By Michael Russo
Jam-packed morning down at the X.
– First of all, Mark Parrish, James Sheppard, Matt Foy and Petteri Nummelin are scratches.
Parrish, clearly trying to work his way back into the lineup as a regular (he only played the last two games because of illnesses to P-M Bouchard and Stephane Veilleux) was working off the ice long after I left .
Sheppard will be a scratch for the first time in his NHL career. He missed the first game because of an immigration problem, the second game because of a paperwork snafu (OK, Wild forgot to put him on the roster by 4 p.m. deadline, but we’ll call it a snafu).
Jacques Lemaire said the decision was twofold — he wants to play Benoit Pouliot and Sheppard must play better. He wants him to take the reins and drive, he said. He also said he thinks Sheppard’s tired. More in tomorrow’s paper.
One thing’s clear: The center is the significant position in Lemaire’s system, and he doesn’t want a 19- AND 21-year-old up the middle in the playoffs. He trusts Pavol Demitra there because of his play down low in the defensive end. So if healthy, it’s going to be Demitra, Koivu, Belanger and Pouliot or Sheppard in the playoffs. That’s my guess.
– Wild skated 13 forwards in the morning skate. Lemaire seemed to intimate that Derek Boogaard, Todd Fedoruk and Chris Simon will all play since they were so effective last week in Vancouver. If that’s the case, Aaron Voros will likely also be scratched as long as Veilleux doesn’t lose his pregame meal in warmups. Sorry if you just lost yours, but that was the best way to make myself clear.
– Roberto Luongo has a new rule where he doesn’t talk to reporters at pregame skates, but he seemed to forget that rule with me as we talked about “the old pesky cats,” and how they finally blew their playoff chances last night after a 7-0-1 streak.
Luongo got on a 7 a.m. flight out of Ft. Lauderdale this morning to make it in time to start tonight against the Wild. His wife, Gina, gave birth to 7-pound, 6-ounce Gabriela last night at 6 p.m. in a Coral Springs hospital. He slept on a hospital bed last night but looked fine.
“Usually when your wife gives birth, you get a little child, you score a goal. I hope he won’t. And if he does, I hope it’s in his net,” quipped Lemaire.
– Lemaire kicked the boys off after 20 minutes today for a pregame meeting. He said it was such a good, hard skate, he wanted them off the ice and not fooling around.
– Colton Gillies signed a three-year, $2.625 million contract today. He’ll get a signing bonus each year of $87,500. He also signed an amateur tryout with Houston. He will report to the Aeros. As for next season, he will definitely get a chance to earn a roster spot with the Wild. Otherwise, he’ll have to be returned to his junior team in Saskatoon.
– Wild can clinch a playoff berth tonight with a win and a regulation Nashville loss.
The Preds play in Columbus, and not to throw a damper on your pre-party, the Blue Jackets have lost 14 of 15 to their division “rival” (you have to win once in a blue moon to be a rival), and that win was in OT.
Oh, and the Jackets are 3 for their last 66 on the power play.
I have lots of other stuff for you, but “Deep Breath” will have to pay for a newspaper and read tomorrow’s notebook.