There were very few things that could have taken away from the luster of the Minnesota Wild’s dominant performance in Saturday night’s 4-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Xcel Energy Center. One of those things happened on Sunday, when it was learned that Pierre-Marc Bouchard would miss today’s afternoon matinee against the New York Islanders and tomorrow night’s contest in Ottawa. Bouchard has been suspended for two games by the NHL for a highsticking incident in the second period of Saturday’s game.
The Wild will have to replace Bouchard’s playmaking with some brute force, as Matt Kassian has been activated from injured reserve and will make his season debut. The Wild won’t have any extra forwards available today or tomorrow with Bouchard and Brad Staubitz serving their suspensions.
Despite the loss of Bouchard, the Wild should still be feeling confident after executing a perfect game plan against Columbus. Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi each notched a goal and an assist in their Wild debuts, while defenseman Marco Scandella scored his first career goal. Matt Cullen got things started with a goal just over a minute into the season. Niklas Backstrom was also brilliant in stopping 29 of 31 shots.
The Islanders are looking for their first win, and their first goal of the season. On Saturday, they hosted the Florida Panthers and were shut out by former Wild tender Jose Theodore. Al Montoya, one of three goaltenders on the Isles roster, took the loss.
Wild at Islanders will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North at noon. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com. Click here to receive Minnesota Wild broadcast alerts/game day previews each Wild Game day.
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The Islanders have fallen on some hard times in recent years, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the island has boasted some of the best teams in NHL history. The club unveiled a new opening video to celebrate their 40 years in the League. Of course, some of us work on Columbus Day, so if you can’t be at Uniondale Arena, you can check it out here.
For the Islanders to resurrect themselves, the pressure is going to fall to John Tavares. While still young, the former first overall pick is expected to continue his rapid rise as a scorer, and a leader.
The scoring hasn’t been an issue, as Tavares nearly cracked the 30-goal mark last year in just his second season. But the Islanders have given him the Alternate Captain role, and have surrounded him with veterans and locker room guys like Brian Rolston and Marty Reasoner to help him in his leadership role.
So far so good for the Wild’s top line. As advertised, they were buzzing the Columbus zone all night. The chemistry seems to have arrived as Heatley, Setoguchi and Mikko Koivu showed they can find each other at will. And the shots were plentiful. Koivu and Heatley each put five on the Columbus netminders, and Setoguchi almost put one through the body of Steve Mason on his first goal in a Wild sweater.
Just when the Wild has two of its most potent lines in team history, one of the key ingredients is taken away on what seemed to be a freak play rather than an intent to injure. But the ruling has been handed down, and the Wild will have to account for the absence of Bouchard somehow.
Perhaps most encouraging in Saturday’s win was not the performance of the Wild’s big guns, but the emergence of the young defensemen. In particular, Scandella was so good, he appears primed to have the word “promising” taken away when ever he’s mentioned. At least for one game, he looked like he’s arrived.
Without a morning skate today, it’s unknown who moves up alongside Cullen and Guillaume Latendresse, but Mike Yeo praised Darroll Powe last week for his ability to play on any kind of line: