The Minnesota Wild’s puck possession train rolls into the Tampa Bay station tonight as they look to get back into the win column after an awkward 4-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday night.
Minnesota’s defensive corps will once again look a little different as Keith Ballard sits out his second straight game after taking a puck to the face in Buffalo. In addition, Nate Prosser sits after making his season debut and rookie Mathew Dumba will play his fifth career National Hockey League game. I’d have to think the pairings will be Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon, and Clayton Stoner and Dumba.
Darcy Kuemper has been relieved of his backup duties by franchise starter Niklas Backstrom, who appears to be close to making his way back into the lineup fulltime after a knee strain forced backup Josh Harding into starting duty. Kuemper will likely be reassigned within the next day–possibly even today–to meet the Iowa Wild in Charlotte as they take on the Checkers on Saturday night.
The biggest question mark for Minnesota right now is second line winger Dany Heatley. After a training camp that drew raves from his teammates and more than one Twin Cities-based sports writer, Heater has notched exactly zero goals and just one assist in seven games. This coming after he confidently said he expects to put up a 30-goal campaign. There’s no question he’s dropped the ball and failed to deliver on this one.
The worst part is that you know he’s not intentionally trying to not score. He’s had several chances that he’s been unable to capitalize on, and has to be more frustrated with himself than Chuck Fletcher, Mike Yeo and the entire fan base combined. Yeo has been very patient with him and has been doing a lot of work with Heatley one-on-one both on the ice and off. However, there comes a point where you have to draw the line and cut your losses. But how do you do that with a player that isn’t producing and is in a contract year at a price-point no one is willing to take on? If the lineup stays healthy, the return of Charlie Coyle may spur Wild GM Fletcher into making a move.
The game starts at 6:30 tonight. Be sure to check back here for Scott’s game recap afterwards.
Follow Dakota Case at Twitter.com/Dakota_case