Minnesota heads into Sunday’s Game 3 matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks down two games to none. Having barely squeaked into the playoffs, the Wild offense is going to have to kick into high gear to keep up with the Blackhawks’ dynamic scorers. Two major pieces missing from the offensive puzzle are veterans Dany Heatley and Jason Pominville.
Heatley is not the “Heater” he was of old, but he still knows how to put the puck in the net and has a presence sorely missed in the Wild lineup. Unfortunately, an injury incurred by former Sharks teammate Marc-Edouard Vlasic in an end-of-game scrum on April 3rd sidelined him for the rest of the season, including the playoffs. In his career, Heatley has scored 15 goals and 42 assists for 57 points in 66 playoff games.
Pominville arrived late in the season, but made an immediate impact with four goals and five assists for nine points in 10 games, including four multi-point games. Jason was also a key component in the recent relative success of Minnesota’s third line with Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Kyle Brodziak before he was put on the shelf via a Dustin Brown elbow to the head. Pommer is also a playoff veteran of four campaigns with the Buffalo Sabres and has scored 12 goals and 16 assists for 28 points in 45 playoff games. Not only does he have playoff experience, but, as the former captain of the Buffalo Sabres, he brings much needed leadership to the Wild.
Due to Pominville’s travel arrangements and Heatley’s injury, Minnesota has yet to play a game with both in the lineup. It makes you wonder what the last few games of the season might have been like with both players skating together in the same forward lineup as Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Matt Cullen, Devin Setoguchi and Charlie Coyle. There is a good chance Minnesota would now be higher than the 8th seed, meaning no Blackhawks in Round One.
Unfortunately, there’s no point in looking at what might have been. There’s no question their skills, experience and combined 85 points in 111 Stanley Cup Playoff games would be a tremendous asset to an offensively-challenged Wild squad. While Heatley is definitely out for the rest of the season, Minnesota fans are hoping—praying—that Pominville makes a quick return so the Wild can salvage what’s left of their first playoff run in five years. His return can’t come soon enough.