Minnesota Wild coach Todd Richards bristles at ‘trapping team’ label

Sometimes it’s tough to shake a label, whether it’s true or not. Regardless of how much talent the Philadelphia Flyers stack onto their lineup, many people will still think of them as “bullies.” The Pittsburgh Penguins are associated with finesse even though they lead the league in fights and the San Jose Sharks will be considered “chokers” even though they made their way to the Western Conference finals last year.

These labels are especially tough to shed when – let’s face it – the hockey world isn’t exactly clamoring to find out that your team might be different. That seems to be the case with the Minnesota Wild, who might as well have been known as “The Mild” for just about their entire franchise history.

The neutral zone trap helped less talented hockey teams choke the passion, joy and artistry out of the game to win against tall odds, but it didn’t make the sport very popular in the late 90s. Minnesota’s pro team is associated with that trapping style dating back to newly reinstated New Jersey Devils coach Jacques Lemaire’s days, but current coach Todd Richards bristles at the trap talk.

Richards discussed the fact that the team doesn’t employ that strategy any longer with Adrian Dater of the Denver Post.

Nothing irritates the Wild and ITS fans more than the stereotype that just won’t die – that they play boring, trapping hockey. Now, while it can be argued that, trap or not, the Wild do play boring hockey still these days, they don’t play the neutral-zone trap anymore, coach Todd Richards told me today, after his team’s morning skate.

“We don’t play that way and I don’t coach that style,” Richards said.

Still, the image leftover from the Jacques Lemaire days, when the Wild trapped and trapped hard, still persist among players and media. Even with the elimination of the red line following the lockout, the stereotype of the Wild being a trap team wouldn’t go away.

There are some teams that DO try and play a non-red-line version of the trap – Florida is one, Boston another – but the Wild want to push the puck and have their D active at the other end. Doing that successfully has been another matter.

OK, coach Richards, let’s try to find a new label for the Wild? How about this: “The Minnesota Wild are an underacheiving/overpaid hockey team that still manages to be unmoving, unless Martin Havlat or Mikko Koivu happen to be on the ice (and on their games).”

Chances are pretty solid that the Wild (and Richards) wouldn’t be all that bothered by trap talk if people could accurately describe them as the best team in the Northwest Division or Western Conference as well. But from the looks of things, they won’t need to “worry” about that label for quite some time.

Rangers’ Klein exits with muscle strain, won’t return

Kevin Klein

The New York Rangers lost versatile d-man Kevin Klein early in the first period of their game against Carolina and, shortly after, announced he was done for the night.

Klein played just 2:22 before leaving with a muscle strain. The injury forced the Blueshirts to use just five defensemen for the remainder of the evening — Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, Dan Boyle, Keith Yandle and Dan Girardi.

While it’s unclear how the injury occurred or how significant it is, Klein’s absence could be costly if it’s long-term. The 30-year-old was having a good year, with six points in 24 games, and saw his ice time go up to 21:03 per game from 18:29 last year.

If Klein is out moving forward, it would present an opportunity for Dylan McIlrath to take up a bigger role on the New York defense.


‘It was a scary incident’: Colaiacovo returns to Sabres practice after dented trachea

Carlo Colaiacovo
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Carlo Colaiacovo‘s remarkably quick recovery from what appeared to be a serious injury continued on Monday, as he returned to practice roughly 48 hours after suffering a dented trachea.

Colaicovo, who was hospitalized after taking a Viktor Arvidsson cross-check to the throat on Saturday, skated with his Buffalo teammates on Monday in advance of tomorrow’s game against Detroit.

“I feel good,” Colaiacovo said, per the Sabres’ website. “Obviously it was a scary incident and at the time it was pretty painful but it is what it is.

“Right now, it’s not really stopping me from doing much.”

Though he said he’s still feeling pain in and around his throat, Colaiacovo is eligible to return to the Sabres’ lineup tomorrow.

The 32-year-old, who has appeared in 15 games this season, would no doubt like to play tomorrow. It’d put him up against the same Detroit team that employed him during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign, only to buy out his contract at the end of the year.

Couture (fractured fibula) continues skating with Sharks, says return is on schedule

Logan Couture
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Some good news at Sharks practice today — Logan Couture continued to skate with teammates, just one week after returning to the ice from a broken leg suffered on Oct. 17.

What’s more, Couture says he’s on schedule to meet the 4-6 week timetable for return.

“[I’m] where I thought I would be at this point in time,” Couture said, per CSN Bay Area.

While the 26-year-old wouldn’t put an exact date on his return, it’s clear both he and the Sharks are anxious for him to get back in the lineup — especially with the club surging, and Couture having only played in three regular-season contests this year.

Looking ahead, there are some dates worth circling on the ol’ calendar.

The Sharks have a relatively light week. After beating Calgary 5-2 on Saturday, they play just once in five days — Tuesday’s home tilt against the Penguins — before a weekend back-to-back set against the Ducks on Friday and Lightning on Saturday.

The Ducks game is in Anaheim, but the following night’s contest against the Bolts is at the friendly confines of SAP. So that could be a potential date to watch for — but it is worth noting Couture said he’s still hesitant about getting into game action until his first step is back.

“Until then, I’m not going to force my way out there and put myself in a bad spot,” he explained.

Kesler believes Ducks are ‘too good to not be in the playoffs’

Shane Doan, Ryan Kesler

It’s been 24 games for the Anaheim Ducks, more than a quarter of the season, and still they’re having trouble winning.

Friday against Chicago, they surrendered two goals in the last two minutes of regulation and lost in overtime.

Currently, the Ducks sit five points out of a playoff spot with a record of 8-11-5.

Still, forward Ryan Kesler is confident they’ll find a way into the postseason.

“If we keep playing like we are, we’re going to get into the playoffs — this team is too good to not be in the playoffs,” Kesler told The Province ahead of tonight’s home game versus Vancouver.

“We had a bad start and, to be honest, some guys weren’t ready to start the season. There’s a lot of hockey to be played and we’re ready for the challenge.”

To match the 45-30-7 record the Flames squeaked into the playoffs with last year, the Ducks would need to go 37-19-2 over their next 58 games.




Depends who you ask.

Anaheim’s playoff chances will depend a lot on how Pacific Division teams like San Jose, Arizona, and Vancouver finish. The Ducks may need to leapfrog two of those three to get in.

Yes, there’s always the chance four teams from the Pacific qualify, because it’s not like Colorado, Winnipeg, and Minnesota don’t have their problems. Even Nashville you have to wonder about lately. Heck, even Chicago isn’t assured of anything yet.

Bottom line, though, the Ducks have dug themselves a hole, and it’s starting to look a lot like the one the Kings dug last year.

In the NHL, even good teams don’t always climb out.

Related: Boudreau does the playoff math, and it’s no ‘easy task’ for Ducks