After a campaign where the Minnesota Wild had to compete for long stretches of time without their top two goaltenders, the team might have three viable starting options going into training camp. That’s created a good problem for Wild coach Mike Yeo to have.
The first step will be for Yeo to determine who will serve as the opening game starter between Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding, and Darcy Kuemper. He’ll have to start leaning towards one of them by the middle of the preseason.
“The easy thing to say is just give them two games each (out of Minnesota’s six exhibition contests), but whoever’s playing game one, we have to make sure (he’s) ready to go too,” Yeo said at the Minnesota State Fair, per the Star Tribune. He later added, “I think everyone in those first three games has to get basically equal playing time (between Backstrom, Harding, and Kuemper). After that, we’re kind of open right now … but we’re going to have to quickly have to determine who we want to give a greater workload to.”
Regardless of who starts in the Wild’s first game though, the battle for the number one spot is likely to carry on into the regular season. Yeo doesn’t believe in the “win and you’re in” philosophy, but each netminder’s play will obviously dictate their ice time.
Of course, the elephant in the room is that Kuemper is a restricted free agent. There’s still time for the Wild to work something out, but with every passing day, the impasse slowly becomes more ominous.
Apparently Blue Jackets management is a little shaken by the second 0-3-0 start in franchise history, however.
Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen shared his shock and dismay with the Columbus Post-Dispatch on Tuesday.
“I’m surprised how, in just five days, we’ve gone from a very confident group to something that’s the opposite of that,” Kekalainen told The Dispatch on Tuesday. “Our confidence, our game … it’s off the rails right now.
Maybe losing to the Buffalo Sabres stings a little bit extra?
Kekalainen said “there’s no excuse for how we played in Buffalo,” pointing out that every team in the NHL is a “good team.”
Indeed, just about every squad boasts some dangerous weapons if they catch an opponent sleeping.
The Post-Dispatch goes deeper on Columbus’ recent history of stumbling out of the gate, but consider the foreboding stretch coming up.
Next four games: Three out of four at home Eight games following that: Seven out of eight on the road.
As you can see, winter is coming for Columbus, so they best get things together. All things considered, this is the right time for a wake-up call.
For bonus chuckles, here’s a photo of Kekalainen on a railing.
He entered the building considerably later than usual, but his presence at least opened the door for the possibility of No. 8 suiting up against the San Jose Sharks.
Instead, the Capitals will face the hot-starting Sharks without Ovechkin (personal reasons) and Nicklas Backstrom (injury).
That’s a tall order, yet it’s also an opportunity for Barry Trotz to prove his system is a difference-maker … and that the Capitals have the young players to take up the mantle when the big stars are out
This is how Washington’s forward lines may look tonight:
With Ovechkin out, Caps lines look like this: