Minnesota has lost the services of forward Justin Fontaine for “a few weeks” with a lower-body ailment suspected to be a groin injury, per the Pioneer Press.
Fontaine, 26, is coming off a solid rookie campaign in which he scored 13 goals and 21 points in 66 games, chipping in with a goal and assist during Minnesota’s playoff run.
In July, the Wild rewarded Fontaine with a two-year, one-way deal worth $1 million per season — but now, with him already ruled out for the season opener (and likely beyond that), a roster spot has opened up. Per Mike Russo of the Minnesota Star-Tribune, that leaves five skaters now battling for three roster positions: Jason Zucker, Michael Keranen, Stephane Veilleux, Cody Almond and Brett Sutter.
New York Rangers forward Dominic Moore helped to attract 23 former/current NHL players to his charitable ping-pong tournament “Smashfest” on Thursday, raising an impressive $140K for cancer research along the way.
(As you may remember, Moore received the 2014 Bill Masterton Trophy following the loss of his wife Katie Moore.)
Minnesota Wild Stephane Veilleux won the tournament for the second year in a row – this was the third “Smashfest” event – beating Vancouver Canucks winger Alexandre Burrows. Here’s a photo of Veilleux accepting the trophy, via the event’s Facebook page by way of the NHLPA:
It certainly looked like a blast, with one of the best shots coming from Michael Del Zotto’s Instagram page:
(Apparently the MDZ + Tyler Seguin combo won their match.)
Even beleaguered Toronto Maple Leafs power forward David Clarkson looks like he had a fantastic time:
Apparently “Harry Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe was in attendance, probably taking the cake for least expected celebrity appearance:
(Then again, this Doug Gilmour photo is a little surprising, too.)
Sportsnet’s Luke Fox passes along 29 facts from the event that are a worthy read, but if you’d rather just watch a video, here’s one from Katie Moore.org:
The often-used phrase “good time for a good cause” is thrown out often, yet it seems appropriate for this event.
Minnesota forward Matt Cooke has finished serving his seven-game suspension for kneeing Colorado’s Tyson Barrie in the opening playoff round, and is eligible to return to the Wild lineup for Game 4 of their series against Chicago.
It’ll be very interesting to see if Wild head coach Mike Yeo opts to insert Cooke for Game 4, as the move would alter a lineup that yielded Minnesota’s best performance of the series (and its lone win.)
While Cooke’s been out, the Wild have rotated in spare forwards — Justin Fontaine and Stephane Veilleux, mostly — and in Game 3, Yeo seemed to find a nice fit on the third line with Eric Haula centering Fontaine and Matt Moulson. The trio combined to score the game-winner (Haula, on assists from Fontaine and Moulson) while racking up four shots on goal.
Here’s more on the Cooke situation, from various reporters embedded in Minnesota:
From the Chicago perspective, ‘Hawks players didn’t seem overly concerned about the possibility of Cooke drawing back in. Patrick Kane told the Sun-Times that Cooke “probably knows better now” about throwing dangerous and dirty hits.
Cooke: I didn’t intend to collide knee-on-knee with Barrie
NHL suspends Matt Cooke for seven games
Poll: Did the NHL get the Cooke suspension right?
Both Colorado and Minnesota will make changes up front for tonight’s huge Game 7 at the Pepsi Center.
The Avs will return rookie Joey Hishon to the lineup after he sat Game 6, Patrick Roy confirmed. The 17th overall pick at the ’10 draft, who made his NHL debut in Game 4, will reportedly center the third line between Max Talbot and Jamie McGinn, and it’s possible Brad Malone could be the odd man out.
Hishon, 22, played just 6:31 for Colorado in Game 4 and 7:30 in Game 45. He did see extended minutes on the power play, though, and could be used tonight to help the Avs bust out of a slump that’s seen them score just once on their last 18 opportunities with the man advantage.
Minnesota is going in a bit of a different direction with its change up front, as 32-year-old veteran Stephane Veilleux will draw in. Veilleux, who hasn’t dressed since appearing in the opening two games of the series, is being inserted in place of Justin Fontaine, and the hope is he’ll bring some energy, speed and aggressive forechecking to the Wild lineup, per head coach Mike Yeo.
Veilleux appeared in 34 games for the Wild during the regular season, scoring three goals while averaging 8:26 TOI per night.
The Minnesota Wild have placed veteran forward Stephane Veilleux on waivers for the purpose of sending him back to AHL Iowa.
Veilleux, 31, has appeared in 10 games for Minnesota this season, scoring no points while recording a minus-4 rating in 7:10 TOI per night.
He played with Minnesota from 2002-09 before embarking on a journey to Tampa Bay, the SM-liiga, the Swiss league and the New Jersey Devils organization before being re-acquired in the Marek Zidlicky trade of 2012.
He appeared in 21 games that season, then spent the entire 2013 campaign with AHL Houston before getting called up for Minnesota’s first-round playoff series against Chicago — and appearing in two games.
The Wild organization is obviously fond of Vellieux as a veteran presence, having brought him back on a couple of occasions and throwing him into the playoffs last year despite spending the entire season in the American League. That said, his chances to stick in the NHL might be coming to a close as Charlie Coyle appears ready to return from injury and Mike Rupp isn’t far behind.