Ryan Suter logs a marathon amount of ice time, currently averaging 28:54 per game. So it’s not surprising when National Hockey League’s ice time leader takes a practice off. As the Wild was at the rink for pregame practice prepping for tonight’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Suter wasn’t on the ice. Don’t worry State of Hockey fans: he was just taking a maintenance morning.
Expect Suter to see more ice than a polar bear tonight against an electric Lightning team that boasts four players scoring at a point-per-game pace. The Bolts have a power play that is similar to the Wild, just a shade behind Minnesota at 27.3 percent for sixth best in the NHL. It will be important for the Wild to play a disciplined game tonight and not take any ‘bad’ penalties.
Questionable for the Lightning is Martin St. Louis, who leads the team with 10 points (4-6=10) and is second in the NHL in scoring. St. Louis blocked a shot against the Los Angeles Kings and wasn’t on the ice for the team’s morning skate. The Bolts recalled Brett Connolly from its American Hockey League affiliate if St. Louis is unavailable tonight.
From the Wild’s side of the man advantage, Jason Pominville has scored power play goals in back-to-back games and spoke to WildTV about moving from the point to the slot on the PP. He also talked about skating on the wing with Mikael Granlund and what they are doing to breakthrough on their numerous scoring chances.
Dany Heatley also was absent from the team’s morning skate along with Head Coach Mike Yeo, but the two were watching film together. Speaking to the media after practice, Yeo said he wants to see the veteran play a good game. Yeo said that when players get caught up in scoring goals and stats can be like quicksand, where they’re digging a deeper hole by dwelling on it and preventing themselves on doing the things that can actually get them out of a slide.
In the lineup will be rookie Mathew Dumba, replacing Nate Prosser. Yeo said the biggest things for young players is finding consistency and looks for him to play a solid two-way game tonight.
Keith Ballard is out of the lineup tonight as a preventative measure after taking a puck to the face on Monday against the Buffalo Sabres. The defenseman skated yesterday, but with eight blueliners on the Wild roster, Yeo said there is no reason to rush him back if he’s not feeling 100 percent.
After practice, Yeo said that he expects goaltender Niklas Backstrom to backup Josh Harding in net tonight. Backstrom has been out since straining his knee against the Nashville Predators on Oct. 8.
The Wild has talked about trying to stay positive when outshooting teams by such a large margin. While the team has struggled to score while 5-on-5, they have been out-chancing their opponents by taking more than 60 percent of shots while at even strength. The Sporting News wrote an interesting piece on what the Lighthouse has been reporting since training camp: the infusion of high-skilled players in a system that is based on puck control is leading to an increase in scoring chances. It’s an exciting time to be covering the team, and Minnesota will start to convert on its opportunities--mark our words. If you’re not on this team’s bandwagon, you better jump because its about to leave the station, starting tonight in Tampa Bay.