For six and a half months, the Minnesota Wild battled for a chance to get to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third straight season. After the regular season ended in St. Louis on Saturday, the Wild will have three days long days before starting its Round 1 series against those same Blues on Thursday.
Minnesota used today as a long preparation practice, even needing a much-mocked dry scrape before proceeding to power play work. The Wild has a familiar foe in the Blues and even with the layoff, there’s not too much to be gleamed before the series commences.
“It’s not like we’re going to unearth any great secrets here. There are maybe a couple of adjustments they make,” Yeo said. “The core of their game will be the same, we have a good feeling of an understanding of the players they have. We definitely have a high respect level for that team, but it comes a point as this week goes on, we have to turn our attention much more towards ourselves.”
With only one game remaining in the regular season, the Minnesota Wild’s Round 1 Stanley Cup Playoff opponent is still up in the air. Though, the Wild isn’t concerning itself with juggling the Western Conference scenarios. The team’s focus is not on the multiple balls in play in the West, but on its final foe, the St. Louis Blues.
Regardless, Minnesota’s game in St. Louis at 2 p.m. tomorrow at Scottrade Center will have playoff implications and the Gateway City is a possible destination for the opening round. Minnesota can still climb into the third spot in the Central Division with a win against the Blues and a Chicago Blackhawks loss to the Colorado Avalanche. If that’s the case, Minnesota will travel to Nashville for Game 1, where if just topped the Predators on Thursday, 4-2.
You never know who you’ll see in the Music City.
On the way to Bridgestone Arena for the Minnesota Wild’s morning skate, the Lighthouse rode in an elevator car with the one and only, Little Richard. To put it into context, for a giant music lover, it’s like a Wild fanatic meeting Devan Dubnyk.
The Minnesota Wild’s final road trip of the season is filled with more villainy than a James Bond film. The club will face three of its Central Division rivals, starting tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks, following it up against the Nashville Predators on Thursday, before closing against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.
Though the road to the Stanley Cup Playoffs is difficult, the Wild is ready for the task, especially after sustaining a 2-0 loss at Xcel Energy Center against the Winnipeg Jets last night. The club had a chance to clinch a berth in the postseason yesterday, but will continue to push forward with only a trio of games left on the docket.
With end of the regular season looming like a final exam, the games have gotten harder, while the math to determine Stanley Cup Playoff combatants has gotten easier. Tonight, the equation is simple for the Minnesota Wild: win and you’re in.
The Wild skates in its final home game of the season hosting Central Division rival, the Winnipeg Jets. With a regulation or overtime win, Minnesota clinches a berth in the postseason, while knocking Winnipeg down a peg in the Western Conference standings ladder.
At this point of the season, four days between games seems like an extended vacation. Tonight, the Minnesota Wild returns from its spring break to host the team atop the Eastern Conference standings, the New York Rangers.
Minnesota wants to jump right back into the swing of things against the potent Rangers. They’ll have rested legs coming out of the gate.
During a long hockey season, living in hotel rooms on the road can become monotonous. Occasionally to spice things up, players pull pranks on unsuspecting teammates.
The leaner is one of the most infamous hockey pranks on the road. The gag is to fill an ice bucket up with water, lean it up against an unsuspicious teammate’s hotel room door at an angle, knock and run down the hallway. When the player opens the door, a small amount of water dumps from the bucket into his entryway and the pranksters laugh at the inevitable swear words that follow.
The following story is of a few bored junior players and one overanxious leaner. Don’t try this at home, kids.
After an optional day for the Minnesota Wild didn’t see too much action at Xcel Energy Center, the ice was packed with players as the club reconvened for a full practice today.
Forwards Matt Cooke and Kyle Brodziak rejoined the squad for an intense practice that put the team through the paces, working on its systems, offensive and defensive transition, special teams and a short skate to wrap things up.
For Cooke, it’s been a long road to recovery. The forward underwent sports hernia surgery and has been out since Feb. 6, missing 27 games.
“It’s been tough,” Cooke said. “I went such a long time without missing games to injury and I’ve had two different injuries this year and not small ones. It’s been frustrating, but it’s been a lot easier having the team winning.”
Growing up in Finland, brothers Mikael and Markus Granlund had a spirited sibling rivalry, be it on the ice or in a fun summer round of bocce ball. If you watched Mikael’s Becoming Wild episode last season, you saw the brothers fiercely competing in a simple game of posts. Tonight, that competition will carry over to the highest level of the sport, with the brothers meeting for the second time in the National Hockey League, as Mikael’s Wild hosts Markus’ Calgary Flames at Xcel Energy Center.
In the BW episode, Markus won and Mikael had the chore of picking the pucks off the ice. However, in their first NHL meeting on March 3, 2013 last season, Mikael had bragging rights, leading Minnesota to a 3-2 victory with two assists.
Thomas Vanek didn’t much care for the old Nassau Coliseum, that is, until he was traded to the New York Islanders last season. After playing on Long Island, the wing developed an affinity for the old barn.
“This is a building I didn’t like coming to, but once I was here, it is one of my favorite buildings now,” Vanek said. “I think the fans are great, the building gets loud.”
Unless the Wild and Islanders meet in the Stanley Cup Final, this will be the final time Vanek and the Wild will skate in the Coliseum. The Isles will move to Brooklyn next season and play at the Barclay Center.
For some, this might be an enticing move, to be in one of New York City’s Five Boroughs. However, Vanek said he’d rather have the team stay in Long Island. After acquiring the forward last season from the Buffalo Sabres, the club offered him a contract extension. The move to Brooklyn factored in on his decision to test free agency.
“I thought about it long and hard, but there were two factors,” Vanek said. “One was the summer, I made a choice that I really wanted to go to free agency. The one thing I didn’t like was the move to Brooklyn. I think that if the rink was built here on the Island, where it should be, there’s a good chance I’d still be here.”
The forward said that he knows Islanders General Manager Garth Snow gave up a lot to acquire him, so he’s glad to see the team doing well and on its way to the playoffs. The Islanders currently sit second in the Metropolitan Division in the East.
“For them to be in the playoffs and doing well, it makes it a little easier and better,” Vanek said.
The 31-year-old is riding a season team-high, eight-game point streak. After a goal and assist last night in Toronto, Vanek is now second on the team in scoring with 49 points (19-30=49).
Brodziak Out, Schroeder In
Forward Kyle Brodziak will come out of the lineup tonight, feeling upper-body tightness after his fight with Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf last night.
Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said the wing should be fine for Friday, when the club returns home and hosts the Calgary Flames. Minnesota’s bench boss still thinks Brodziak stepping in after Phaneuf leveled Erik Haula and followed it up with a two-hand chop to Jared Spurgeon was the right thing to do.
“Obviously we wish he was in the lineup tonight,” Yeo said. “But those types of things are things that you have to do for your teammates. He’s sending a pretty good message to our group there.”
With Brodziak out, Jordan Schroeder will enter the lineup for the first time since March 6. The speedy wing has seven points (3-4=7) in 18 games this season.
Dubnyk Starts, Again
After a 35-save win against the Leafs, Devan Dubnyk will be in goal yet again for Minnesota. (Copy and paste with a number change) He’s started all 32 games with the Wild since being acquired by the Arizona Coyotes.
For Minnesota, Dubnyk starting is non-story, but the question is still asked in every media scrum. Yeo had a drop-the-mic line when asked if he’s worried about starting the netminder game after game (much to the delight of the Lighthouse and rest of the media).
“I worry about not starting him.”
Boom. Scrum over.