ST. PAUL -- They could very well have a Colorado College class reunion tonight here in the Twin Cities.
It's "Hockey Day Minnesota" here in the North Star State, a day where, you guessed it, it's nothing but hockey. High school games are on the local Fox Sports North affiliate all day long. The schedule coincides with all levels too. FSN has two high school games on during the morning and early afternoon, the University of Minnesota at 5 p.m. and a late faceoff for the Wild and Stars at 8 p.m.
In preparation for the contest tonight, the Wild called up four players from Houston of the American Hockey League on Friday, trying anything at this point to snap out of its month-long funk. Expect Chad Rau, a Colorado College alum, to make his National Hockey League debut tonight. Also called up was defenseman Nate Prosser, another former Tiger.
For Dallas, forward Toby Peterson is expected to be in the lineup and perhaps goaltender Richard Bachman -- both CC alums themselves.
The Golden Gophers opponent across town at Mariucci Arena is … Colorado College. Needless to say, there should be plenty of CC black and gold in both arenas this evening.
Along with Rau, the Wild also called up bruising forward Matt Kassian and veteran Jed Ortmeyer, while reassigning forwards Casey Wellman and David McIntyre. The goal, according to coach Mike Yeo, was to simply get a different look. The Wild have won just twice since Dec. 13 and have lost 15 of their last 17 games.
"We're going to try whatever it takes right now," Yeo said. "These guys should have a positive mind-frame coming into the game, they're going going to be excited to play, which we need right now.
"It's amazing how much of the game is played between the ears."
Without saying so, Yeo has clearly started sending messages to his veterans, especially on the blueline, where Marek Zidlicky and Mike Lundin will both be healthy scratches in favor of a younger, more inexperienced player like Prosser.
"We've worked D-Zone coverage the last couple of weeks like crazy," Yeo said. "Then we get into a game and it's like 'What the heck is going on right now?' Guys know we're making mistakes and they keep happening."
For Rau, making his NHL debut on 'Hockey Day' makes it extra special. His younger brother Kyle is a freshman at the University of Minnesota, meaning plenty of his family will shuttle from one arena to the other between the games, which are about a 15-minute drive from one another.
"It's going to be a long day of hockey," Rau said. "It should work out perfect."
Rau was called up last month when the Wild were in Vancouver, but was a healthy scratch. He was sent back to Houston shortly after. Tonight, he will center Kassian and Ortmeyer on Minnesota's fourth line.
"I'm pretty excited," Rau said. "Especially playing here, it's really special."
Dallas did not skate this morning as the Stars got into the Twin Cities late after playing Tampa Bay at home Friday night. The Lightning won 2-1.
Reports after the game indicated Stars coach Glen Gulutzan was quite unhappy with the effort against Tampa and let his team know about it afterwards.
“The most frustrating part was really the first 30 minutes of getting outworked. That’s always the most frustrating part,” Gulutzan said, according to ESPNDallas.com. “I’ve got no problem if you go in a shootout or you play hard and you just don’t get results. When you only play 30 minutes, some team comes into your building on a Friday night and outplays you for 30 minutes, I have a real big problem with that.”
The Stars, like Minnesota, are battling injury problems. Mike Ribiero and Jamie Benn are both out tonight, although Benn may return as soon as Tuesday.
“You have to work 60 minutes. We have to work 60 minutes every night with everyone in our lineup if we want to play in the playoffs," Gulutzan said. "You have to make them aware that they are not good enough – with or without Jamie Benn and Mike Ribeiro in the lineup – to not be a hardworking team. That’s the message. They are just not good enough.”
The two teams are separated by just a single point in the Western Conference standings, so expect both teams to put forth a blue collar effort tonight at Xcel Energy Center.
Here are the projected lineups:
Dany Heatley - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Johnson
Devin Setoguchi - Matt Cullen - Cal Clutterbuck
Darroll Powe - Warren Peters - Carson McMillan
Matt Kassian - Chad Rau - Jed Ortmeyer
Nick Schultz - Greg Zanon
Justin Falk - Nate Prosser
Clayton Stoner - Jared Spurgeon
Brenden Morrow - Tom Wandell - Loui Eriksson
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Michael Ryder
Steve Ott - Adam Burish - Radek Dvorak
Toby Peterson - Jake Dowell - Tomas Vincour
Sheldon Souray - Stephane Robidas
Nicklas Grossman - Trevor Daley
Philip Larsen - Alex Goligoski