With just one win and 12 goals in its last six games, Minnesota is changing things up at forward.
That much we know.
What we don’t know is how the new-look Wild will, uh, look. That’s because head coach Mike Yeo refused to divulge details prior to tonight’s game on Long Island, telling reporters they’ll have to wait until warmups to see the changes.
First, some context. The Wild have been slumping lately but are still in reasonably good shape — three of their five losses came in a shootout, meaning they’ve actually collected five points during the “slump.” It’s a big reason why they’re on 80 points and holding the first of two wild card spots in the Western Conference, five clear of ninth-place Dallas.
That said, all is not well in Minnesota.
Outside of the stellar Zach Parise-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville line, scoring has been virtually non-existent. Matt Moulson, the club’s big deadline day acquisition, has struggled to find his niche in the lineup and has just one goal through six games.
Captain Mikko Koivu is pointless in his last four games. Nino Niederreiter has two points in his last eight. Charlie Coyle has one goal since the Olympic break. And so on. And so forth.
Following Monday’s 4-1 loss to Boston — Minnesota’s second straight game scoring just one goal — Yeo acknowledged changes were necessary up front to help generate some offense.
“Certainly, we’re going to look at our lines,” Yeo said, per the Pioneer Press. “I’m not sure we have exactly the right mix.
“We have to figure that out, though, because it doesn’t quite have the right feel right now.”
Here’s what went right for the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday: the Florida Panthers lost. Yep, that’s about it.
Otherwise, it was a pretty lousy time, as the Washington Capitals beat them at home 4-1 tonight.
Washington’s big names came to play here, highlighted by Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring two goals. T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom enjoyed one-goal, one-assist nights while Justin Williams and Alex Ovechkin both grabbed two assists.
The Capitals won their first game after a bye week (following two losses), improving their Metropolitan Division lead to five points and Presidents’ Trophy edge over Minnesota to three.
The Flyers fail to make up some ground in the Eastern Conference wild card race, staying at 63 standings points in 60 games played. The Panthers are tied with the Islanders and Bruins at 66 points, though Boston can change the picture ever so slightly against Anaheim (still in action) tonight.
The bottom line, again, is that the Flyers failed in a chance to get a little closer to that logjam for the last East spot.
Of course, plenty of Flyers fans will grumble about missed opportunities and iffy calls. Mike Milbury broke down the early setbacks that made life that much tougher for Philly:
Philly couldn’t overcome the Capitals and that bad luck, making their playoff hopes a little dimmer as the trade deadline approaches.
The Edmonton Oilers’ 4-3 win against the Florida Panthers might end up being costly if Andrej Sekera misses significant time.
But, hey, at least it was a win.
The two rising squads engaged in a back-and-forth game, with the Oilers winning in regulation. Maybe fittingly with Edmonton leaking defensemen lately: Kris Russell was the guy to score the game-winner, set up by Connor McDavid‘s blazing speed and a nice pass by Leon Draisaitl.
It was Russell’s first goal in more than a year.
The Oilers will remain in the second spot in the Pacific at the end of the night whether the Anaheim Ducks beat the Boston Bruins or not. Interestingly, this puts them in a reasonable position to catch the Sharks for first place in the division, too.
1. Sharks – 77 points in 60 games
2. Oilers – 74 points in 61 games
3. Ducks – 72 points in 61 games (in progress vs. Boston)
The Oilers likely had some fans out East tonight, as this loss pushes Florida down the wild card rankings. They’re actually out of the second spot thanks to tiebreakers.
Second wild card spot: Bruins – 66 points in 59 games, 30 wins and 28 ROW (in progress)
Islanders – 66 points in 59 games, 28 wins and 27 ROW
Panthers – 66 points in 59 games, 28 wins and 25 ROW
The Isles would move into the second spot if Boston loses in regulation, underscoring just how congested this situation is. But either way, the Panthers won’t be in the East’s top eight at the end of the night.
One player’s injury is another player’s opportunity.
Considering how much the Anaheim Ducks lean on John Gibson, it’s troubling that he’s day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
Even so, it’s interesting to note that such a situation prompted the team to recall Jhonas Enroth, who will back up Jonathan Bernier during Wednesday’s game against the Boston Bruins.
With the way Bernier’s been playing at times, it’s not impossible that Enroth could play as soon as tonight. But if he doesn’t you have to wonder if the Ducks might feel compelled to throw a start his way in the next week.
The trade deadline is coming, and while the goalie market is really cold, some of that slow movement likely comes from how cap-unfriendly netminders like Ben Bishop might be.
But what about Enroth? His cap hit is $750K this season, and while he thoroughly unimpressed Mike Babcock with rapid speed in Toronto, he was fantastic as a backup in Los Angeles last season and has been outstanding lately for the AHL’s San Diego Gulls.
All things considered, it’s almost a little surprising the Ducks aren’t throwing him right into the deep end tonight. If you’re a team with poor backup goaltending like the Edmonton Oilers or any number of other teams,* why wouldn’t you give the Ducks a call?
Maybe they need to see him in action in the NHL before doing so, making this an intriguing scenario to follow.
And, hey, maybe the Ducks themselves might decide that he’s a better option behind Gibson than Bernier. Stranger things have happened.
* – The Leafs might qualify, honestly … but again, Babs doesn’t seem to be an Enroth fan.
There are only three games on the docket for Wednesday, but injuries are a factor in all of them. The Washington Capitals must now worry about underrated defenseman Matt Niskanen after he left tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers with a lower-body injury.
Niskanen took a shift to end the second period, only not to return, much like Andrej Sekera did in tonight’s Edmonton Oilers game.
The Capitals blueliner got hurt after falling awkwardly following a collision with Radko Gudas, as you can see from the video above.