Niklas Backstrom, Marian Hossa

Tonight on Versus: Chicago and Minnesota battle for Western bragging rights

We bet you didn’t think tonight’s Wild-Blackhawks battle in St. Paul would be between the top two teams in the Western Conference when the season started. That’s just what we’ve got though. Minnesota is tops in the West with 43 points while Chicago leads the Central Division with 40 points.

After seeing the Wild battle and brawl with Winnipeg last night, facing Chicago shows what life after realignment will be like against these divisional foes. The Wild are getting it done with goaltending all the same though. Whether it’s Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding, or Matt Hackett, scoring on the Wild is no easy feat. These Wild also aren’t going to bore you to tears by clogging the neutral zone. They attack at both ends of the ice and push the pace to a breakneck pace.

When you’ve got guys like Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, and Mikko Koivu it seems wrong to hold them back. Also impressing for Minnesota is centerman Kyle Brodziak. With Guillaume Latendresse back from injury, the Wild are just that much deeper now too.

Chicago, of course, brings their circus of fun into town with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Sharp. What’s been dragging on Chicago of late is their goaltending. Corey Crawford hasn’t been all that and Ray Emery has seized the opportunity. Emery will get the start tonight to try and hold the Wild down.

Jason Demers tweets #FreeTorres, gets mocked

Los Angeles Kings v San Jose Sharks - Game One

Following his stunning 41-game suspension, it looks like Raffi Torres has at least one former teammate in his corner.

We haven’t yet seen how the San Jose Sharks or the NHLPA are reacting to the league’s hammer-dropping decision to punish Torres for his Torres-like hit on Jakob Silfverberg, but Jason Demers decided to put in a good word for Torres tonight.

It was a simple message: “#FreeTorres.”

Demers, now of the Dallas Stars, was once with Torres and the Sharks. (In case this post’s main image didn’t make that clear enough already.)

Perhaps this will become “a thing” at some point.

So far, it seems like it’s instead “a thing (that people are making fun of).”

… You get the idea.

The bottom line is that there are some who either a) blindly support Torres because they’re Sharks fans or b) simply think that the punishment was excessive.

The most important statement came from the Department of Player Safety, though.

Bruins list Chara on IR, for now

Zdeno Chara

Those who feel as though the Boston Bruins may rebound – John Tortorella, maybe? – likely rest some of their optimism on the back of a healthy Zdeno Chara.

It’s possible that he’s merely limping into what may otherwise be a healthy 2015-16 season, but it’s definitely looking like a slow start thanks to a lower-body injury.

The latest sign of a bumpy beginning came on Monday, as several onlookers (including’s Joe Haggerty) pointed out that Chara was listed on injured reserve.

As Haggerty notes, that move is retroactive to Sept. 24, so his status really just opens up options for the Bruins.

Still … it’s a little unsettling, isn’t it?

The Bruins likely realize that they need to transition away from their generational behemoth, but last season provided a stark suggestion that may not be ready yet. Trading Dougie Hamilton and losing Dennis Seidenberg to injury only make them more dependent on the towering 38-year-old.

This isn’t really something to panic about, yet it might leave a few extra seats open on the Bruins’ bandwagon.