Well, last night was a game the Minnesota Wild would like to forget.
After coming into the night having collected points in 12 of their past 13 games, Minnesota laid an absolute clunker against one of the most historic sports franchises on the planet. Nino Niederreiter and Dany Heatley would score for Minnesota, but there was no stopping Max Pacioretty, who led the Montreal Canadiens to a crushing 6-2 victory with a second period natural hat trick.
It wasn’t pretty, and the Wild have to put it behind them as they take to the ice tonight against Erik Karlsson and the Ottawa Senators. After an uncharacteristic second period pull last night, it appears Josh Harding will very likely get the nod tonight, as well. Youngster Darcy Kuemper has struggled mightily this season at both the NHL and AHL level, and boasts a highly unflattering 6.10 goals against average and .625 save percentage in the very limited action he’s seen with Minnesota this year. He’s a quality goalie, and knows how to play the position at a high level, but he needs to get his head on straight before he can become a reliable longterm option at backup.
That said, with Niklas Backstrom concussed, it’s very possible Wild GM Chuck Fletcher is aggressively searching for an answer in net, especially after last night’s debacle. As mentioned previously, his likely options are to sign one of Jose Theodore, Rick DiPietro or Johan Hedberg. However, Star Tribune beat writer Michael Russo has also hinted at the possibility of trading a draft pick for a guy like Florida’s Scott Clemmensen. Clemmensen is nothing but a pure backup, plain and simple. He’ll never be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL, and never has been, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a solid option behind Josh Harding. Another plus for him personally is that he’d likely be sent down to Iowa once Backstrom returns, and Clemmensen just so happens to be a Des Moines native. Now there’s a feel-good story for the Iowa fans.
Back to tonight’s game. The Wild have recalled fan favorite Jason Zucker from Iowa. It’s yet unknown whether he will play tonight or not. If he does, Torrey Mitchell will likely be the odd man out after taking a hard collision into the boards last night in Montreal. In that case, Zucker would likely slot in on the second line with Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville, while Niederreiter slides down to the third with Matt Cooke and Kyle Brodziak and Justin Fontaine takes the place of Mitchell. In 12 games with Iowa, Zucker has scored four goals and four assists for eight points, but most importantly seems to have improved his game on both sides of the puck.
The Wild need to come out with some fire and passion after being trounced last night. It’s not going to be an easy game. All-time, the Wild’s record against Ottawa has been 2-6-3, including a paltry 1-3-1 in the Canadian capitol. However, this isn’t your dad’s Minnesota Wild team. It’s a new day in Minnesota, and the Wild are out to prove it tonight.
“Hopefully we’re a little ticked off,” said head coach Mike Yeo. “We’ve been on a good stretch here…What’s important is that good teams respond and we have to make sure we respond with a good effort.”
Aside from the Mitchell/Zucker situation, the forward lines look the same. On defense, Nate Prosser will once again skate alongside Clayton Stoner on the bottom pairing, meaning rookie Matt Dumba will be up in the press box. As of right now, Josh Harding appears to be the man in net for Minnesota.
Tonight’s game will be on Fox Sports North PLUS with a start time of 6:30 p.m.