Kukla's Korner Hockey
via Evan Sporer of MinnesotaWild.com,
Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek will not travel with the Minnesota Wild for Games 1 and 2 of its Western Conference Playoff Series against the Dallas Stars. Parise is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. Vanek is week-to-week with an upper-body injury. Erik Haula is day-to-day with a lower-body injury and will travel with the team to Dallas.
from Michael Russo of the StarTribune,
Wild players are approaching the start of their playoff series against Dallas as if veteran winger Zach Parise will not be in the lineup when the series starts Thursday.
Parise is officially “day-to-day” because of an undisclosed injury. But Parise was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester seeing a specialist Monday, according to multiple sources, a week after aggravating a back injury that has affected him since January....
Parise didn’t respond to interview requests. General Manager Chuck Fletcher declined to comment.
On March 23, Parise got a cortisone injection and felt better than ever when he scored three goals and assisted on another the next day against Calgary. A game later, he scored twice in Colorado and earned First Star of the Week honors in the NHL. But Parise’s discomfort flared up again during the San Jose game.
from Michael Russo of Russo's Rants,
It’s kind of funny that after Game 81, the media got admonished for allegedly being too negative and saying the Wild was backing into the playoffs and tonight after Game 82 coach John Torchetti voiced the frustration that we all expected after Game 81.
If the Wild’s trying to lower expectations this postseason, it has done a magnificent job these last few weeks.
The Wild and its fans better hope this team can magically rediscover its mojo in the playoffs against Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza and the powerhouse Dallas Stars. If it doesn’t, the Wild will, to steal Devan Dubnyk’s word after Game 80’s loss in Winnipeg, get absolutely “throttled” in the first round.
The series starts Thursday. The full schedule will be released Sunday.
Tonight, in a season-ending 2-1 loss to the Flames, the Wild entered the postseason losers of five consecutive games and outscored 16-6 in those games. Torchetti continued Mike Yeo’s Game 82 trend of the last couple years by ripping into his team afterward.
from Dan Rosen of NHL.com,
The Wild won six in a row and now have lost three in a row. What has changed in the team's overall game in the past three games, and how do you fix it?
"I think our details and the urgency to win battles. I think we're waiting for the next guy beside us to do the job. We have to play a better checking-mentality game for 60 minutes. I think against Ottawa we came alive more in the second half of the game, and then a puck goes off our centerman's skate going out in front and we lost the game, so that was a tough one. Against Detroit, we played good, but not good enough. Detroit wanted it more. And I think we just thought we were going to show up and Winnipeg was going to give us two points. We didn't battle like we should. That's the mindset we have to have moving forward. That's why we won six in a row at one point. You forget how much hard work you've gotta do to even put yourself in this position to have an opportunity to clinch.
"The bottom line is we've gotta get into the playoffs. If we make the playoffs, I think everyone will breathe a little easier and get back to playing our game better."
It's pretty amazing, though, if you look at the totality of this. The Wild were a 1-11-2 team in their previous 14 games before you got there. They are 15-9-1 since you arrived. So, let me ask you this: What was the state of the team when you got there and what's the state of the team now, even considering the three-game losing streak?
from Barry Rozner of the Chicago Daily-Herald,
What Duncan Keith did was wrong.
Everyone knows that. No one can dispute that. No one would try.
Not even Keith. Certainly not Keith.
But he is not Charles Manson. He's not even Dave Manson, though you would have to watch hockey to have a reasonable picture of the kind of player he is.
Keith is about as honest a defenseman as there is the NHL. He's probably too honest for his own good, and larger forwards frequently take advantage of that.
The fact, however, is that Keith now has three serious violations on his record and he's been punished for all three.
The latest, as you know, was the slash to Charlie Coyle's face in Minnesota last week. It was very bad, frighteningly dangerous and the six games seems a fair number.
What was unfair was what occurred just before the Keith slash.
Coyle slashed Keith in the face and a moment later Coyle yanked Keith's skates out from under him, the equivalent of a slew foot. It was a dangerous play in which Keith's head hit the ice.
Either play by Coyle could have ended Keith's season. And that's why Keith reacted.
Below, Corey Hirsch and P.J. Stock of Sportsnet discuss the suspension and high stick, video also includes the incident.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
Was Thursday the night the Western Conference wild-card race shifted for good?
The Minnesota Wild won their fourth in a row, crushing the Calgary Flames 6-2, while the Colorado Avalanche dropped a 4-2 home decision to the Philadelphia Flyers that must have felt like a gut shot to the Avs, who now trail the Wild by three points in the race for the final playoff spot in the West.
Plenty of hockey left, of course -- Colorado has eight games remaining to Minnesota's seven, but the Avs have little room for error now. The beauty for Colorado?
The Wild visit them Saturday afternoon in a perfect opportunity to reclaim momentum in the race. It's a must-win, really, for the Avs, because after that they face the St. Louis Blues at home followed, by road games in Nashville and Dallas and a regular-season finale at home against Anaheim. All tough games.
What say you on this Good Friday, gang?
more on the race in the West from the ESPN hockey writers...
from Michael Russo of the Star Tribune,
A month ago, it would have been impossible to envision Niklas Backstrom playing a pivotal role in determining whether the Wild makes the playoffs.
As the team’s third goaltender, Backstrom shared a net with backup Darcy Kuemper at practice and didn’t play a single second of any game.
But suddenly, Backstrom is not only a member of the Calgary Flames, he will lead that team from the visitors’ tunnel wearing a “Flaming C” on his chest to start Thursday’s game at Xcel Energy Center. In fact, the 38-year-old could wind up starting against his former team in two of its final eight games, because Calgary returns to Minnesota for each team’s regular-season finale April 9.
The Wild is one point up on Colorado for the last Western Conference playoff spot, so Backstrom’s play either will put a dent in the Wild’s playoff chances or provide one giant boost.
“It’s definitely weird,” said Backstrom, who arrived in the Twin Cities late Monday and has been at his Edina home with his wife and two children.
from Michael Russo of Russo's Rants,
On Vanek, I wrote my notebook on him in yesterday’s paper, but he talked again today and said, “I’m not going to lie. Obviously I’m not happy about it. It is what it is. It’s a team sport, guys are going to be in and out and I’m not going to [whine] and complain about it.”
He said he’d just work hard and wait for his chance to get back in. He said he’d skate hard in the morning skates and hopefully it translates into scoring goals in games once he gets back in.
“He’s got his guys he trusts, so I think once I get back in there, just to play well and that’s about it. That’s all I can control,” Vanek said of John Torchetti.
Personally, I think this has nothing to do with guys Torchetti trusts. It’s that Torchetti trusts the fact that the Chris Porters and Jordan Schroeders will play hard, be on the right side of the puck and not throw pucks away.
This has nothing to do with goal scoring and the fact Vanek’s in a slump. Zach Parise’s in a slump, too, but his work ethic doesn’t wane.
Vanek said he figured he was in trouble after the Jersey game.
more on Vanek and the Wild...
from Michael Russo of Russo's Rants,
Seventy-one games in, the Wild’s season is quickly ticking away and tonight in Newark, the Wild got smoked, 7-4.
The seven goals allowed were a season-high for the Wild and one from equaling the most allowed in a game in history.
In the heart of a playoff race, the Wild is 1-3-1 in its past five and somehow lacked battle and compete along the wall and any sense of urgency despite being one point back of Colorado for the eighth and final playoff spot.
Maybe it was just the natural sag or the wind being taken out of its sail, like Ryan Suter said, from being down 2-zip just 94 seconds into the game, but regardless of the reason, the Wild can’t afford that at this point and, as Nino Niederreiter said, games like that can’t happen.
There’s no doubt Devan Dubnyk needs to be better, but the second period was a train wreck defensively. The Wild was on the wrong side of the puck countless times and basically didn’t follow the system by going into an aggressive forecheck according to coach John Torchetti. Players were soft along the wall, soft on pucks, soft with their positioning. They were beaten to loose pucks, beaten to wall battles like they didn’t want to battle at all.
It was a disappointing game toward the tail end a disappointing season because regardless of the outcome this season – playoffs or not, it was not supposed to be this way for the Wild.
Game highlights are below...
from Michael Russo of Russo's Rants,
The gameplan was so obvious tonight on how to beat the Oilers, yet the Wild basically defied the gameplan.
Chip the puck, chase it down, win the battle.
So what happened in the first period? The Wild finished with one credited hit. One.
I normally take hits, takeaways and giveaways with a grain of salt on the NHL’s subjective stat sheet, but that one David Jones hit was indicative of everything we saw in the first period: a team not following the gameplan.
Playing a blue line without four of six regulars, the Wild refused to get the puck deep. There’s not a coach in the league that wouldn’t have impressed upon his team to take advantage of such an inexperienced blue line by hitting them, cycling on them and tiring them out.
And yet, the Wild, from normally reliable defensemen Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin, to forwards like Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek, kept turning pucks over all over the ice.
The overpassing against a goalie that has given up 11 goals in his last eight starts (Cam Talbot) was unbelievable. In the second period, Justin Fontaine got two guys driving the net and instead of letting her rip, he pulled up and tried to saucer a pass that was broken up. A shift later, Vanek did the same thing.
Watch the game highlights below...
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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