Did you take a look at the standings today? If not, take a look at the Northwest Division and let us know what you think. Yup, the Minnesota Wild are in first and if you can figure out how they’re doing it, we’ll try to spell it out.
Goaltending is the main thing making it happen for the Wild. Both Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding have been lights out this season. Backstrom’s been the “worst” of the two and that’s because he’s barely allowing more than two goals a game and stopping just 93% of the shots he’s facing. Harding has been incredible with his numbers in the goaltending stratosphere.
Offensively the Wild are average. Matt Cullen has been on a tear of late and leads the team in goals with eight. Dany Heatley is helping out all-around while Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Mikko Koivu are taking the playmaking thing literally as both guys have nine assists and just one goal. Devin Setoguchi and Kyle Brodziak are also doing their part chipping in goals as well. Nothing mind blowing, just enough.
If you thought there weren’t enough marquee names there, just check out the defense. Clayton Stoner, Justin Falk, Jared Spurgeon, Nick Schultz, Nate Prosser? The one name is Marek Zidlicky and he’s known more for his offense than defense and he might be out of action for a bit with a concussion. If ever there was a team able to steal the “No Name Defense” nickname from the 1970s Miami Dolphins, this is it.
Who are these guys?
Somehow it’s all working right for coach Mike Yeo. Sure, things may not stay this way all season for Minnesota, but for now the wins are coming and they’re enjoying the ride. If Yeo can get them to the playoffs though, he’ll become a hero in the Twin Cities.
Desperate for a win and hosting the NHL-leading Washington Capitals, the Minnesota Wild be without defenseman Jared Spurgeon for a second straight game.
“No Spurgeon tonight,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said this morning. “He’s not ready.”
Spurgeon has already missed one game, Tuesday’s 4-3 OT loss to Dallas. He suffered a “deep bruise” Saturday in St. Louis, and his status for this Saturday’s game against Boston is uncertain.
The Wild are also missing d-man Jonas Brodin, currently on injured reserve with a broken foot.
That’s two significant injuries on the back end, as Spurgeon and Brodin each average over 20 minutes in ice time.
In a related story, Ryan Suter played a season-high 33:15 against the Stars, while AHL call-up Mike Reilly was out there for just 12:27.
Related: Yeo was ‘disappointed’ to see Hoppy the rabbit holding a ‘YEO MUST GO’ sign
Perhaps Joel Quenneville was right to storm out of Tuesday’s press conference after expressing frustration with a disallowed goal.
On Thursday, Quenneville told reporters the NHL didn’t agree with the call made during Chicago’s 2-0 loss to San Jose — a decision in which Brandon Mashinter’s tally was wiped out, after officials judged Dennis Rasmussen had interfered with Martin Jones.
Mashinter’s disallowed goal came just days after Chicago was on the wrong end of another overturned marker. Last Thursday the ‘Hawks had one during an eventual win over Arizona, a call that sent Quenneville into histrionics on the bench.
Coach Q said storming out of Tuesday’s postgame presser was a culmination of calls going against his club, adding that the league provided a more detailed explanation of how and why these decisions are being made.
“I just think, we had a couple of occurrences in a short amount of time so obviously a little frustration there,” Quenneville said, per ESPN. “But we did speak to the league and got some [clarification] on the play.
“I just think there’s education across the board and you have a lot of people in the middle of the process making the decisions. As long as we’re getting right is what we’re looking for.”
From our friends at CSN Chicago:
Artemi Panarin will miss his second consecutive game due to illness and Corey Crawford will start when the Blackhawks host the Dallas Stars Thursday night at the United Center.
Coach Joel Quenneville said Panarin’s illness is “hopefully not long term, but he’s definitely out tonight.” Quenneville added that it’s comparable to what ailed Jonathan Toews prior to the All-Star break. Toews played through his illness for about a week but finally had to sit out the third period of the Blackhawks’ Jan. 26 game at Carolina. Toews also missed the All-Star weekend due to that illness and was suspended against Colorado on Feb. 2.
Panarin has 18 goals and 34 assists in 56 games, his 52 points by far the most among NHL rookies. Detroit’s Dylan Larkin is a distant second with 38.
This morning, Richard Panik skated in Panarin’s spot with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane.
Christian Ehrhoff has cleared waivers, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.
The Kings made the 33-year-old defenseman available yesterday. It’s expected he’ll be assigned to AHL Ontario, with 23-year-old d-man Kevin Gravel getting called up.
“Nothing wrong with Christian Ehrhoff,” coach Darryl Sutter told reporters Wednesday. “We’re not exactly world beaters here. We don’t have the best defense in the league or the best team in the league. We’re trying to get better in a hurry.”
In addition to the Ehrhoff news, goalie Peter Budaj has been added to the Kings’ roster on the NHL’s media website, meaning Jonathan Quick (reportedly “day-to-day” with an injury sustained Tuesday in Boston) could miss some time.