Backstrom to start for Wild, who need their goalies to be ‘better’


Niklas Backstrom will be between the pipes for the Minnesota Wild when they host the Flyers tonight. And, boy, could the home team use a good performance from its goaltender.

As we noted yesterday, the Wild’s other goalie, Darcy Kuemper, has been pulled in four of his last five starts at Xcel Energy Center. Minnesota, a strong team by most measures, has been losing too many games as a result of middling play from its netminders.

“They have to be better. They know that,” defenseman Ryan Suter said, per the Star Tribune. “But we have to help them better. Early in games, we have to be better to limit the chances to get them into games. They want to be better. I know they do. They’re working hard.”

Here’s where Kuemper and Backstrom rank league-wide:


Obviously, not good.

On top of that, Backstrom has yet to have a solid outing in December. His save percentage this month is just .883.

The Flyers, meanwhile, are feeling it offensively, with 11 goals in their last two games, both victories.

Wild get point in comeback bid, but are ‘not good enough’


Down 5-3 to Nashville midway through the third period, Minnesota forced overtime in an impressive comeback, but still lost 6-5.

The Predators have now won four of their last five games thanks to 24-year-old defenseman Mattias Ekholm’s first goal of the season.

On the one hand, the Wild can take some comfort in the fact that they managed to get a point out of this game. However, for Minnesota to lose despite scoring five goals, especially after going 5-5-2 in their previous 12 contests, will likely only add to their frustration.

“That can’t happen,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said in his postgame press conference, courtesy of the Wild’s website. “With five goals we should be able to win a hockey game … bottom line is we got to be better.”

When asked for his overall thoughts on the game he added, “It’s clearly not good enough. … You score five goals, for our team, it should be automatic. Turn a game into a track meet, go back and forth, trade a chance, give a chance, get a chance, that’s not our game. So obviously the result was not the right one.”

The phrase “not good enough” or variations of it was uttered multiple times throughout the press conference and also used to describe the team’s struggling goaltending in particular, although Yeo thinks the lack of support from Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom’s teammates have compounded the issue.

In Season Three of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter’s tenure with the Wild, they currently sit three points out of a playoff spot.

Get your game notes: Bruins at Wild


Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Minnesota Wild hosting the Boston Bruins at 8 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• Oct 28 – MIN def. BOS 4-3: The Wild and Bruins are meeting for the 2nd and final time this season. In their first meeting in Boston…

• MIN scored 3 unanswered goals in the 3rd period in a 4-3 comeback win over BOS.

• Nino Niederreiter, Zach Parise, Justin Fontaine, and Marco Scandella (game winner) all scored for the Wild, while Bruins rookie Seth Griffith factored in all 3 Bruins goals with 2G-1A.

• The Wild outshot the Bruins 42-28, including 18-8 in the final frame.

• This was 1 of 4 times in Wild history that the team came back from down at least 2 goals in the 3rd to win in regulation (Elias) – the Wild also did this earlier this month vs. NYI.

• Minnesota has been up and down recently: The Wild have alternated wins and losses over the past 12 games (6-5-1) dating back to Nov. 20…

• This includes the 3-game road trip MIN is returning from in which they went 1-2-0, with a shootout win over AZ on Dec. 13 sandwiched by a 2-1 loss in San Jose on Dec. 11 and a 5-3 loss in Chicago last night.

• The Wild rallied to tie the game last night after trailing 3-1 in the 3rd period, but surrendered the game-winning power-play goal to Patrick Kane with less than 4 minutes to go.

• Tonight, the Wild open a 4-game home stand.

• Minnesota is 9-3-1 at Xcel Energy Center this season.

• Boston in a slump: The Bruins have just 2 wins in their last 10 games (2-5-3) since beginning the season 13-8-0.

• The B’s are in the midst of their worst stretch (lost 8 of 10) since dropping 10 straight (0-6-4) back in Jan. 2010.

• Boston has just 1 win in 7 games in December (1-4-2).

• This is the 2nd of a 3-game Central Division road trip for Boston.

• Boston is 6-7-1 away from TD Garden this season.

• Bruins on the mend: The B’s have been without two important pieces, D Zdeno Chara & F David Krejci, most of this season, but…

• This will be Chara’s 4th game back since returning from a knee injury that sidelined him for 19 games.

• Chara has 1 assist (Sat. vs. OTT) since rejoining the lineup, and has played more than 20 minutes in each game.

• However, Coach Claude Julien said after the loss to Ottawa that Chara was, “fighting the puck a little bit.”

• Krejci led the Bruins in scoring in October (9 points), but a groin injury has limited him to just 11 games overall this season. He has missed the last 11 games, but has been practicing and traveling with the team and is considered day-to-day.

• Special teams matchup: Boston’s PP has been struggling, while Minnesota enters with one of the NHL’s top
PK units…

• The Bruins have gone just 1-for-24 in their last 13 games on the man-advantage.

• Despite letting up one power-play goal in each of their last 4 games, the Wild rank 3rd in the NHL on the PK overall (86.7%) this season.

