The Wild will be without Chris Stewart tonight in Game 3 of its playoff series against the Blackhawks at Xcel Energy Center. Stewart, who has had a tough playoff with no goals on nine shots in eight games, has a right arm injury. No specifics as to what the issue is and how long it will be. Coach Mike Yeo only said day-to-day.
Also, the Wild nearly scrapped the morning skates here at the arena today and were looking into having them at off-site sites due to a power outage in the area that affected the ice plant. The ice was mushy when everybody arrived today (it was obvious something was up, power was all out at Wild headquarters, the street lights were out). When Yeo walked across the ice for his radio interview, he left footprints in the slush.
Wild winger Zach Parise said after the skate that the ice was fantastic, and so strangely did every player because it was clear they were told not to complain about the ice.
"It was fine," Yeo said. "We’ve got a great crew here. They were thrown a curveball last night, but they did a great job as far as handling it. It was maybe a little bit heavy, but you could tell that it has cooled off a lot, especially since when I saw it this morning and they’ll have it ready to go for tonight."
Happy Cinco de MikeYeo everybody (I stole that from the great @tommydahl on Twitter).
Reminds me of last year between Games 2 and 3. The Wild returned home from Chicago and on off-days in the playoffs, when teams don't practice, the PR guys/ladies trot out four or five players to face the media.
Dany Heatley was one of the Wild reps, walks into the locker room and with that hilarious Heatley tone, goes, "What the $^@&% are you guys doing here? It's Cinco de Mayo?"
It was very funny. You had to be there, I guess.
The Wild looks to avoid digging itself a 3-0 hole to the Blackhawks tonight. This is the fourth time in the past five series the Wild is down 2-0 and third time to Chicago. It came back to win the Colorado series in the first round last year and won Games 3 and 4 against Chicago last year before losing in six games.
In the past four home Game 3s, the Wild is 4-0 and has outscored its opponents (Chicago twice, Colorado and St. Louis) 11-2.
“There’s been a lot of comparisons from this year to last year, but it’s a whole new year," Parise said. "Last year, good or bad doesn’t have any impact on what we’re doing today and how those first two games went. I just don’t think we can expect to come home and play better just because we did it last year, that’s not how it works. We have to be a lot better.”
Stewart was hurt in the second period of Game 2 when Johnny Oduya made a great diving, sliding sweep of the puck to foil a Stewart breakaway. But after doing so, Oduya, while on the ice, grabbed hold of Stewart's right ankle and tripped him to the ice. Stewart crashed hard into the end boards with Oduya landing on top of him.
Stewart left the game cradling his arm. He returned late in the second. Interesting, but third straight year the Wild's trade-deadline pickup has missed games in the playoffs. In 2013, Jason Pominville because of the late-year concussion from Dustin Brown. Last year, Matt Moulson because of an oblique issue if I remember correctly. Now Stewart.
After the no-call by referee Gord Dwyer (it was a clear trip, and even if you think he got the puck first, this exact rule was changed heading into this season as you can read here), Yeo lit into Dwyer during the TV timeout.
This is where is actually gets funny: It was time for the pre-scheduled bench interview with NBC Sports Network's Pierre McGuire. That's taped during TV timeouts and re-aired when they come back for break, so McGuire had to interrupt Yeo's fit on the ref. That may explain to you while Yeo's face was tomato-sauce red during that interview if you remember.
“Of course, at the time, we’re down and so probably a little more frustration at the time that you’re looking to come back in the game," Yeo said. "It’s a scoring chance on the play and he gets banged up on the play, but we didn’t lose the game because of that.”
Jordan Schroeder could at least draw in for Stewart tonight.
"If he comes in the lineup, what he does bring is speed," Yeo said. "The fact that he’s played against these guys this year and he’s actually played pretty effectively against them. Speed on the outside, but certainly what we’re going to need from him and we’ve seen it last game, it’s one thing to try and create but you gotta make sure you’re smart about how you manage the puck. Whether it’s him or anybody in our lineup, we gotta make sure our speed is a factor. But we’re not fast if we’re turning over the pucks.”
Yeo said the lines this morning won't necessarily be the line tonight: Parise-Granlund-Pominville; Niederreiter-Koivu-Schroeder; Zucker-Coyle-Vanek; Cooke-Haula-Brodziak.
It wouldn't shock me if Ryan Carter draws into the lineup.
Niederreiter-Coyle-Schroeder has been a good line this season, so I wonder if Yeo goes with a Zucker-Koivu-Vanek or Pominville line and a Parise-Granlund-Vanek or Pominville line and then maybe have a fourth line or Cooke-Brodziak-Carter. Total conjecture though. Kinda talking out loud, and if you go with my guessed lines, that means Haula's out. Again, not sure.
Schroeder said, "Real excited. It’s not about me or individual. It’s about the team. We have to come out and play a solid game and get a win.
"That’s my game. Speed, speed, speed. I’ve just got to be constantly moving and being responsible defensively but using my speed wide and pushing the D back."
If Carter plays, Yeo said, "He’s a guy that’s easy to root for because of his character and his work ethic, the way he competes, the way he plays for his teammates. I think that you’re looking at a guy who has experience, who has Stanley Cup experience. Certainly that could factor in. We’ve talked about it before as well when we’re making some decisions – the fact that he’s a very good penalty killer for us, that could definitely factor in too."
The ice situation was only a minor controversy.
Said the Blackhawks' Andrew Shaw: "It is still better ice than the [United Center], so guys are excited to play on something like that. ... It was still pretty good to start. It was slushy near the end. But it should be fine."
Chicago TV reporters were asking accusatory questions like the Wild did this on purpose to slow the Hawks down, like the Wild, you know, shut off the power to half of downtown St. Paul and their entire headquarters and all the traffic lights near the rink.
Do you think they're just playing mind games with you guys? Shaw said, "I mean, they had to skate on it this morning, too. That doesn't bother us at all. If anything, it makes the fresh ice for the game feel that much better.
Could it slow down the game? Shaw said, "I mean, it's pretty cold out there right now. I think it should be fast ice. It should be fine.
So no funny business? Shaw said, "No, I don't think so at all. They've got to play on the same ice tonight. It should be fine."
I'll be on KFAN at 5:55 p.m. in front of the arena and on Fox Sports North during the 6-7 p.m. pregame show. The game is on NBC Sports Network with my pal Kenny Albert on the mic.
I'm also doing a podcast at the Liffey at 2 p.m. with columnist Jim Souhan. Our special guest is Wild owner Craig Leipold. Come on down or listen at souhanunfiltered.com.
Check out startribune.com/wild for all our articles today. If you want to know more about Wild anthem singer James Bohn, I did a feature on the Vietnam vet here.