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Posted On Tuesday, 01.22.2013 / 2:01 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Suter to face former team for first time

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter will take on his old team for the first time tonight when the Wild play the Nashville Predators at Xcel Energy Center.

It will be a unique experience for Suter, who signed with Minnesota on July 4 after spending the first seven years of his career in a Predators uniform. He said it will be a tough game to play in, based on his years of service with Nashville and the relationships forged with players and coaches.

"They are your teammates, the last [seven] years for me," Suter said. "It's tough to play against them but it's a part of professional sports. You have to balance that."

His longtime defensive partner, Predators captain Shea Weber, has been asked several times over the past several days about the prospect of playing against Suter. It was easy to see he's sick of talking about it.

"It'll definitely be different," Weber said. "We played together for a long time. The ultimate goal for both teams is winning, so I think both teams will do what it takes."

Much was made of the comments by Nashville general manager David Poile after Suter signed with Minnesota.

"I was looking at all my notes yesterday," Poile said in a conference call after Suter had signed. "Ryan had said when we had a meeting in November with he and Neil Sheehy (Suter's agent), he said at the time that he is not going anywhere else, he is signing with the Nashville Predators.

"Whether this franchise is in Timbuktu, the one point of not choosing to stay and play with Shea Weber, I will never, ever understand that."

Tuesday, Suter said he and Poile had their first conversation since then.

"He came down to the bench and we talked," Suter said. "He's a classy guy and I have a lot of respect for him. He has given me a lot of opportunities and I'll always respect him and appreciate him."

Suter chose not to share what was said between him and Poile this morning, saying it was a private conversation.

Low-key by nature, Suter said he was just looking forward to having it be over. He chuckled when asked if it was unfair fellow newcomer Zach Parise wouldn't have to go through the same thing this season because the Wild won't play the New Jersey Devils.

"That is kind of bull," Suter said.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.22.2013 / 1:56 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Predators hit the road for a while

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- After opening the season with a pair of home games, Nashville's game Tuesday night against the Wild kicks off a two-week, seven game road trip. From Minnesota, the Preds will travel to St. Louis for a game Thursday before heading to the west coast for games against Anaheim, Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Jose before making another stop in St. Louis. Nashville won't play a home game game again until Feb. 7.

"I don't mind going on the road," Trotz said. "I like the fact that your team can come together. It's easy playing at home, anybody can play at home. This is where you are going to find out about your team, playing on the road."

Nashville alternate captain Mike Fisher said going on a long road trip, especially early in the season, can be a good thing.

"After a couple at home, sometimes the road is good for you," Fisher said. "It can force you to play a real solid, team game, play simple.

"It's a tough trip for us, no question. But I think it'll be a great test for us early."

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Posted On Sunday, 01.20.2013 / 1:18 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Stars, Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With both teams in action last night, neither team skated Sunday morning at Xcel Energy Center.

Both squads won Saturday, so look for minimal changes to the lineup. The Wild will go with Josh Harding in goal, while Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan has indicated he was leaning towards inserting Cristopher Nilstorp. If he does, it would mark his first career National Hockey League start.

Wild fourth line center Zenon Konopka received 30 stitches to his nose last night after taking a high stick to the face in the second period against Colorado. He tweeted a picture after the game and said he'd be ready to go Sunday.

WILD

Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Dany Heatley

Matt Cullen - Mikael Granlund - Devin Setoguchi

Pierre-Marc Bouchard - Kyle Brodziak - Cal Clutterbuck

Darroll Powe - Zenon Konopka - Torrey Mitchell

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Tom Gilbert - Clayton Stoner

Nate Prosser - Justin Falk

Josh Harding

Niklas Backstrom

STARS

Loui Eriksson - Derek Roy - Jaromir Jagr

Ray Whitney - Tom Wandell - Michael Ryder

Brenden Morrow - Vernon Fiddler - Eric Nystrom

Ryan Garbutt - Cody Eakin - Reilly Smith

Alex Goligoski - Stephane Robidas

Jordie Benn - Trevor Daley

Brenden Dillon - Philip Larsen

Cristopher Nilstorp

Kari Lehtonen

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Posted On Saturday, 01.19.2013 / 2:29 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-13 Opening Day blog

Parise, Suter Set to Make Wild Debut

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild have waited over six months to unveil their new $98-million assets. After a lockout and week-long training camp, the team will officially do just that as Zach Parise and Ryan Suter debut in Wild sweaters at 8 p.m. against the Colorado Avalanche at Xcel Energy Center.

