After a dominating stretch in the comfy confines of Xcel Energy Center, the Minnesota Wild takes its show on the road tonight in Montreal, in front of an always raucous Bell Centre crowd.
Minnesota stands in second place in the Central Division, but has done most of its damage in the State of Hockey. Tonight, the team will get a chance improve on its November record of 7-0-1 against the Eastern Conference’s seventh place team. Tonight’s contest kicks off a stretch of four-straight games on the road.
It’s a homecoming for a number of Wild players with ties to the Montreal area. Defenseman Marco Scandella comes to his hometown playing some of the best hockey of his early career. He’ll have a number of friendly faces in the stands cheering him on, as he requested 30 postgame passes for friends and family. Scandella said that even more reached out to him via social media, wishing him luck in tonight’s contest. Scandella spoke to WildTV about playing in his hometown and enjoying a home cooked meal last night.
Torrey Mitchell grew up just outside of the city in Greenfield Park and also has a lot of friends and family coming to the game. Although he’s playing in his sixth season in the NHL, the speedy winger has spent his entire career in the Western Conference, so his trips to Montreal have been few and far between. He has fond memories about watching the Canadiens growing up and shared his thoughts on facing his childhood team with WildTV.
Mitchell and Scandella both talked about the team’s recent surge shorthanded, which will be a key tonight against the Canadiens. Montreal is ranked fourth in the league with the man advantage at 23.1 percent. They both talked about the importance of slowing zone entries and, conversely, clearing pucks when the team gets the chance. Minnesota has been snatching up loose pucks, like dropped $100 bills, and has been even better at clearing the zone, making opponents regroup the entire length of the ice.
As always in Montreal, there was an abundance of media members packing the horseshoe around Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo after today’s morning skate. Yeo touched on a number of topics, including Ryan Suter’s time on ice reaching “The Lord of the Rings” movie-trilogy lengths, Jason Pominville’s professionalism and Josh Harding’s hot play. Of course, Yeo has answered most of those questions in the past and Wild fans know Suter has superhuman lungs, Pominville is a true pro and Harding has been among the best in the NHL.
Yeo confirmed that Nate Prosser will be in the lineup tonight, replacing rookie Matt Dumba. With seven healthy defenseman, Yeo said that he doesn’t want any of the blueliners to stay idle too long. He liked Dumba’s last outing on Sunday against the Winnipeg Jets, and said that with a handful of road games on the horizon there is a good chance the 19-year-old will be back on the blue line.
At the morning skate, Jonas Brodin took off the bubble for the first time since fracturing his cheekbone and was wearing a half-shield. Brodin has said he’s not a fan of the bubble, as it gets steamy and fogs up during shifts, so we’ll see if he keeps the half-shield tonight.
In another note, the Star Tribune reports that one of the Koivu’s, Mikko or Saku, will captain Team Finland at the upcoming Sochi Olympics. Saku is currently on the mend from a concussion, sustained on Oct. 27. Finland Olympic Coach Erkka Westerlund and General Manager Jari Kurri were recently in Minnesota to scout potential team member Mikael Granlund. As we go deeper into the season, we’re sure to hear more and more speculation about players and representing their countries in The Games, so stay tuned.