The Minnesota Wild take on the Florida Panthers tonight in the second of two matchups between the two teams this season.
The Wild fell 2-1 in the shootout in Miami back on October 19th, but look to improve upon their already very impressive home record of 8-1-2 with a win against the Cats tonight. Currently, Minnesota sits in seventh place in the West with an 11-4-4 record and 26 points, just four points shy of Chicago’s division-leading 30 points. Florida, on the other hand, sits in the East’s cellar with a 4-11-4 record and 12 points, good enough for seventh in the Atlantic Division and second-to-last in the East.
Part of the big news of the day would undoubtedly revolve around Minnesota’s current dilemma in net. Former No. 1 goalie Niklas Backstrom is once again out of the lineup, this time with a concussion sustained as a result of a blatant run by Toronto’s Nazem Kadri in Wednesday’s 2-1 shootout victory. Kadri has since been suspended three games. With that said, North American pro rookie goalie Johan Gustafsson gets the call, and will back up new No. 1 goalie Josh Harding tonight against Florida. It’s highly doubtful he’ll receive any playing time, however, as it appears Minnesota is ready to make the switch for No. 3 goalie Darcy Kuemper if they do need a starter outside of Harding.
It’s not that Gustafsson isn’t a good goalie, in fact, his career indicates nothing but great things for the youngster. It’s that the club can find no reason not to ease him into the waters of North American pro hockey. So far this season, the 21-year old Koping, Sweden native has put together a solid, if somewhat brief AHL resume with a 3-1-0 record, a 2.45 goals against average, a .920 save percentage and a shutout in five games. Last season, Minnesota’s sixth round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft would go 20-13-0 with a 1.70 goals against average, a .929 save percentage and four shutouts in 33 games with Lulea of the Swedish Elite League.
The other part of the big news would be last night’s trade between Florida and the Chicago Blackhawks. Florida would send forward Kris Versteeg–a key cog in the 2010 Stanley Cup Championship Blackhawks squad–and prospect Philippe Lefebvre for forward Jimmy Hayes and defenseman Dylan Olsen. Many across the league are already calling it a fleecing by Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman.
Honorary State of Hockey residents? Well, one of them would be Panthers assistant coach John Madden, a Minnesota native who was also part of the 2010 Blackhawks Championship team, and played the 2010-11 season with the Wild. Then there’s Bloomington native Tom Gilbert, who played last season and part of the season before with his hometown Wild. Gilbert was acquired in the Nick Schultz trade with Edmonton and would eventually become the victim of Minnesota’s amnesty buyout. Finally, there’s 2010 first round pick and former Minnesota Golden Gopher Nick Bjugstad, who finds himself centering Florida’s top line with 2011 third overall pick Jonathan Huberdeau.
Should be a fun game tonight.