Plenty of new faces as Wild open against Blue Jackets
Friday, 10.07.2011 / 11:44 PMBLUE JACKETS (0-1-0) at WILD (0-0-0)
TV: FS-O (HD), FS-N (HD)
First of four meetings this season between Western Conference opponents. Columbus took three of four matchups on the 2010-11 schedule, including the final two in overtime and both games played at Xcel Energy Center. The Blue Jackets were led by captain Rick Nash
with 4 goals and 7 points, while Cal Clutterbuck
had 4 goals for the Wild and captain Mikko Koivu
finished with 1 goal and 5 points.
Fresh faces abound on both sides, as both Columbus and Minnesota look to crack the top eight in the West and end their respective playoff droughts. Jeff Carter
and Vinny Prospal
were among the newcomers debuting for the Blue Jackets on Friday night against the Predators, while the Wild's home opener will see Dany Heatley
and Devin Setoguchi
play their first regular-season games in their new jerseys.
The home opener didn't go as planned for Columbus, but maybe that's not surprising given the opponent. The Blue Jackets fell 3-2 to the Predators on Friday at Nationwide Arena, despite a goal and an assist each from Prospal and Nash, and two assists from Carter. Nashville improved to 44-14-5 in the all-time series between the teams, including 11-5-2 in Columbus since the start of the 2006-07 season.
"Pekka Rinne was solid for 60 minutes," coach Scott Arniel said of the Nashville goalie and past Vezina nominee, who made 32 saves. "We were throwing lots of rubber at him, and at the very end there we had some great chances. Both of our goals were guys plowing into the crease area and getting second and third whacks.
"I thought we played hard, but couldn't find that third one."
The on-ice product won't be the only thing that looks different for Minnesota. After not making the playoffs in their final season under Jacques Lemaire and then back-to-back seasons with Todd Richards behind the bench, the Wild changed coaches again during the offseason and named 38-year-old Mike Yeo as their man. Yeo led the AHL's Houston Aeros to the Western Conference title last season. The Wild gave up a pair of talented players in Martin Havlat and Brent Burns in order to acquire Heatley and Setoguchi, but hope the new scoring talent combined with a strong season from Niklas Backstrom
in net can change the franchise's recent fortunes.
"People have to form opinions and make predictions right now," Yeo told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "But the real story is what happens at the end of the year, and as far as I'm concerned, we're the ones that get to write that story."
The Blue Jackets' top line was stellar Friday, and though Carter didn't light the lamp he finished with six shots and won over 77 percent of his faceoffs. … The Wild's new Koivu-Heatley-Setoguchi trio combined for 7 goals and 12 assists in the four preseason games they played together. Koivu scored goals in three consecutive games.
Columbus has forwards Kristian Huselius
(pectoral surgery) and Jared Boll
(broken thumb) and backup goalie Mark Dekanich
(ankle) on injured reserve. … Minnesota backup goalie Josh Harding
, who missed all of last season with ACL and MCL tears, tweaked his ankle during the preseason but is expected to dress. Defenseman Mike Lundin
(back spasms) and forwards Matt Kassian
(broken finger) and Cody Almond
(back) are on injured reserve. Also, forward Brad Staubitz
is serving a three-game suspension for an illegal check in a preseason game.
Nash recorded the 124th multi-point game of his career in the Blue Jackets' opener. … Heatley only turned 30 in January, but he's already been a 50-goal scorer twice in his career. However, his 26 goals for the Sharks last season were his fewest in a full season since his rookie year and the Wild need his production to pick back up.
Fourth-year Columbus goalie Steve Mason
played well in defeat Friday, making 31 saves. It's likely he'll be back in net Saturday, with Dekanich on the shelf and the team looking to rebound and pick up its first win of the season.