Only a hoot and holler away from one of the most legendary stages in all of music, the Ryman Auditorium, the Minnesota Wild will audition its newest member, Sean Bergenheim, in Nashville. The forward will make his Wild debut alongside captain Mikko Koivu and Thomas Vanek tonight against the Predators.
With the way that Vanek and Koivu have been playing recently, Yeo believes the combination will be able create offensive chances and wanted to link them to a tenacious wing.
When the Minnesota Wild was submerged amidst a 2-8-4 stretch in late January and early February, Head Coach Mike Yeo’s message remained constant: stick with the process. So, as the Wild rides a post-All-Star Game crest (11-1-1 in its last 12), it’s no surprise that the mantra has buoyed across the waves. Thanks to the turnaround, Minnesota has paddled to the eighth spot in the Western Conference standings.
“I’d be lying if I said it didn’t mean anything, but I’m not too excited,” Yeo said. “Like I’ve said many times, 69 points does not get you into the playoffs. So the fact that we’re in the top-eight today is not really that relevant.
“We’re in a better position today than we were a week ago, but we’ve got to continue to march forward here.”
Wild forward Kyle Brodziak will hit a career milestone tonight, National Hockey League game No. 600, in the place where it all started. The St. Paul, Alberta native, who grew up in Vegreville just outside of Edmonton, was selected by the Oilers in the seventh round (214th overall) in the 2003.
“It doesn’t get old,” Brodziak said. “Comeback and play in front of friends and family—it’s pretty special.”
The Minnesota Wild will be without Edmonton-native, Jared Spurgeon, tomorrow as the club wraps its three-game Western Canadian road trip against the Oilers at Rexall Place. The blueliner is out with an upper-body injury after taking a puck up high yesterday against the Calgary Flames.
Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said he doesn’t know how long Spurgeon will be sidelined.
“I don’t have an answer on that,” Yeo said. “The only thing I’ve got word on is that he’s out for tomorrow.”
The bench boss said that he and the staff would discuss the potential of recalling a defenseman from its American Hockey League affiliate, the Iowa Wild, or suiting up Stu Bickel on the blue line. If Minnesota recalls a defenseman, the team will have to place a player on Injured Reserve or return one to Iowa.
Meet Michael Keranen
Yesterday, Minnesota recalled forward Michael Keranen from Iowa. The 25-year-old joined the team after morning skate and participated in warmups, but didn’t make his National Hockey League debut. Today, Keranen was one of a handful of players in Edmonton participating in an optional skate.
Last season skating for Ilves Tampere of the Finnish Elite League (SM-Liiga), he earned the Lasse Oksanen Award, given to the best player during the regular season. He tied for the SM-Liiga lead in points (17-35=52) and was tied for second in assists. Over the summer, Keranen signed as a free agent with Minnesota on June 5.
“They have a good young team and they liked me as a player,” Keranen said. “So it was pretty easy to sign here.”
The forward said it’s been a difficult season in Iowa, with the team battling for wins. He was thrilled to get his first National Hockey League call-up.
“It was nice,” Keranen said. “We just landed in Charlotte and I got the call to come to Calgary and join the team.”
He’s had to adjust to the North American game, but despite the learning curve, he’s maintained his production offensively. The forward leads Iowa in assists (23) and is second in points (32).
“The ice is smaller,” Keranen said. “You’re a little bit closer to the net to shoot the puck, that’s the biggest difference.”
His roster card might list his birthplace as Stockholm, Sweden, but Keranen said his parents are Finnish and he’s a Finn through and through. In school growing up in Finland, he learned English, but being in North America has given him the opportunity to practice and experience the language first-hand.
“Language is a big part,” Keranen said. “Talking to teammates. We didn’t have Finnish guys down there, so I had to [speak] English every day and that’s how I’ve learned it.”
Of course, learning from teammates makes things easier, but here with Minnesota there’s a certain amount of comfort knowing he’s joining other Finns on the Wild roster.
“There’s lots of Finnish guys, it’s easy to come here,” Keranen.
After missing yesterday’s practice, Minnesota Wild forward Thomas Vanek joined the team for morning skate before the club tries to pick up ground in the Western Conference tonight against the Calgary Flames. The forward has been dealing with general soreness and will be a game-time decision.
“It got better as the skate went on,” Vanek said. “The way I look at it: if I can deal with the pain and still contribute I’ll play, but if I feel like I can’t help the team then I think it’s better if a different guy plays.”
The 31-year-old is hopeful that he’ll feel good throughout the afternoon and up until puck drop.
For the second time in less than a month, defenseman Matt Dumba returns to his hometown of Calgary as the Minnesota Wild skates against the Flames. Last time the young blueliner arrived in the Stampede City, it was under much different circumstances. He was recalled the morning of Jan. 29, flew in the day of the game and arrived on the flight while the team was at morning skate.
