First off, to answer a question I have received a lot, I asked Bob Waterman from Elias Sports Bureau, historically, is the Wild's seven-point playoff deficit this late in the season a surmountable one?
The biggest comeback came in '93-94 by the Islanders when they were 12 back after 47 games. Last year, Dallas was seven back through 53 games and made the playoffs. The Wild's seven back after 46 games.
As I wrote in today's article here, the Flames, whom the Wild play Thursday, are on pace for 92.4 points, meaning the .500 Wild (46 out of a possible 92 points amassed) would need to grab 47 of a possible 72 points (.653) to eclipse that.
Devan Dubnyk, a 2004 Oilers first-round pick, vs. Viktor Fasth tonight when the Wild and Oilers play their first games after the All-Star break.
Dubnyk is 2-1 in four games with the Wild with a 2.34 goals-against average and .896 save percentage. He got a no-decision in his last start at Detroit, getting pulled after allowing four goals on 10 shots before Darcy Kuemper came in and technically got nailed with the shootout loss because of the Wild’s third-period comeback.
Dubnyk is 11-6-2 this year with a 2.66 GAA and .914 SV%. He is 3-0 this year against Edmonton (all with Arizona) and stopped 90 of 93 shots for a .968 SV% and has a 0.97 GAA.
Fasth is 4-10-2 with a 3.37 GAA and .888 SV%.
Taylor Hall blocked a shot in Monday’s practice and won’t play tonight. The Wild gets Mikael Granlund back tonight. Wild’s completely healthy tonight for the first time in a long time except for Keith Ballard, who remains out indefinitely.
The Wild has won eight of its past nine games in Edmonton.
I’ll be on Fox Sports North during Wild live at 8 p.m. CT and the first intermission. I’ll be the guy with a scratch on his face … from a toothbrush injury. I was brushing too hard because my Uber was waiting yesterday morning and it snapped in half. Luckily it missed my eye and more importantly my typing fingers and nailed my cheek. But I’m going to tough it out tonight because I'm a hockey writer.
Same lines and D pairs as yesterday’s blog.
First game for the Wild in seven days, so coach Mike Yeo said the big emphasis in yesterday’s practice and today’s skate was battle and attention to details and system work.
“You’d expect probably both teams execution wise to not be completely sharp right off the hop,” Yeo said. “Where you’re going to see which team is most successful is how quickly they get to their game.”
This game is always a weird one. I’d presume it’s awfully hard for the goalies, who have seen no pucks for a week besides yesterday and this morning. And you can always tell pretty quickly in a game which players enjoyed the buffet and didn’t hit the workout room during the break, too.
The Wild’s power play has been connecting more and more lately. I’ll update the blog later with the numbers, but it’s pretty much only the No. 1 unit of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Thomas Vanek, Ryan Suter and Jason Pominville scoring.
Yeo has not been happy with the second unit, but as long as the first unit is scoring, he’s not looking to break them up for now. So his hope is Granlund’s return will help.
I’ve got to think it’s tough for the second unit to get into rhythms when they’re only getting 35-45 seconds a shift it seems, and that always starts with a regroup obviously.
But besides the lack of production, the failure to protect pucks or just throw them away has been troublesome.
That also is an area where Granlund may help because he has the ability to get the puck up ice on breakouts with speed and control pucks on the half wall.
“If we could get a little more production from that second group, I always like the competition,” Yeo said. “If you have a minute, make sure you get the most of it. With that said, if you’ve got 30 seconds, that’s 30 seconds that somebody else on the team would like to have, so make sure you take advantage of it.
“Getting set up has been tough enough for that group, that’s where I think Granny will make a big difference.”
Granlund was on the No. 2 unit today with Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter and Jason Zucker rotating in and out at the morning skate, so we’ll see which two forwards gets the majority of the ice time tonight. The pointmen are Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin.
Spurgeon is on the left for the one-timers. Why Brodin instead of Marco Scandella, who leads the team with nine goals?
I asked Yeo, and he said, “There will be times where Marco is out there as well, but … if we were setting up on the other side, then it would probably be Marco. But as far as that strongside, it’s a little bit easier for [Brodin] to walk the line and get to the middle of the ice. When we can do that, we’re much more dangerous. Marco is a left shot as well, but he’s a little bit more of an offside shooting guy.”
I'll update those power-play tallies later this afternoon. Talk later tonight.