Friday, 2:10 p.m. CST
You know that spring is only three months away (hopefully) when you walk through RiverCentre after practice and see hundreds of yards of boats, hot tubs and campers. The Minnesota Sportsmen's Boat, Camping and Vacation Show is in town through the weekend.
The Wild skated for a little less than an hour today. Minute-munchers Niklas Backstrom
, Antti Miettinen and Owen Nolan were given the day off. Mike Ramsey’s friend was the other goalie, along with Josh Harding
. Brent Burns skated for a few minutes, but not long, and Eric Belanger and Marek Zidlicky were the next guys off. With three games in four nights heading into the All-Star break, staying fresh is key.
Jacques Lemaire held court with the local media for quite some time. What I took most out of his talk was that it’s very hard for teams to be great in all situations -– 5-on-5, power play and shorthanded. Lemaire’s team, which has lived and died by the power play for most of the season, has suddenly scored 10 even-strength goals in the last two games, while the man advantage unit is struggling. But, as Lemaire said, as long as the wins are happening, it doesn’t matter what is clicking.
Lemaire also talked briefly about Benoit Pouliot’s assignment to AHL Houston, saying that a return trip to the Wild “depends on (Pouliot’s) play."
Craig Weller (head injury) didn’t skate today and is out through the weekend.
You’ll want to check Wild.com throughout the day tomorrow. I’m going to try to make several Hockey Day Minnesota stops, including Lake Phalen, and I may even get to see the Whitecaps game against the U.S. National Team -- although I really want to see the high school game at Xcel Energy Center tomorrow as well. The plan is to blog once an hour or so, and thanks to Jamie MacDonald of Wild.com for his help posting throughout the day.
Lots of good stuff in advance of the Wild-Ducks game tomorrow. I stayed in the press box until after 11 last night, while stuff was fresh in my mind, to get notes together for the game. Notes are so easy to find when you’re scoring a lot of goals (or, unfortunately, scoring not very many).
The Wild is 1-0-1 all-time on Hockey Day Minnesota, with both games going to overtime. Minnesota lost, 2-1, in a shootout to Dallas 1/20/07, and defeated the New York Islanders, 4-3, on 2/9/08. Minnesota is 6-1-1 in its last eight home regular season match-ups with the Ducks, with the lone loss coming nearly one year ago to the day, a 4-2 decision 1/18/08.
And here's a note we'll use for the stat package tomorrow night ...
D Nick Schultz will skate in his 492nd game with the Wild tonight, moving ahead of RW Marian Gaborik for the most games played all-time in a Wild sweater. Gaborik had hip surgery earlier this month that is expected to sideline him for 10 weeks. Schultz has 82 points (20-62=82) and is a +39 in 491 NHL games. Schultz has never finished a season with a minus rating, and his +39 rating is best among any Wild defenseman in team history. Schultz was the Wild's second-round pick (No. 33 overall) in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.
In other notes news we'll use for tomorrow night's game ...
Minnesota has won its last two games by a combined 11-4 margin. This marks the first time the Wild has scored 11 or more combined goals in two straight home games since it scored 12 in the first two home games of 2005 -- a 6-3 win over Calgary on 10/5 and a 6-0 victory over Vancouver on 10/12. The Wild team record for most goals scored in three straight games is 15. It was set twice, but just once in regulation, from 11/28-12/1/08. The team record for most goals scored in three consecutive home games is also 15 -- from 10/5-10/14/05.
Since 12/29, The Wild has gone on 45 power plays, while allowing just 19 power play opportunities. Tonight's game will feature the most and least shorthanded teams in the NHL. Minnesota has been shorthanded just 151 times - 13 fewer than any other NHL team. Anaheim, meanwhile, has been shorthanded a league-high 232 times.