Good afternoon from the world's most famous arena, Madison Square Garden, which many of you know is my favorite place to watch a game.
I'll be on the NHL Network's Bald Spot Cam at 6 p.m. ET, 5 p.m. CT talking about the Wild.
Funny scene inside the MSG visitors' dressing room this morning. The stalls were clearly built for NBA players, so the top of the stall is about 9 feet tall.
As part of protocol pretty much, every team equipment staff has their players place their equipment in their stalls the same way. The Wild has its players put their helmets on top in the middle with each glove on the left and right side of the helmet.
Well, you should have seen some of the Wild's shorter players trying to get their helmets and gloves up there.
Jared Spurgeon had to stand on the seat and could still barely reach. Matt Dumba had to jump. Justin Fontaine just gave up and asked Erik Haula to stand on his tippy toes and put his stuff on top of the stall. And it's not like Haula is overly tall.
The players were all howling.
Not much is going on with the Wild.
Same lineup and lines for a third consecutive game, meaning Kyle Brodziak will sit for a fifth straight game as the only healthy scratch. Keith Ballard and Christian Folin are back in the Twin Cities. No update on what plagued them, but coach Mike Yeo expects them to skate today.
Darcy Kuemper in net. Subject to change, but Niklas Backstrom is expected to start Tuesday in Boston.
Really nothing going on.
Here's former Gopher Joe Micheletti chatting with Yeo this morning. He was no doubt sharing some of brother Pat Micheletti's wisdom
Like I said, quiet day. I'll be doing my notebook on the Wild's D and its continued success joining the offensive attack.
"When you play against teams whose D are mobile, you can't really take a backcheck off because you'll get beat up ice," Zach Parise said. "4-on-3 is like the new 3-on-2. You don't get caught three guys low very often anymore. It just doesn't happen, so you've got to activate the fourth guy, otherwise you're going to be playing 2-on-3 or 3-on-3 the whole night.
"With our guys, the way they skate, the way they jump in at the right time, it just gives you a whole other option."
Marco Scandella and Spurgeon say the Wild talk about this all the time and did last year, too, but they think it's just more confidence playing in the league and continuity with the forwards that they read off of each other. Just look at the replay of Scandella's goal against Tampa Bay. First, it started in the D zone where Scandella jumped up with Jason Pominville taking a quick look to see it. All five guys touched the puck if I remember correctly. Pominville waited for Scandella and knew to give him the exchange coming over the blue line. Scandella knew to be expecting the exchange, and then of course, the big, mobile dman made a great play to just wheel around Matt Carle and drive the net.
Spurgeon has been the most noticeable jumping up. He does it often, and says, "I didn't have to do much," on his goal last game and his assist on the Pominville goal the game before. But it was his ability to jump up that caused an outnumbered attack to catch the opponents off guard.
Parise said it has to continue. He noted how last year at the beginning the D was piling up points and then it suddenly stopped. As usual, Parise was dead on. In the first six games last year, the D combined for four goals and 15 points. In the first six games this year, the D have combined for four goals and 14 points.
The big difference. Plus-6 last year for the D in the first six games and plus-28 this year. (All these numbers are courtesy of stats whiz, ... Fox Sports North's Anthony LaPanta).
"It's always the same, when you start to lose games, the natural thing is, 'We've got to defend,'" Parise said. "So then all of a sudden you stop jumping, you just try to not give up goals rather than scoring. If I remember, that was the case. We were losing, so we just focused on staying back."
Parise said, laughing, "That didn't work."
Henrik Lundqvist will start for the Rangers, who have been up and down and apparently getting real erratic play from defensemen Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi. They won three in a row though before losing in Montreal last game. The defending Eastern Conference champs are trying to avoid falling below .500 tonight.
The big storyline from the Rangers press today was Alain Vigneault replacing Chris Kreider with Ryan Malone on New York's lousy power play, you know, one ranked 25th in the NHL (2 for 22).
THE 0 for 20 WILD WOULD KILL TO BE RANKED 25TH!!!!!