Since being recalled the former first-round pick has skated in all nine of the team’s games, and was much at ease after practice today compared to his last visit. He’s excited to be back and, this time, have an evening to relax.
“It’s nice that I get to be home for just a bit and see the friends and family and the people that supported me through every step to get to this point,” Dumba said. “I get to go home for a nice home-cooked meal tonight, so that’s going to be fun.”
Dumba said he doesn’t have a number for the people who will attend the game, but will send out some texts today to inquire. However, he has a buffer in the city for ticket requests.
“My mom, she’s the coordinator,” Dumba laughed. “I think all my friends and all my family definitely know to go through her.
“She’s made it known that Matt’s got other things to think about than arranging tickets for everyone.”
On the ice, Dumba has been part of the team’s third pair along with Nate Prosser. The more stay-at-home veteran has started to see improvement from the more offensive-minded youngster.
“He’s developing; you can really see it,” Prosser said. “I think he’s really focusing on the D-side of it, that’s the biggest thing that [the coaches] wanted him to do.
“He skates well, he shoots the puck well, so he has a lot of the elements that you need.”
Like any partnership, they have one another’s backs out on the ice.
“We both do a pretty good job of picking each other up,” Prosser said. “We’ve been doing pretty well of communication on and off the ice and making sure we’re ready on the bench going out for our next shift.”
Minnesota closes out the season series against Calgary tomorrow night. Though it’s the 20-year-olds second time skating in the arena with the Wild, it remains a special place.
“It’s kind of a special event when a minor hockey team gets to play at the Saddledome,” Dumba said. “Playing junior in Red Deer, we played Calgary eight or nine times a year, so we played lots here in the Dome.”
Maintenance Day For Vanek; Line Juggling?
Wild forward Thomas Vanek skipped practice for a maintenance day. Head Coach Mike Yeo expects the forward to be in the lineup tomorrow.
Who Vanek will skate with, along with the rest of the forwards, is yet to be determined. Yeo said that there’s a possibility of some line movement. The team’s bench boss said that dispersing the top line of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville was “something we’re tinkering with.”
“Last game was a bit of a different situation, matchup-wise; and tomorrow will be a different one as well,” Yeo said. “So, it’s something we’re thinking about, but nothing concrete yet.”
Here’s what the combinations looked like today sans Vanek:
Heat Is On
The hits just keep on coming for the Wild, as it tries to ascend the top-8 in the Western Conference against another team that is ahead in the standings. Despite going 8-1-2 in its last 11 games, Minnesota found itself in 10th place in the West thanks to last night’s loss in Vancouver, and coupled with wins by the Flames, Los Angeles Kings and Winnipeg Jets. So, the Wild is trying to concentrate on things it can control, like on-ice performance in practice and games.
“It’s tough because you lose one game in two weeks or three weeks or whatever it was in regulation and it feels like you’ve probably lost four or five in a row,” Yeo said. “But that’s part of the challenge and part of the journey of getting there.”
With the standings looming over the team like a storm cloud, the club looks to use the precipitous situation to its advantage.
“Hopefully you use it to improve your game day-in and day-out,” Yeo said. “If you lost a game like we did last night, then we have to come back today and figure out what we need to do better.”
The Wild looks to rain on the Flames’ margin in the standing at 8:30 p.m. State of Hockey Time tomorrow at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Jordan Schroeder scored twice last week, his first two goals as a member of the Minnesota Wild. The celebration after his second tally, in the club’s last outing against the Carolina Hurricanes, was much subdued when compared to the first. The emphatic fist pump of his first in a Wild sweater was, at least in part, because in accordance with being his inaugural mark, it came against his former team, the Vancouver Canucks.
Tonight, the 24-year-old returns to the Vancouver for the first time since signing with Minnesota in the offseason. The Lakeville native was selected in the first round (22nd overall) in the 2009 National Hockey League Entry Draft.
Minnesota Wild forward Stephane Veilleux has brought the same energy and work ethic to the rink for 499 National Hockey League games. Tonight, the veteran will do it for the 500th time, as the Wild hosts the Florida Panthers at 7 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center.
For the second straight Monday, Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk has been named a National Hockey League Star of the Week. This week, he’s ascended to the top of the League’s Three Stars thanks to a two-game scoreless streak. In two wins Dubnyk was perfect, posting two shutouts and stopping all 42 shots faced.
When a team is feeling it, the club wants to keep playing and stay rolling. After four straight wins, the Minnesota Wild is back in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race and gaining confidence.
However, thanks to a lull in the schedule, the team won’t get back at it until Saturday, hosting the Colorado Avalanche at 7 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center.
“We played a lot of games and all of a sudden we have three days between games,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “You have to make sure we’re getting ready for an opponent that we know is going to be ready to play against us.”
Of course, the Wild topped the Avs in seven games in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last year and took the opening two games of the season in a home-and-home series, outscoring Colorado, 8-0.