It was a bipolar month for the Minnesota Wild with the recent highs feeling mountainous compared to the cavernous early-January lows. Thorough it all, the team has tried to remain focused on the next opponent and not on the things that have come in the past. So, with the club riding a three-game road win streak, Minnesota knows it is far from the summit of the regular season as it returns to Xcel Energy Center. Tonight, the Wild continues the climb against a familiar foe, the Chicago Blackhawks.
After competing well last season, including a hard-fought six game series in the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Minnesota hasn’t found its footing against the Hawks. The Wild is 0-3-0 against Chicago this season. Again, the team doesn’t want to dwell on what has been, but what is in store today.
“They’ve had our number this year,” Yeo said. “Up to this point this year, we’ve found a way to be close in a couple of games and not close in others, so we’ve got to be sure we’re ready from the drop of the puck.”
The club is looking for a balanced attack against the Hawks. The Wild’s bench boss said that one breakdown against Chicago can lead to the puck ending up in the back of the net.
“Against a team like this, you have to find your opportunities to attack with the puck and be aggressive when they’re there,” Yeo said. “At the same time, you always have to be on guard.”
Minnesota will be without forward Matt Cooke against Chicago and could be without his services for the foreseeable future. The 36-year-old suffered a lower-body injury and could miss significant time depending on the results of a doctor’s visit today. Yeo didn’t want to speculate on a timeframe for Cooke, but said, “It’s definitely potential of being a long-term injury.”
The team will again be without Justin Fontaine, who suffered a groin injury and was placed on Injured Reserve retroactive Jan. 29.
With Cooke and Fontaine out, the club recalled forward Jordan Schroeder from the Iowa Wild, its American Hockey League affiliate. The Lakeville native said that he was excited to get the call because he knows how difficult it is to get games in the NHL. The wing played well the last time he was recalled against the Hawks on Jan. 8, firing seven shots on goal and creating a glut of offensive chances throughout his 9:49 of ice time.
“It was a good game, things just seemed to click,” Schroeder said. “If you move your feet, talk and communicate with your linemates good things are going to happen.”
Schroeder will be on a line with Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter tonight. The wing said that they use their size to their advantage, while he’ll try and bring his assets to the table.
“They’re tremendous with the puck and protecting the puck down low,” Schroeder said. “I just want to bring some speed and work ethic — always move my feet and create plays.”
Facing the Hawks for the first time as a member of the Wild will be goaltender Devan Dubnyk. The netminder backstopped all three of the team’s wins on its recent road trip through western Canada and was named the National Hockey League’s Third Star yesterday. Tonight will be his eighth-straight start since being acquired by Minnesota.
“It’s nice to get recognized when we go and have a great week like that,” Dubnyk said. “The thing is with every game being so important right now, we enjoy that on the day off and like any win you let it go and tonight is just that much more important.”