Saturday's season opener also caps the annual "Hockey Day Minnesota" celebration sponsored by the team and the local Fox Sports affiliate. So it's safe to say that the hockey-crazed fans in Minnesota will be even more excited to see the Wild season finally get underway this evening.

For Parise, the delay has been especially long. After all, this is the player who started pining for the season to start in July at his introductory press conference.

"It dragged during November, December. It got pretty long," Parise said. "Everyone can stop analyzing and overanalyzing and now we can just play. I think everybody is looking forward to that."

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Posted On Saturday, 04.07.2012 / 11:55 AM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Coyotes can claim first division title against Wild

ST. PAUL -- With one game to play, the Phoenix Coyotes control their own destiny when it comes to taking home the Pacific Division title.

It's quite simple: A win Saturday for the Coyotes -- either in regulation, overtime or a shootout -- is enough to win the division and capture the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference for the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The title would be the first-ever division crown for the Coyotes.

Phoenix holds a one point lead over both Los Angeles and San Jose heading into the season's final day. If the Coyotes lose to Minnesota in regulation, Phoenix could tumble all the way from third to eighth in the West. The Kings and Sharks play each other in San Jose in a game that should start around the time Phoenix's game ends.

Los Angeles won the season series with the Coyotes while Phoenix edged San Jose -- meaning the Coyotes will be pulling for the home team Saturday night.

"It's an honor and a privilege to be in the playoffs but our goal is to win the division, which we've never done here in Phoenix," Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle said following a 4-1 win Friday at St. Louis. "It's something that we have to embrace and get those two points."

Of course, beating suddenly-improved Wild will not be easy. Each of Minnesota's last seven opponents are teams that are playoff bound. The Wild's record over that stretch: 4-2-1. Overall, the Wild have won four of five and have generally made life miserable for teams looking to improve or secure its playoff standing.

"It's a different kind of pressure. For a lot of our players, they know they're playing for jobs," said Wild coach Mike Yeo following practice Friday. "When you're playing for your job, you're going to feel some pressure. It's not team oriented, but it's personal pressure guys are putting on themselves."

Each of Minnesota's last four games has gone to the shootout, with the only loss over that stretch coming in Nashville on Tuesday night.

The Wild will dress its 47th different player of the season Saturday as defenseman Nate Prosser was suspended Friday for headbutting Chicago's Jamal Mayers on Thursday night in a 2-1 Wild victory. He will be replaced by former University of North Dakota defenseman Chay Genoway, who will make his NHL debut this evening and become the 15th rookie and 10th player to make his big-league debut for the Wild this season.

Clayton Stoner remains injured and will not play with an upper-body injury, and because the Wild reassigned Tyler Cuma following the win Thursday over the Blackhawks, the team needed to recall another defenseman. This time it will be Kris Fredheim, who played in two games for Minnesota back in November.

Here are the projected lineups for both teams Saturday:

WILD

Dany Heatley - Mikko Koivu - Devin Setoguchi
Cal Clutterbuck - Kyle Brodziak - Darroll Powe
Jason Zucker - Erik Christensen - Nick Johnson
Jed Ortmeyer - Warren Peters - Stephane Veilleux

Tom Gilbert - Marco Scandella
Chay Genoway - Justin Falk
Kurtis Foster - Kris Fredheim

Niklas Backstrom
Josh Harding

COYOTES

Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Raffi Torres - Daymond Langkow - Gilbert Brule
Taylor Pratt - Boyd Gordon - Lauri Korpikoski
 
Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Adrian Aucoin - Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Rostslav Klesla - Michel Rozsival
 
Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera
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Posted On Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 1:32 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Blackhawks get Keith back for final push

ST. PAUL -- After missing five games because of suspension, Duncan Keith returns to the Chicago lineup Thursday as the Blackhawks play at Minnesota.

Keith, who was disciplined for elbowing Vancouver forward Daniel Sedin Mar. 21, will jump back into the Hawks top pairing with partner Brent Seabrook.

Chicago went 2-1-2 in the five games Keith missed, but his return comes at a good time. With a pair of road games against the Wild on Thursday and Detroit on Saturday, Chicago is currently sixth in the Western Conference playoff race. Two points behind Nashville and three behind Detroit, the Blackhawks could jump as high as fourth with a pair of wins and some help. The Red Wings host New Jersey and Nashville hosts Dallas on Thursday.

"It was tough," Keith told NHL.com following practice Tuesday. "Obviously you want to be out there playing and helping the guys. They did a great job and played well. We've been playing well for a long time now, I think. I just want to help out and keep it going."

