Bruce Boudreau confirmed my story from this morning that Joel Eriksson Ek is on his way back to North America. The Wild coach said he didn't know if the plan was to yet start him with Iowa or Minnesota, but I can't imagine the Wild would recall him if the plan wasn't to eventually have him in its lineup here.
In fact, he could be on the ice for Wednesday's practice.
Sources close to Eriksson Ek say he's flying from Karlstad to Germany to Chicago to here. Can't imagine he lands and is put in a car to Des Moines, but we'll see if they do want to give him a few games there.
As I said on the previous blog, he has played left wing down the stretch for Farjestad and I'd think he starts that way here. Maybe you go with Eriksson Ek and Nino Niederreiter on the third line with Martin Hanzal and a Chris Stewart/Ryan White/Jordan Schroeder with Erik Haula and Jason Pominville.
Right now, Hanzal remains at the third line. I asked Boudreau about some folks believing Hanzal's acquisition has slowed the Wild and its game down.
"I don't believe that," Boudreau said. "I think when he's played really good, we've won. I think anytime you can have those three centers down the middle, come the time that you need them, they're going to be there. I think Marty's done everything. He's contributed offensively, and he's been really good on the penalty kill. Granted, he is a little slower, but he's always in the right position, so that makes up for it."
The Wild has won five of 16 games since the Hanzal trade, although he missed three of the losses with illness. He has one goal and six assists in 13 games, which is a production juggernaut considering the Wild's slumps right now
Wild plays the Caps tonight. Nashville visits Boston.
A Wild loss and a Preds win, and the Wild's edge for home ice in the first round is down to four.
Remember, the Wild plays in Nashville on Saturday.
Who would have thunk a month ago that the Wild would be playing games that matter this late in the season?
But that's what 3-10-1 in March does. As I wrote for today here in my story documenting the Wild's individual and team slumps (check out the shooting percentage and save percentage differences), the Wild has accumulated three of 16 points since the Caps game and Caps 11 out of 12.
Most disconcerting: With the Wild trending downward, the two likeliest Wild first-round opponents are the hottest teams in the conference.
Preds have won four in a row and seven out of eight and I don't believe they've lost three in a row since October. They have scored a league-high 87 goals since the All-Star break, a 3.34 goals-per game clip, according to the Tennessean's Adam Vingan.
The Blues are 10-1-1 in their past 12.
Boudreau said he wants the Wild to "embrace the situation" tonight.
"We're playing the best team in the league," Boudreau said. "Embrace that instead of shy away from it."
No Schroeder or Folin tonight. Dubnyk, searching for his franchise-record 38th win, vs. Holtby, looking for a third straight 40-win season.
Two teams heading in opposite directions. The Wild’s regression continues with 10 losses in the past 12 games (2-9-1). The NHL-leading Capitals – the second-best offensive team and best defensive team in the league -- have won five of six since snapping a four-game losing streak with a 4-2 win over Minnesota on March 14.
The Wild’s 7-2 all-time at home against the Capitals; The Capitals, off Monday, are 34-4-3 in games when they have one day of rest.
Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin is the third player in NHL history to score 30 or more goals in each of his first 12 seasons (Mike Gartner, Wayne Gretzky). He has 400 career power-play points and 11 goals in 11 career games vs. the Wild. G Braden Holtby is a win from becoming the third goalie in Capitals history to record three straight 40-win seasons. D Kevin Shattenkirk has eight assists in 11 games with the Caps. C Nicklas Backstrom has 32 points in the past 25 games. RW T.J. Oshie has 17 points in 24 games against the Wild.
Washington has outscored opponents 92-60 in the third period. … The Capitals have scored first in 29 of their past 38 games and are 40-7-5 record when scoring first. … The Capitals are 33-5-2 when they score a power-play goal; In March, the Wild ranks 24th with a .122 power-play percentage.