We will be informing fans as they enter and throughout the game of the drinking water advisory in Saint Paul. Additionally, we are disabling all drinking water fountains and are encouraging fans to drink bottled water until the issue has been resolved. We will be offering bottled water at a discounted price.
The Wild will try to end a three-game slide tonight when it hosts Pekka Rinne, Shea Weber and the red-hot Nashville Predators. The Preds have won four in a row and beat the Wild last month at the X.
Niklas Backstrom gets the start for the Wild. Two reasons, coach Mike Yeo said.
One: “His play, I think aside from last game, was starting to show some signs of really getting to where we want to see it, so let’s bring him back and see how he does tonight.”
Second: Backstrom has a terrific record in the first start after being pulled. I used to keep that on one of my excel files on my laptop, but I have a new laptop and can’t seem to find it right now. Wild PR guru Ryan Stanzel is looking it up for me and I’ll update that later.
All-time in start after getting pulled (non injury), Backstrom is 18-2-4, 1.95, .930. Since 3/26/08, he is 14-0-2, 1.79, .939
“I love giving players a chance to respond,” Yeo said.
Nate Prosser, scratched the past six games mostly because of numbers, gets back in. Yeo says his right shot could help. Marco Scandella is scratched.
Torrey Mitchell finds himself the odd man out because of numbers of up front.
“We’ve got a lot of players right now,” Yeo said. “We’re scratching a guy that it’s hard to say he’s played bad hockey, but we’ve got lots of bodies. It’s one of those situations where as a player you definitely don’t want to open up the opportunity for yourself to be moved down in the lineup or out of the lineup. Sometimes all it takes one or two bad games for that to happen.”
Mikael Granlund gets back in after being what Yeo called a “star” in practice yesterday, so somebody had to come out. Granlund will go back to center (more on that below) between Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. Heatley has no points in five games but showed chemistry with Setoguchi against Vancouver on the No. 2 power-play unit. Yeo says Setoguchi’s last two games on the fourth line and his response to that warrants a reward of moving up in lines tonight.
With Zach Parise OK to play after a bout with an illness, that leaves Pierre-Marc Bouchard to drop to the fourth line with Mike Rupp and Zenon Konopka. In the past nine games, Bouchard has one goal and one assist with 10 shots. This is since a four-shot, one-goal season-opener.
This is getting No. 1 power-play unit time, too.
“On the power play, [Bouchard’s] got to be a threat more,” Yeo said, regarding to shooting more pucks. “Him, alike with the rest of our team, I just want to get to focusing on what makes you good as a player. He’s a guy who attacks with speed, makes plays off the rush, controls the puck in the offensive zone, moves his feet and is a great playmaker. Those are the things that were discussed with him that we’d like to see in his game.”
Yeo said: “I don’t want him on our fourth line. Play dictates it. … We’ve got to do what we feel’s right based on what we’ve seen the last several games. It’s not something we make a rash decision on based on one game or one shift. We’ve got a lot of players, so you’re forced into those decisions.”
On Granlund, Yeo said, “Anybody who was at our practice yesterday sees what he can do. Put him with guys like that (Heatley and Setoguchi), … we’re anxious to get him back in and give him an opportunity. He can make plays and he’s playing with two guys that can find themselves in positions to shoot the puck.”
I asked Yeo if he had any apprehension though putting Granlund back at center (Matt Cullen is moved back to wing on the third line) since Yeo even says Granlund played a great game at Phoenix as a wing for the first time. Yeo said, “Certainly it’s something you think about, but at the same time, this is where we had him at the start of the year. We won games at the start of the year and we haven’t had a game yet since we haven’t had him at center. He’s a good enough player that he can adjust to that. And there are also some bonuses and some upside to him being at center. I think he gets a little more open ice, a little bit more room to skate with the puck, to distribute pucks coming through the neutral zone, generate more speed that way. There are some things that he has to learn and get better at and learn how to deal with as far as being a centerman, but I don’t think it’s stuff that will take him away from the strengths of his game either.”
On Granlund, Yeo talked about how great his practice was yesterday. “There’s no sense of entitlement with this kid coming in with how hard he works and how he holds himself accountable. The guy is out of the lineup for a game, and he doesn’t sulk about it. What he does is he does extra, he skates extra, he works on stuff. I’ve been around long enough to know that players that do that kind of stuff and have that kind of attitude have success.”
Good example of this? Here is a translated Granlund quote to my pal Samuel Savolainen on being scratched in the Finnish magazine, Urheilulehti: ”It’s pointless to make any excuses. I’m just not good enough at the moment. By working hard, I have to show that I’m worthy of a spot out there. The coach was happy with my last game, but one good game here and there doesn’t cut it. Now all I can do is wait for another opportunity. I have to be ready when it comes.”