For a team that’s struggling to score, the St. Louis Blues aren’t exactly the ideal opponent. But that’s exactly who the Minnesota Wild will get tonight at the Xcel Energy Center.
—- The Wild have lost four of their last five games. They’ve been shut out twice during that stretch, with just six total goals scored.
—- The Blues have won five straight, with goalie Brian Elliott posting back-to-back 1-0 shutouts in his last two outings.
As such, Minnesota coach Mike Yeo is preparing his team for a tough battle.
“They don’t give you anything for free,” Yeo said this morning, per the Star Tribune. “You’ve got to be committed to breaking them down, forcing them into mistakes.
“I think one thing we have to do a much better job of, that we haven’t done as much of lately, is funneling pucks and bodies to the net. When we were scoring goals, that was sort of our mentality.
“Quite often, when you haven’t scored as many goals, for whatever reason, you drift further and further away from the area where you do score those goals. That’s going to be something that’s very important tonight.”
The Wild’s mini-slump has dropped them six points back of Vancouver in the race for first place in the Northwest Division.
The Blues, meanwhile, can still get home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs if they can overtake San Jose and Los Angeles.
Last night in Los Angeles, Kings forward Milan Lucic received a match penalty after skating the entire width of the ice to give San Jose’s Logan Couture a two-hand shove to the face.
Lucic didn’t hurt Couture, who had caught Lucic with an open-ice hit that Lucic didn’t like. Couture’s smiling, mocking face was good evidence that the Sharks’ forward was going to be OK.
This morning, Lucic was still in disbelief that he was penalized so harshly.
“I didn’t cross any line,” Lucic said, per Rich Hammond of the O.C. Register. “Believe me, if my intentions were to hurt him, I would have hurt him.”
While Lucic knew he deserved a penalty, he said after the game that he didn’t “know why it was called a match penalty.” His coach, Darryl Sutter, agreed, calling it “a borderline even roughing penalty.”
And though former NHL referee Kerry Fraser believes a match penalty was indeed warranted, Lucic said this morning that he hasn’t heard from the NHL about any possible supplemental discipline.
Nor for that matter has Dustin Brown, after his high hit on Couture in the first period.
In conclusion, it’s good to have hockey back.
Related: Sutter says Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks
A statement from Raffi Torres:
“I accept the 41-game suspension handed down to me by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. I worked extremely hard over the last two years following reconstructive knee surgery to resume my NHL career, and this is the last thing I wanted to happen. I am disappointed I have put myself in a position to be suspended again. I sincerely apologize to Jakob for the hit that led to this suspension, and I’m extremely thankful that he wasn’t seriously injured as a result of the play. I also want to apologize to my Sharks teammates and the organization.”
A statement from San Jose GM Doug Wilson:
“The Sharks organization fully supports the NHL’s supplementary discipline decision regarding Raffi. While we do not believe there was any malicious intent, this type of hit is unacceptable and has no place in our game. There is a difference between playing hard and crossing the line and there is no doubt, in this instance, Raffi crossed that line. We’re very thankful that Jakob was not seriously injured as a result of this play.”
Silfverberg says he expects to play Saturday when the Ducks open their regular season Saturday in San Jose.