Desperate Wild get Clutterbuck, Stoner back tonight; Koivu a gametime decision

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.

Auston Matthews’ 33rd goal includes a dash of comedy (Video)

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This wouldn’t have been worth a chuckle if not for the correction. (Well, maybe a chuckle at Auston Matthews‘ expense.)

On the 33rd goal of his brilliant rookie season, Auston Matthews made it 2-0 for Toronto on the power play. Crusty “act like you’ve been there” types might grumble that he actually celebrated before a goal really happened, only to tap it in for real the second time around. The rest of us, again, get a mild chuckle.

William Nylander‘s pass was nothing to laugh at, however. That one just gets a big thumbs up.

Hnnngmgghh indeed.

That goal could end up being key as the Blue Jackets quickly scored to start the second period, shrinking Toronto’s lead to 2-1 on Wednesday.

Video: Leafs’ Carrick delivers thunderous hit on Blue Jackets’ Anderson

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Both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs have motivation to win their Wednesday game, but the Maple Leafs need it more.

So far, it shows, too.

The Maple Leafs have raced off to a 2-0 lead, with Auston Matthews scoring his 33rd goal of the season. If generating such offense didn’t highlight the urgency, Connor Carrick‘s huge hit on Josh Anderson makes a compelling argument. Witness that big impact in the video above.

There was also another high-impact moment when Nick Foligno went crashing into the boards:

Ouch, Blues consider Paul Stastny out week-to-week

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The St. Louis Blues announced that Paul Stastny is out week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

Stastny was limited to less than four minutes of ice time during last night’s 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche. Initially, head coach Mike Yeo indicated that the issue wasn’t serious.

There are only about three weeks left in the regular season, so it’s tough to tell if “week-to-week” would mean that the Blues will be without Stastny for any playoff time.

With Stastny out for an expended period of time and other injuries affecting Blues forwards, it sounds like Nail Yakupov gets another chance to prove himself:

Stastny generated 18 goals and 40 points in 66 games so far this season. He has played more of a defensive role this season (46.2 offensive zone start percentage after being closer to 50 earlier in his Blues days) and has been impressive in the dot, winning 53.8 of his faceoffs.

WATCH LIVE: Islanders at Rangers – Wednesday Night Rivalry

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A night after a feisty matcuhup with the Devils, the Rangers host an even bigger rival in the Islanders at Madison Square Garden for Wednesday Night Rivalry on NBCSN.

As nasty as Tuesday’s contest got at times, this one means more.

While the Rangers seem pretty safely seated as the East’s first wild card, the Islanders stand three points behind the Maple Leafs for the final spot in the conference. They’ve seen other bubble teams stumble, so this is their chance to close in on Toronto in what might be a shrinking field of contenders.

Spiting the Islanders might just give the Rangers a little extra life on back-to-back nights … especially since their fans would probably let them have it if they sleepwalk through this one.

It should be a fun, physical and dramatic one on NBCSN. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.