It was a bipolar month for the Minnesota Wild with the recent highs feeling mountainous compared to the cavernous early-January lows. Thorough it all, the team has tried to remain focused on the next opponent and not on the things that have come in the past. So, with the club riding a three-game road win streak, Minnesota knows it is far from the summit of the regular season as it returns to Xcel Energy Center. Tonight, the Wild continues the climb against a familiar foe, the Chicago Blackhawks.
After competing well last season, including a hard-fought six game series in the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Minnesota hasn’t found its footing against the Hawks. The Wild is 0-3-0 against Chicago this season. Again, the team doesn’t want to dwell on what has been, but what is in store today.
The Minnesota Wild looks make it three-for-three on its Canadian road trip, tomorrow skating against the Vancouver Canucks at 2 p.m. State of Hockey Time.
The Wild will be without Justin Fontaine, who suffered a pulled groin against the Calgary Flames on Thursday. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo doesn’t have a timetable for a return and with this type of injury it just needs time to heal.
“It’s something that could be a day or something that could be longer,” Yeo said.
Defenseman Matt Dumba was the last man to hit the ice for the Minnesota Wild’s morning skate at the Scotiabank Saddledome, but there was a pretty good reason for his tardiness. The 20-year-old was recalled this morning from the club’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Iowa Wild, and arrived in Calgary around the time Minnesota started practice.
The team recalled Dumba because yesterday Ryan Suter took a maintenance day. Speaking to the media following today’s session, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said that Suter was ready for action against the Flames and played it coy about whether or not the Calgary product would skate in front of his hometown crowd saying, “We’ll see tonight.” The team’s bench boss said that Nate Prosser would remain in the lineup for penalty kill purposes, so it could be Christian Folin sitting if Dumba plays. If Dumba is in the lineup, Yeo said he’d make an impact on the game.
Hockey arenas are often referred to as “barns” and the Minnesota Wild walked into one of the cooler old buildings around for practice today in Calgary. The team dressed at the Scotiabank Saddledome, where the Wild will face the Flames tomorrow night, and crossed the street for an afternoon skate at the Stampede Corral, a multipurpose facility that opened in 1950.
After a week of inactivity for the National Hockey League’s All-Star Break, the Minnesota Wild restarts north of the border. The Wild kicks off a three-game Canadian roadie tonight against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place.
The Wild will have Mikael Granlund back in the lineup against its old Northwest Division foe. The forward missed 13 games after suffering a fractured wrist on Dec. 27 against the Winnipeg Jets.
For the first time in a long time, the Wild looks like a healthy club.
“We were up in the suite trying to watch the game,” Suter smiled. “(Thomas) Vanek’s kids didn’t show up so I had to play.
“I was the goalie.”
In addition to acquiring goaltender Devan Dubnyk from Arizona, the Minnesota Wild made a few other roster moves today.
Dumba was recently named to the AHL All-Star Classic, scheduled for Jan. 25-26 in Utica, NY. The 20-year-old has posted 12 points (4-8=12) in 17 games with Iowa. In 20 games with Minnesota this season, Dumba has a goal and three assists.
Scandella is retroactively placed on IR, Jan. 6. The blueliner has missed four games with an upper-body injury.
Falk suffered an upper-body injury in Pittsburgh last night.
Nothing is easy for the Minnesota Wild right now, and tomorrow night’s game against the Buffalo Sabres could become more challenging some time after 5 p.m. EST. That is when the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety is scheduled to have a phone hearing with Wild defenseman Ryan Suter.
Last night in Pittsburgh, the blueliner caught Pens’ forward Steve Downie with an elbow during the second period. Downie left the game and didn’t return. Suter wasn’t assessed a penalty on the play.
“It was kind of a fluky thing, he brushed my arm, elbow, as he went by,” Suter said after the game. He said that it was incidental and after poking at the puck was going to grab his stick with both hands. “That’s not the type of player I am.”
Pick any sports cliché out of a hat to address how the Minnesota Wild can dig its way out of its current slide, but, at the end of the day it’s about wins and losses. Sometimes it doesn’t come down to X’s and O’s and the way that a team gets out of a funk is by performing on the greatest platitude of them all—compete for a full 60 minutes.
“It’s only going to take one win to gain some confidence and get on a roll,” Wild forward Matt Cooke said. He joked that you can pretty much use a sports cliché generator right now, but most importantly the club needs to, “have fun and embrace the challenge.”
Tonight, the Wild’s challenge is Cooke’s former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, currently sitting third in the Eastern Conference.
This just in: hockey is an intense sport. Things said and done in the heat of the moment are typically saved for those on the inside—the players and coaching staff—during a sixty-minute game or in the locker room between periods or following the contest.
Occasionally, that passion and intensity spills into practice.
That was the case at Xcel Energy Center today where Head Coach Mike Yeo wasn’t satisfied with the team’s effort in practice, following a 4-3 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks.
“We weren’t good enough,” Yeo said about the team’s execution today. “We’re not in a position where we can be—let alone a decent practice—bad practice.”