Sunday in Minneapolis, with the wind chill, it felt like minus-25. The fact the past two days have been this winter's coldest in the Twin Cities was a good reminder to Wild players what elements they could be experiencing next Feb. 21 when the Wild plays the Blackhawks at TCF Bank Stadium.
"It is ridiculously cold out. I'll be wearing layers upon layers," defenseman Marco Scandella said, laughing. Perhaps the Wild will have to wear thermal underwear. Whatever the temperature is a year from now, it's sure to be colder than Saturday's Kings-Sharks game in Santa Clara, Calif., where fans wore T-shirts.
The NHL and Wild are targeting next year's game for the afternoon because, as Jason Pominville said, "a night game could be pretty cold."
Pominville, who played in the first Winter Classic with Buffalo against Pittsburgh in 2008, said, "All in all, it's just an unreal experience for everyone that's part of it."
As of now, no protocols have been given that a certain temperature would be too cold for play. The Wild hopes to commission Red Batty, the longtime Green Bay Packers equipment manager, to help with the under gear during the game.
Wild equipment manager Tony DaCosta joked that the Wild may wear ski-doo outfits if the temperature's like Sunday. Pominville said the Buffalo Bills' trainer gave the Sabres a lotion that skiers use, although the temperature at Ralph Wilson Stadium in 2008 was tolerable. The snow, however, was a problem as players had trouble passing and stickhandling.
Pominville said most players likely will wear cagoule headwear to cover the forehead and chin and be sitting on heated benches.
He said it's a fun but weird experience. "In Buffalo, the tailgating was huge," Pominville said. "I showed up extra early just to take it all in and the parking lots were full of people making fires, playing hockey and football."
Conditioning gig is out
General Manager Chuck Fletcher said the Wild will not be permitted to get goalie Darcy Kuemper on another conditioning stint prior to him starting his next NHL game.
Devan Dubnyk started his 17th consecutive game Sunday, but at some point, the Wild will need to start Kuemper for the first time since Jan. 6. The Wild has four sets of back-to-backs in March.
Coach Mike Yeo told Kuemper on Sunday that with not many practice days, "it's increasingly important for him how he handles these pregame skates, how he handles the extra work when he goes on earlier or after practice. [Goalie coach] Bob Mason is doing a good job with both those guys [Niklas Backstrom, last played Jan. 13].
"We have to make sure we're keeping them sharp. It's not just the repetition. It's the habits. Quite often in the pregame spot, you don't have the urgency you would in a practice. [Kuemper's] mindful of it right now, and we're just trying to stay on him about it."
Filling in nicely
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon missed his second consecutive game with what's believed to be concussion-like symptoms. He is day-to-day.
Yeo, though, is pleased with rookies Matt Dumba and Christian Folin. Both have been instrumental in the Wild's victories over Edmonton and Dallas. Sunday, Dumba scored his second goal in three games and Folin had two assists.
Yeo said Dumba is a "kid who wants more and he recognized the opportunity with Spurg being out of the lineup and he had himself ready to play the right way."
On Folin, Yeo said, "He's typically viewed as a guy that will make his living as being a shutdown, solid defensive player. But I do think there is more to him than that and it's up to us to keep developing him that way."