Keith, who won the Norris Trophy two years ago, is second in the NHL in ice time this season, trailing only Brian Campbell of Florida. And while a suspension is never a positive thing, a break down the stretch for Keith could benefit both him and the Blackhawks. Chicago has already clinched a playoff berth and a rested Keith could make the Hawks a dangerous team over the next few weeks.

"I guess getting some rest at this time of year would probably be beneficial in that regard," Keith said. "I didn't feel like I needed rest. I've been able to play a lot of games every year, so I don't feel that's a reason or anything why I need rest. I feel good and I feel stronger than I was before, so hopefully it pays off."

On the injury front, forward Jonathan Toews is on the roadtrip for Chicago but will not play Thursday. He could play Saturday in Detroit after missing 21 games because of a concussion.

Center Dave Bolland also will not play Thursday. He is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, but is also on the trip and could play Saturday.

Andrew Brunette is questionable with a lower-body ailment, but practiced Wednesday.

As a whole, the Blackhawks should be a rested bunch: They haven't played since Sunday's 5-4 shootout loss to the Wild, which they will attempt to avenge this evening.

Here is Chicago's projected lineup:

Jimmy Hayes - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Viktor Stalberg
Bryan Bickell - Brendan Morrison - Andrew Shaw
Brandon Bollig - Jamal Mayers - Michael Frolik

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Johnny Oduya
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Dylan Olsen

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery
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Posted On Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 12:52 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Cuma set to make NHL debut on Wild blue line

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota defenseman Tyler Cuma will make his National Hockey League debut tonight when the Wild host Chicago at Xcel Energy Center.

Cuma, a first-round pick in 2008, will be the 46th different player to suit up for the Wild this season. He will be the 15th rookie and the ninth to make his NHL debut -- all League highs.

A series of injuries, however, has derailed his track to the NHL, including a knee injury in 2009, after he nearly made the Wild roster out of his first training camp.

Cuma has played in 68 games this season with Houston of the American Hockey League, chipping in offensively with nine assists.

Here is Minnesota's projected lineup:

Dany Heatley - Mikko Koivu - Devin Setoguchi
Cal Clutterbuck - Kyle Brodziak - Darroll Powe
Jason Zucker - Erik Christensen - Nick Johnson
Jed Ortmeyer - Warren Peters - Stephane Veilleux

Tom Gilbert - Nate Prosser
Marco Scandella - Justin Falk
Kurtis Foster - Tyler Cuma

Josh Harding
Niklas Backstrom

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Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 2:23 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Kings trying to stay on top of Pacific

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With their hopes for a division title on the line, the Los Angeles Kings look to stay out of the trap that foiled the Florida Panthers here Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center.

Holding a tenuous lead over the Washington Capitals in the Southeast Division, the Panthers led the Wild late Thursday, before surrendering a late goal to Erik Christensen in regulation and another to Mikko Koivu early in overtime, essentially surrendering a point the standings.

Los Angeles, which defeated Edmonton 4-1 on Friday night, now leads the Pacific Division by a single point over both Dallas and Phoenix, and by two points over San Jose. A similar let down by the Kings Saturday would be a crushing blow.

Nobody more than Los Angeles knows the tenuous nature of the Western Conference playoffs. Just 72 hours ago, the Kings were in ninth place on the outside looking in. Saturday night, they begin play in third place and in the catbird's seat in the division.

The Kings scored in a variety of ways Friday in Edmonton, netting a power play goal, a short-handed goal and two even-strength goals. Jonathan Quick made 13 saves in the win, meaning it's likely Jonathan Bernier gets the start in goal against Minnesota tonight. Bernier stopped all 26 shots he faced against the Wild in the Kings' last trip to Minnesota Feb. 28. A win tonight would give them the season series.

The Kings did not arrive in the Twin Cities until 4 a.m. local time and had an optional morning skate. Only defenseman Davis Drewiskie and forward Kevin Westgarth took part.

The Wild also had an optional morning skate after a full practice Friday. Coach Mike Yeo said his team can take advantage of the schedule and jump on the Kings early. But that won't be easy, especially with what's on the line for the visitors.

"If you play the game the right way, and play a game that grinds them down a little more physically, certainly that can play into our favor," Yeo said. "But I don't expect fatigue to be a factor in these last games. These are crucial points for them and they're going to come in here and I expect a really strong effort from them."

The game marks the final contest of a four-game road trip for L.A. Getting the game to overtime would assure the Kings of a winning road-trip. With three games left after tonight -- two of which are at Staples Center -- the Kings control their own destiny.