• The Bruins have gone 3-for-7 on the PP in their last 2 meetings with the Wild after going 0-for-36 in the first 13 games in this series.


• F Patrice Bergeron leads the Bruins in points (21) in 31 GP, and with an assist last night now has 5 points (all assists) in his last 5 games.

• Bergeron is in a goal-scoring slump, however, with no goals in his last 11 games.

• The Bruins’ 2nd-leading point-getter, F Carl Soderberg, is mired in an even longer drought.

• He has 19 points this season, but has 0 goals in his past 15 games dating back to Nov. 12.

• Boston is getting the best production of late from F Brad Marchand and F Reilly Smith.

• Marchand had an assist last night, and now has 6 points (2G-4A) in his last 5 games.

• Marchand is tied for the team lead in goals (8, w/ Smith) and ranks 3rd in points (18) this season.

• Smith had a goal last night for BOS, and also has 6 points (4G-2A) in his last 5 games.

• Smith has 8G-8A playing in all 31 games this season.

• G Tuukka Rask stopped 38 of 40 shots through OT last night, but ultimately lost in the shootout against NSH.

• Rask has started all 3 games during the Bruins current 3-game losing streak. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner has been a tough-luck loser with a 2.23 GAA and .924 SV% in those games.

• Overall this season, Rask is 12-9-3 with a 2.52 GAA and .914 SV%.


• D Ryan Suter is 1 of 5 Wild players (Keith Ballard, Jonas Brodin, Christian Folin, and Marco Scandella) to get diagnosed with mumps this season, but he only missed 2 games.

• Suter leads the NHL in TOI/G at 29:28, slightly above his league-leading mark of 29:24 last season. He was the NHL’s leader in this category in 2012-13 as well.

• On Monday, Suter was named the NHL’s 2nd star of the week after posting 5 assists in 3 games.

• Suter leads the Wild in assists (17) and ranks T-3rd on the team in points (18).

• F Zach Parise has 9 points (3G-6A) in his last 8 games, and leads MIN with 23 points in 24 GP this season.

• F Thomas Vanek has scored 20+ goals in each of his first 9 NHL seasons, but he has just 4 goals through 29 games this season.

• Vanek has enjoyed success against Boston in his career; his 30 goals and 63 points in the regular season are his most vs. any other NHL opponent.

• Last season, Vanek had 6 points in 6 regular season games vs. BOS, and totaled 4G-1A in last year’s 2nd-Round playoff series against Boston as a member of the Montreal Canadiens.

• F Nino Niederreiter leads the Wild in goals (14), and through 29 games has equaled his goal output from a season ago, in which he played 81 games.

• Niederreiter scored on his first career penalty shot attempt in the 3rd period yesterday – his 3rd goal in 4 games, and 10th in the last 15.

• G Niklas Backstrom got the last-minute start last night after G Darcy Kuemper reportedly came down with the same illness that has sidelined D Jared Spurgeon (stomach virus).

• Backstrom also battled an illness during the game, making 34 saves on 38 shots in the 5-3 loss to Chicago.

• If Backstrom starts tonight, he will bring a stellar head-to-head record vs. the Bruins to the ice.

• Backstrom is 5-0-1 in his 6 career starts vs. BOS, with a 1.32 GAA, .957 SV%, and 2 shutouts.

• Overall this season, Backstrom is 5-3-1 in 12 appearances (9 starts) with a 2.43 GAA and .903 SV%.

Ennis, Suter, Lundqvist named NHL’s three stars of the week


Buffalo’s Tyler Ennis, Minnesota’s Ryan Suter and New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist have been named the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Dec. 14, the league announced on Monday.

The highlights:

Ennis shared second in the NHL with five points (1-4—5) in three outings, helping the Sabres (12-16-2, 26 points) post their third three-game winning streak of the season.

Suter led all defensemen and tied for second in the League with five points (0-5—5) in three starts as the Wild (16-11-1, 33 points) gained four of a possible six standings points.

Lundqvist went 3-0-0 with a 1.30 goals-against average, .951 save percentage and one shutout to propel the Rangers (14-10-4, 32 points) into the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.

How about them Sabres? Ennis wins first star, Zemgus Girgensons is running away with the All-Star voting lead and the team is 9-3-0 in its last 12. Not to get too far ahead of ourselves here, but Buffalo is only six points back of the Rangers for the final wild card spot in the East.

I’m not saying… I’m just saying.

More Minnesota mumps? Spurgeon out with ‘illness’


Hey, at least it’s a win for alliteration: the mind-boggling Minnesota mumps mayhem continues, or at least it seems that way.

The Wild announced that Jared Spurgeon had to miss Saturday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes because of an “illness.”

It’s difficult for anyone to assume that such an “illness” is anything but mumps. Let’s take a look at the litany of illness issues that have impeded the Wild in particular:

Spurgeon, 25, got sick during warm-ups, forcing the Wild to face the Coyotes with 17 skaters tonight.

At least there were some jokes, though, right?

Update: Spurgeon’s absence meant a big burden for Suter: