Minnesota is proving to be the prime example of how life in the Western Conference can be rough. Last month, the Wild were looking like a potentially tough team to draw in the playoffs. After losses in nine of their last 14 games and being shutout in their last two games and compile a total of 33 shots in both games, things are feeling down in the dumps and times are desperate.
The Wild get a dose of good news today as Michael Russo of The Star Tribune tells us that they’ll get forward Cal Clutterbuck and defenseman Clayton Stoner back in the lineup against Vancouver tonight. For Clutterbuck, it’ll be his first game since receiving a blow to the head that led to Islanders forward Trevor Gillies being suspended for 10 games.
Making things all the more intriguing for the Wild is that captain and top center Mikko Koivu is a game time decision to play. Russo gives his insight there.
The big question mark right now is Mikko Koivu. The Wild’s captain, head coach Todd Richards and medical trainer Don Fuller had a long talk on the bench after the morning skate. Koivu and Richards said he’s a gametime decision. Koivu said “we’ll see” when asked if he’d skate warmups. Richards said he will skate warmups.
Richards said they were just trying to map out a plan on the bench and “it’s real, real close” to Koivu returning.
I’ve got to think he’s in. It could do more harm than good if Koivu skates warmups and then there’s all of a sudden a dejection because Koivu’s jersey comes off the hanger.
We’re inclined to agree with Russo on this one. After all, when a captain is giving it a go in warmups that’s a bit different than just another guy in the lineup. Taking the captain out when the team is in desperate need for a win and four points out of the eighth spot going against the top team in the conference is the sort of psychological kick in the groin you shouldn’t be delivering when your team needs a lift in a big way.
We don’t want to go writing any teams off before they’re eliminated, but if Koivu doesn’t go tonight and Vancouver spanks the Wild, it might be time for Wild fans to start scouting prospects for the 2011 NHL Draft.
This has been a tough postseason for Phil Kessel haters.
The supposed “choker” is on a team that’s in the Eastern Conference Final, but Kessel obviously isn’t just in for the ride with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He scored his 18th point in 17 postseason games by scoring the 1-0 goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6.
(Watch that goal in the video above.)
It was a dramatic first period, with a Jonathan Drouin goal getting disallowed and Andrei Vasilevskiy making some huge saves on tough chances.
Can Pittsburgh protect this slim lead with 1-0 down one period? We’ll see, but either way, what a great postseason for Kessel.
To start the seemingly pivotal stretch, Andrei Vasilevskiy made an outstanding save on Evgeni Malkin on what sure looked like a scary chance.
The play swiftly shifted from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s end to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ side of the ice, and it seemed like Jonathan Drouin scored a big 1-0 goal in Game 6.
As it turns out, the goal was disallowed thanks to an offside goal review.
Here are a few viewpoints on that moment in GIF form … you can get a fuller view via the video above.
The general feeling among those who don’t have a horse in the race is that it was the right call. (Lightning fans were, uh, not happy.)
At some point, it will probably be kind of boring to hear members of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization praise Jonathan Drouin.
At least if Drouin re-signs with the Bolts after quite the affirming postseason and his ascension amid injuries.
These days? It’s still sort of entertaining.
In the latest case, Jon Cooper was asked to compare the development paths for Nikita Kucherov vs. Drouin. After empathizing with the pressure Drouin carries as a high-end pick (vs. Kucherov’s ability to come in under the radar), Cooper had some very positive things to say about No. 27.
” … So many people think, well, you’re just going to step in the league at 18 and be dominant,” Cooper said. “I truly believe Jonathan is going to be dominant in this league, but it’s hard to do at 18. He had to work through it, and that’s it.”
Drouin, now at 21, has 12 points in 15 playoff games.
In other Lightning news, it sounds like the team will roll with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, an alignment that has been working well lately and also came through at times during the 2015 postseason.
The Penguins, meanwhile, replace Beau Bennett with Conor Sheary.
Tonight could be the final game of the Eastern Conference Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning. You can catch Game 6 via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.
Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay (8:00 p.m. ET)
The television broadcast of Game 6 is on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Bolts lead the series 3-2.
Here’s some relevant reading material to get you ready for tonight’s game:
—Malkin guaranteed a Penguins win in Game 6
—Lightning coach doesn’t seem flustered by Malkin’s guarantee
—Kucherov continues to be clutch for the Bolts this postseason
—Marc-Andre Fleury: ‘I should have been better’ in Game 5