"We got the two points. That's what we want," Sutter said after beating the Oilers. "All of the games are really important right now."

Minnesota will go with Niklas Backstrom again in goal. He stopped 25 shots, earning his 18th win Thursday over the Panthers -- his first game back after injuring his groin almost a month ago.

On the blueline, the Wild will play without Marco Scandella, who Yeo said is out with a minor upper body injury. Kurtis Foster will skate in his place. Scandella is expected to accompany the team to Chicago for its game there Sunday evening.

Los Angeles, meanwhile, is also likely to be without forward Jeff Carter, who injured his ankle Wednesday in Calgary. He was in a walking boot afterwards and did not play Friday. He is likely to be re-evaluated when the team returns to the West Coast after the game this evening.

Here is the projected lineup for both teams:

WILD

Dany Heatley - Mikko Koivu - Devin Setoguchi
Cal Clutterbuck - Kyle Brodziak - Darroll Powe
Jason Zucker - Erik Christensen - Nick Johnson
Jed Ortmeyer - Warren Peters - Stephane Veilleux

Tom Gilbert - Clayton Stoner
Steven Kampfer - Justin Falk
Kurtis Foster - Nate Prosser

Niklas Backstrom
Josh Harding
 
KINGS

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dwight King - Mike Richards - Colin Fraser
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Brad Richardson - Jordan Nolan
 
Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Alec Martinez - Matt Greene
 
Jonathan Bernier
Jonathan Quick
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Posted On Thursday, 03.29.2012 / 1:52 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Weiss, Panthers nearing a postseason spot

ST. PAUL -- Perhaps it is because the Florida Panthers are based in Miami, but one of the NHL's best teams has flown under the radar all season.

That's fine with forward Stephen Weiss, who is just happy the Panthers are on the radar at all.

Weiss has been a full-timer with Florida since 2005-06 and has played more games in a Panthers sweater than anyone in franchise history. He's never played in a playoff game as a NHL player.

That could change if the Panthers continue to take care of business. With six games remaining, Florida leads Washington by five points in the Southeast Division and is on the verge of winning its first division title in history.

"It's what it's all about, being in the mix this time of year. Haven't done it too many times in years past," Weiss said. "Playing in big hockey games, it's a lot of fun."

Because the Panthers don't play in a traditional hockey market, little has been said about Florida lately. It is a team with a lot of known, and unknown, talent, but more has probably been written about their opponent Thursday, the Wild, and their historic collapse.

That's fine with Weiss though. He said he enjoys avoiding the headlines.

"We're not worried about what other people think," Weiss said. "We knew it was going to be like that all year. We're content flying under the radar and just going about our business and winning hockey games.

"Hopefully we can continue to do that over the last six games and get into the playoffs. Maybe then, we'll get a little bit of respect."

Panthers coach Kevin Dineen says it would mean a lot to the franchise to get back to the playoffs, especially for a guy like Weiss.

"He takes a lot of pride in wearing the Panther uniform," Dineen said. "He's a large part of our identity. Certainly, he's suffered some games this time of year that have not been relevant. I think he's enjoying this process right now and I think his teammates are enjoying it for him as well."

Weiss credited his teammates, coaching staff and front office for making this season's run possible, saying it would be big for the South Florida hockey community as well.

"It would mean a lot. Not having success over the years, to bring it together that quickly, if we can manage to get it done, it would be huge," Weiss said.

In the lineup tonight will be former Wild forward John Madden. The veteran didn't play Tuesday at Montreal, but will replace Mikael Samuelsson.

Madden scored 12 goals and 13 assists as a member of the Wild last season. He has two goals in 25 games with Florida this year.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.29.2012 / 1:45 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Wild-Panthers contest

ST. PAUL -- Here are projected lines for tonight's game between the Minnesota Wild and Florida Panthers:

WILD
Dany Heatley - Mikko Koivu - Devin Setoguchi
Cal Clutterbuck - Kyle Brodziak - Darroll Powe
Jason Zucker - Erik Christensen - Nick Johnson
Jed Ortmeyer - Warren Peters - Stephane Veilleux

Marco Scandella - Tom Gilbert
Clayton Stoner - Steven Kampfer
Justin Falk - Nate Prosser

Niklas Backstrom
Josh Harding

PANTHERS
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Tomas Kopecky
Wojtek Wolski - Shawn Matthias - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - John Madden
Scottie Upshall - Jerred Smithson - Marco Sturm

Brian Campbell - Jason Garrison
Mike Weaver - Dmitry Kulikov
Erik Gudbranson - Ed Jovanovski

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
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Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic