Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Russo’s Rants,
You would not believe the excitement and anticipation going on right now in this city for Sunday’s matinee between the Wild and Detroit Red Wings.
It’s strange, but for some reason, sports fans from North Carolina and Connecticut and East Lansing and, most bizarre, Villanova, Pa., have flocked to Detroit because NHL matchups just don’t get bigger than the Wild and Wings. I mean, who knew there were so many Wild fans in Delaware County?
Planes were full. Hotel rooms are like going for $500 a night. Downtown was just a carnival atmosphere with all sorts of neat outdoor activities. It’s awesome that the Wild’s finally gotten onto the map because of this battle for the postseason.
from Michael Russo of the Star-Tribune,
This Wild season has been one long snoozefest. My 14th season covering the NHL is about to wrap up and I’ve never been so bored covering a team—and I’m including the lockout year when no games were played, folks.
This season has been blah from the very beginning. I mean, did anything remotely exciting happen?...
The Wild, which truly believes it does it better than everybody else, is a stand-pat organization in every area.
Well, somebody better stand up this offseason and take a hard, honest assessment of things and say, “It’s not good enough.”
If the front office convinces owner Craig Leipold that this was a throw-away season solely because Gaborik was hurt, it’s an injustice to everybody who paid a dime for tickets or merchandise.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
The knives are being sharpened in Minnesota these days. The Wild are four points out of playoff spot with five games remaining, including Friday night’s home contest against Calgary. They likely need to win at least four of those to get in.
But the frustration from fans and media in the market is beginning to show. This might be the most interesting offseason in Wild history. But first thing’s first—they’ve still got a shot. They were dynamite in a win at Edmonton last Sunday and got robbed in a 2-1 home loss to Vancouver on Tuesday night. Their level of play is keeping their GM encouraged.
“Even at this late stage, when you’re in our position—out but trying to get in—you still take a lot more comfort in how the team plays,” Doug Risebrough told ESPN.com. “You know time is running out a little bit. But, at the end of the day, you also know that if you ever have a chance, it’s how your team plays. Then you hope the results are there….”
from Bill Clement of NBC Sports,
The Wild missing out on the postseason would likely lead Lemaire to strongly consider moving on. He’s the only coach in Minnesota franchise history, but it may be time for a change.
If he does leave the Wild, what’s next for him? Well, it may be a return to Montreal, where he starred as a player, and also coached the Canadiens for two seasons in the mid 1980s. He followed that by moving to the Montreal front office for seven seasons, during which the Canadiens won two Stanley Cups (1986 and 1993).
from John Shipley of the Pioneer Press,
The stars finally seem to have aligned for John Scott and the Wild. Opportunity, attitude and performance have come together just in time for the big defenseman to contribute as Minnesota battles desperately for a playoff spot.
Yet the timing isn’t perfect, because Scott will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
“I don’t know if that’s good or bad,” he said. “You’d have to ask my agent. He says it’s good.”
Though the collective bargaining agreement has allowed many young players to become unrestricted, Scott’s case is unusual. At 26, he already is playing through his third pro contract, though he has played only 16 NHL games — all since Jan. 1.
But he’s been good, good enough to play in 11 of 12 games since being recalled for a second time on March 8. Not bad for an undrafted free agent whose college career was notable mostly because he was considered Division I hockey’s tallest player.
from Michael Russo of Russo’s Rants,
There is no excuse — none — that Jacques Lemaire didn’t use Marian Gaborik on the 1:32 4-on-3 to open overtime. I know this is Monday morning quarterbacking. If the Wild scores, it’s a forgotten element.
Gaborik should have been on the ice. Lemaire said he went with the same crew he’s gone with all year — Koivu, Brunette, Zidlicky and Bergeron, and that 4-on-3 is about puck movement and knowing what to do.
Sorry, don’t buy it. In must-wins, you should use your best weapons during the best opportunities. Here, Sami Salo hands the Wild a gift by errantly sending the puck into the scorer’s table. And Gaborik’s on the bench. There isn’t a team in this league whose best scorer would have been on the bench in this situation.
Enough said on that.
This was a heartbreaking loss for the Wild, which held the Canucks, now first in the Northwest, without a single shot in the third period.
from Bruce Brothers of the Pioneer Press,
Manny Fernandez looked like he’d seen a ghost.
Clearly trying to put all things Minnesota behind him, Fernandez appeared stunned when a reporter from St. Paul walked up to him the other day in Ristuccia Arena, where the Boston Bruins practice.
You could almost see the wheels turning. Did he mix up the next opponent? Weren’t the Bruins scheduled to play the Devils the next afternoon?
At times cordial and at times a smoldering volcano during his six seasons with the Wild, Fernandez seems to have turned over a new leaf with the Boston Bruins. After a moment, he extended his hand, peeled off his big goalie pads and said he’d be happy to talk a little puck.
Minnesota Wild defenseman Kurtis Foster goes through a rigorous rehab to get back on the ice.
from Michael Russo of Russo’s Rants,
The Wild just didn’t create a whole lot tonight (outshot 30-19), but in the end, if Marian Gaborik buries the partial breakaway or Dan Fritsche doesn’t redirect the puck wide on the 2-on-1 or Eric Belanger buries the 3-on-2 or Cal Clutterbuck can score on that late scramble, it’s a tie game.
But there’s no what-if’s anymore, not when the season’s quickly evaporating and the Wild lacks such go-to guys right now with the injuries to Mikko Koivu and Brent Burns. The Wild has missed the spark Burns provides for some time. But tonight, you really saw how much Koivu’s absence kills. Not just the 22 minutes a night he plays — “and not just 22 minutes of skating around,” said James Sheppard — but the big minutes.
from Brian Stensaas of the Star Tribune,
The Wild likely took a direct hit on its hopes for postseason action when forward Mikko Koivu left the game because of a knee injury.
After exiting the penalty box midway through the first period following what replays showed to be a phantom interference call, Koivu’s next move was into the Edmonton zone, where he got tangled up with Ales Kotalik. Koivu fell backward as the two battled for position. Koivu twisted awkwardly and his right knee appeared to buckle.
Koivu, who leads the team with 62 points this season, will be re-evaluated today. But there wasn’t much optimism being thrown around by Wild personnel after the game.
“Mikko’s been our best player game in and game out,” coach Jacques Lemaire said. “He hasn’t had too many days off this year. Losing him, it’s a huge loss for our team. But, you know, as I always say, if you’re going to lose players—and sometimes you lose your top players—somebody’s gotta step up and do some of his work.”
more on the Wild…
added 1:53pm, from the CP via TSN,
Assistant general manager Tom Lynn says Koivu had an MRI and saw team doctors on Monday and will be out at least seven days. Lynn also said Koivu could miss all 10 games through Minnesota’s regular-season finale on April 11.
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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