over the top spot in the Central with FOUR games in hand.
It was nice to be back in the Shark Tank -- one of my favorite barns -- this morning for the first time since I walked on the ice after the Penguins won the Cup.
Beautiful day here in San Jose. Sorry.
Wild-Sharks puck drop is 9:30 CT, so you'll be able to watch the U.S.-Canada gold-medal game at the world junior championships first. Of course, toss on Fox Sports North around 7:10 p.m.ish please for the first of my two segments on tonight's telecast.
Here is Jason Gonzalez's preview of the big game.
After four days off, you BETTER know the lines by now. Nate Prosser's in, Christian Folin and Kurtis Gabriel out. Mikkel Boedker, San Jose's free-agent pickup and longtime analytics disaster albeit speedster, is scratched after not scoring in 28 games.
Devan Dubnyk looks to get back on the horse, as does the Wild, which lost for the first time in 13 games New Year's Eve to Columbus. The Wild has lost consecutive games in regulation once this season.
Mikko Koivu plays his 800th game tonight, Jonas Brodin his 300th.
Check out my game notebook tomorrow. I talked to Bruce Boudreau about Zach Parise's play, and the two met two days ago. Some interesting stuff. Moral of the story: Boudreau badly wants him to get going because he's essentially tinkering with the lineup due to that. Eric Staal's game has tailed off the past three games, and that could be in part to Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle not being on his line.
So Boudreau indicated he could have a quick trigger finger with the Parise-Staal-Jordan Schroeder line if Parise doesn't produce midgame.
The Wild has won six straight on the road and 7-1-3 in its past 11 on the road. It has yet to face the Sharks, who are 13-4-1 at home and lead the Pacific. They're 8-2-1 in their past 11. This is a battle of the two best defensive teams in the West.
Mikael Granlund has four two-point games in his past five and a team-leading eight. Jared Spurgeon has three goals and two assists in the past five games. Koivu has 18 points in the past 19 games. Dubnyk is 5-8-2 with a 3.07 goals-against average and .908 save percentage all-time vs. the Sharks.
Sharks defenseman Brent Burns leads all NHL defensemen with 15 goals and is tied for first with 35 points. Joe Pavelski is tied for 15th in the NHL with 34 points and has 14 goals and 32 points in 28 games vs. the Wild. Joe Thornton has 39 points in 41 games vs. the Wild, but he only has two goals this season.
The Wild is 3-13-2 in its past 18 games in San Jose. The Wild’s power play is 2 for 18 (11.1 percent) in its past 10 visits (1.8 power plays per game). The Sharks’ power play is 17 for 51 (33.3 percent) in the past 13 home games vs. Minnesota (3.9 power plays per game).
In the past eight seasons here, the Wild's 2-10-1 with a minus-18 goal differential, a 3.23 goals-against average and 66.7 percent penalty kill.
Tomas Hertl (knee), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (upper body) and David Schlemko (upper body) are out.
Couple other tidbits:
Teemu Pulkkinen was named a Western Conference AHL All-Star today on Jan. 30 in Allentown (good Billy Joel song). It's his second ASG appearance.
The Vantaa Finland, native leads Iowa in scoring with 12 goals and 22 points in 25 games played. The right wing is also tops on the team in power-play goals (4), first goals (5), game-winning goals (3) and shots (85). For his AHL career, Pulkkinen has played in 144 games, scoring 77 goals and adding 66 assists for 143 points.
Also, The Wild's game on March 26 in Detroit will now be an 11:30 a.m. CT start instead of 7 p.m. on NBC.