ST. PAUL -- The Marek Zidlicky watch is in full effect today at Xcel Energy Center.
The disgruntled defenseman, subject of trade rumors for much of the last 24 hours, skated this morning for the Wild, but will be a healthy scratch tonight against Winnipeg.
It's not to say a trade is imminent, or is even going to happen at this point. But the trade talk has been so thick in the Twin Cities of late that Wild coach Mike Yeo made the decision to sit Zidlicky down tonight -- the fifth time this season he will be scratched.
"All coaching decision," Yeo said. "I don't know what's going on. I don't know what is going to happen. But what I can say is, it's quite obvious that focus-wise, it'd be a tough game for him to go out and perform the way we need him to."
Zidlicky's desire to leave Minnesota became obvious last month when he told Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune of his displeasure about being scratched three games in January. On Wednesday, TSN's Darren Dreger reported Zidlicky had waived his no-trade clause in order to facilitate a trade to New Jersey. Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said he had not approached Zidlicky about a trade to the Devils, or anywhere else for that matter.
It is believed Fletcher is working on something, but as of early Thursday afternoon, there was nothing new to report.
Zidlicky's teammates say it's business as usual, especially for a team desperate to break a five-game losing skid. The Wild have also lost four games in a row at Xcel Energy Center, the first time that's ever happened.
"Everybody reads the papers and is aware of what's in the papers. There's no secrets anymore," Wild forward Matt Cullen said. "That sort of thing, you can't allow to creep in. You just have to leave it alone, and let that take care of itself. Guys are aware of what's going on, but to be honest, there's really nothing we can do about it.
"As a player, you've got plenty to worry about, getting yourself to play and trying to find a way to win a game here."
In that regard, both the Wild and Jets have plenty on their plates. Minnesota has lost 21 of 26 games, a stretch that began Dec. 13 in Winnipeg. At the time, the Wild had won seven straight games and were the best team in the National Hockey League.
"And do you want me to cry or what?" said Jets coach Claude Noel when asked about the quirky statistic. "It's funny, because some teams, when you're hot like they were when they came in, some teams springboard off of a game like that. We've springboarded off that game and had a pretty good month. We've used that to build confidence.
"When you watch them play at that time and then now, you can see the magnitude of what confidence does with a team, both good and bad."
The Jets pounded on the Wild physically that night, including a Zach Bogosian check-from-behind on Pierre-Marc Bouchard that some feel is the main reason why Bouchard has missed several weeks, and could perhaps miss the rest of season, with yet another concussion. Bouchard missed a couple of games after that because of a broken nose and facial lacerations, but returned for a spell shortly after. On injured reserve since Jan. 7, the Bogosian hit is believed to be the incident that set the wheels in motion on yet another head injury for Bouchard.
Bogosian is not in St. Paul because of a lower-body injury. Noel said he will be re-evaluated tomorrow and will be a game-time decision against Boston on Friday.
Both Minnesota and Winnipeg are both struggling to score of late, with the Wild 29th in the NHL in goals per game and the Jets 25th. Winnipeg took the first game by a score of 2-1, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see a similar score tonight.
"Just the way both teams play, I see it being a low-scoring game," Noel said. "I think it has the makings of a good game, a really good game. Both teams are going to have some urgency."
On the lineup front, Chris Mason will start in goal for the Jets. He's lost three straight starts, but has allowed just two goals in each of his last two. He hasn't played since a 2-1 loss at Florida on Feb. 3.
For Minnesota, Yeo said winger Cal Clutterbuck looked good this morning and will skate before the game. He's missed two games with a charley horse and is a game-time decision tonight. If Clutterbuck can't go, Jeff Taffe, called up Wednesday from AHL Houston, will take his place. Cody Almond, also just called up, will play, taking the place of Carson McMillan, who was placed on injured reserve following Minnesota's 2-1 loss to Anaheim Tuesday.
Niklas Backstrom will get the nod in goal.