Wild Sunday Playoff Update: Darcy Kuemper May Start, Shut-Down Line Coming, and Duchene Travels


Mar 22, 2014; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper (35) sprays his mask in the third period against the Detroit Red Wings at Xcel Energy Center. Detroit Red Wings wins 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Sunday, we’ve all recovered (as much as is possible) from Saturday’s disappointing 4-2 loss in Colorado, and it’s time to look ahead. The series moves in St. Paul on Monday (with the early 6pm start time) and the Wild must win to keep their hopes alive.

If you’ve been too depressed after Saturday’s loss to keep up with what’s happened on Sunday, here’s your Wild / Avalanche update from a Sunday where both teams traveled and neither practiced.

Coach Mike Yeo isn’t tipping his hand about lineup changes or who will be in net for the Wild on Monday. However, Darcy Kuemper looked strong in relief on Saturday and Ilya Bryzgalov has allowed 16 goals over the last four starts and was pulled in two of them. Yeo wouldn’t say it, but I think we’d all be pretty surprised if it’s no Kuemper.

Kuemper missed the end of the season with what was at the time termed an upper body injury. After Saturday’s interviews, Pioneer Press beat writer Chad Graff noted, with the below tweet, that Kuemper was actually been out with a concussion.

Details on what exactly happened are scant, but Michael Russo noted that it was Matt Cooke who spilled the beans Sunday, revealing that Kuemper got a concussion during practice before the Phoenix game on March 31.

Shutting down Nathan MacKinnon & co:
Addressing the fact that the Wild must find a way to stop Colorado’s top line — Gabriel Landeskog (three goals, average of 4.5 shots per game), Paul Statsny (three goals, four assists), and Nathan MacKinnon (one goal, six assists, plus-5 rating, 3.5 shots per game) — coach Mike Yeo said, “It’s a possibility that we’ll assemble a line that we’ll assign the task of [their top line].”

It seems like they won’t have a choice if they hope to stay in the series. As I said before, he hasn’t said what will happen with the lineup, but there was the sense on Sunday that changes will be made.

History says that Matt Cooke will likely be a part of a shut-down line if the Wild form one for any period of time. He said at Sunday’s press availability, “If that’s the way that coach goes, I’ll be ready.”

Erik Haula apparently felt the same, saying he’d “love to go against Avs top line…I would take it as a challenge.”

Again, Yeo didn’t reveal what he plans to do with lines and the Wild did not practice on Sunday, so it’s not clear who will be on that line. If Haula is on the line, that may mean the line is without Brodziak, who would likely then center the fourth line. That’d make that third line Matt Cooke-Erik Haula-Nino Niederreiter. That’s all speculation though.

For more on the MacKinnon problem, read Dakota Case’s article from earlier today.

Other lineup changes could be on the way as well, with the Wild unable to finish off the Avalanche so far. The healthy scratches have been Justin Fontaine, Dany Heatley, and Jonathan Blum. The case could be made for or against any of them. Heatley’s got experience, Fontaine has great energy and offensive upside, Blum played great while Clayton Stoner was out and the team is 0-3 since Stoner’s return. We’ll have to wait until Monday’s morning skate to find out more.

Matt Duchene:
The Denver Post is reporting that Avalanche forward Matt Duchene, who suffered a medial collateral ligament injury against San Jose on March 29, traveled with the team to St. Paul and may begin skating at practice on Monday.

Roy said (per the Denver Post) about Duchene’s return to practice, “We’re not going to push. We’re going to be very smart about when he’s going to come back. He’s going to want to play soon, and it’s going to be up to our doctors and (trainers) Matt (Sokolowski) and Scotty (Woodward) to determine if he’s ready to play.”

Duchene remains unlikely to return to the Colorado lineup this series.

Avalanche third line center John Mitchell, who suffered a concussion on April 10 against Vancouver, also traveled with the team, but still isn’t expected to make a return this series. The only update Roy gave on him was, “We’re not sure on Mitchell.” Revealing.