The game of hockey is like the Solar System: Humongous big. Hulking players, huge hits, large ice surface and giant arenas. But in a game where bigger is often considered better, the difference between winning and losing is often found in the little things—the details.
Head Coach Mike Yeo would like the Minnesota Wild to not get caught up in the big picture or the fact that the team is still looking for its first win. Three games into the season is not the time to hit the panic button, but to focus on the intricacies of the game. While getting pucks in at the blue line, picking up the correct players on the backcheck and not taking bad penalties might not be headline grabbing plays, they are often the difference between a win and a loss.
As the team looks to do a better job in the minor parts of the game, the bigger and more noticeable change will be in the Wild’s forward lines. Tonight, Nino Niederreiter will be moved onto the top line alongside Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise. Yeo said that he isn’t trying to replicate last season, when Charlie Coyle found success with Koivu and Parise, but likes the fact that Niederreiter brings some of the same elements Coyle possesses. Yeo also likes the way that El Nino has played in the first three games and said he’s earned the chance to get on the top line. WildTV spoke to Niederreiter about skating with Koivu and Parise.
That means Jason Pominville will move to the wing with Mikael Granlund and Dany Heatley. While it might look like a demotion on paper, Yeo hopes the move will spark a little more 5-on-5 offense from the second line. Putting two veterans with Granlund should also be beneficial for the youngster. Pominville is responsible defensively, which will relieve some of the burden from the centerman. Pominville spoke to WildTV about tonight’s game.
Yesterday, the team recalled forward Stephane Veilleux from Iowa. He’ll bring energy to the wing with Zenon Konopka and Torrey Mitchell. WildTV has a pregame video of Veilleux about the opportunity and what he wants to do to help the team earn its first victory.
On the blue line, Mathew Dumba will skate in his second NHL game and will be paired with Clayton Stoner. Dumba spoke with the PONDcast and said it was good to get game one out of the way, and just play.
With eight defensemen on the Wild’s roster there will be shuffling as the club continues to give Dumba a look. After the skate, Yeo said that it was still to early to give a firm evaluation on Dumba, as the club can choose to assign him back to junior hockey after nine games. Nate Prosser waits patiently for his first action of the season.
Goaltender Niklas Backstrom was held out of practice again today after suffering a knee strain against Nashville on Tuesday. Yeo said that he is encouraged with the way Backstrom felt today and believes he’ll be ready by next week as the Wild starts a four-game road trip against Buffalo on Monday.
With Backstrom out, the Wild recalled netminder Darcy Kuemper from Iowa today.
So, it will be Josh Harding’s net tonight. Harding has never faced Winnipeg (even when the team was in Hotlanta). The goaltender played well in Winnipeg during the preseason and was solid in relief of Backstrom on Tuesday, making 20 saves.
If you read today’s game preview, you might’ve noticed the “Worthless Stat” of the day. This might be the most worthless stat we’ve ever provided, the distance between Saint Paul and Winnipeg is only 391 miles. However, it won’t be worthless because you can bet there will be a caravan of Jets fans crossing the border for tonight’s game. You can double down that they are going to be throwing back spirits like Don Draper on a Monday morning. If history repeats itself, Jets fans will be extremely boisterous—DURING WARMUPS—and try to get a “Go, Jets go!” chant fired up at Xcel Energy Center. When (can’t say ‘if’ because it is inevitable) this happens, instead of booing the Lighthouse implores State of Hockey fans to counter and come over the top with a “Let’s go Wild!” rouser. “Let’s go Wild!” sounds infinitely better than boos, even in the press box; think of how much better it sounds on the ice.
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