By Michael Russo
Good late afternoon almost evening here from briskly cold Minneapolis.
Million things I’m juggling today, so sorry for the late update.
Assistant GM Tom Lynn said Marc-Andre Bergeron, who leads the Wild defensemen with 16 points, is out a matter of “weeks, not days,” due to a lower-body injury. He didn’t want to peg an exact time frame, but obviously it’ll be into the New Year. Defenseman Erik Reitz will take Bergeron’s spot in the lineup, and with Kurtis Foster still a ways from returning, you can bet this puts a halt on any possible trading of one of the Wild defensemen.
Center Eric Belanger, who spent a night last week in the hospital because he thought he was having a heart attack, actually had pneumonia. I’ll have more on this in tomorrow’s paper, but he practiced today and plans to play tomorrow against Carolina.
Right wing Owen Nolan will be reevaluated after the Christmas break, but Nolan is skating on his own now. Nolan’s injury coincided with the Wild’s turn for the worse. He’s missed seven consecutive games, and remember, Nolan was injured Dec. 5 in the first of the Wild’s six-game losing streak. Leading up to that game, the Wild’s power play was on fire and he had goals in four consecutive games.
Lynn also said Marian Gaborik will be managing his injury for at least a month. So he’ll be judging his own discomfort and decide when he needs to take a practice off or leave practice early. Lynn said that’s normal, and with only one back-to-back before Jan. 19-20 games, Lynn feels Gaborik should be fine to play every game (unless of course there’s an aggravation).
Speaking of Gaborik, I know from my email basket you all are up in arms about the Gaborik for Ilya Kovalchuk trade rumors. As I reported while we were in California, I was told the Wild and Thrashers were talking trade, and then suddenly, GM Don Waddell showed up and watched the Wild on back-to-back days. During the first intermission of the Ducks game, Waddell and GM Doug Risebrough were having a long, very significant-looking chat. In other words, this wasn’t your typical press box, “How’s your family doing?” conversation between GM’s.
I was told Friday by somebody that something was going on between Minnesota and Atlanta regarding Gaborik, but I haven’t reported it for two reasons: 1) I haven’t been able to confirm it internally with either team, and 2) The Thrashers acquiring Gaborik makes such little sense to me. They just dealt with the Marian Hossa circus last year, and I find it extremely hard to believe Gaborik would sign long-term in Atlanta.
The Thrashers are 11 points out of a playoff spot, so acquiring Gaborik would be, as one confidante put it, “a hail mary of epic proportions.”
But Waddell’s under immense pressure there, and maybe this would be his way of showing he’s not throwing the towel in this early.
As for the Kovalchuk part, he’s a true superstar but not exactly known as a “team guy.” But if it’s not Kovalchuk, I don’t know whom it would be. The Thrashers don’t have a lot of forwards that I think would interest the Wild other than Kovalchuk, and nobody I talk to thinks they’d trade Bryan Little.
Kovalchuk has one more year left on his deal, so boy, if this did go down, imagine a second straight headache of Kovalchuk extension talks, and then, perhaps, Kovalchuk trade rumors. If Gaborik’s Hossa The Sequel, then Kovalchuk could be Gaborik the Sequel. I just don’t see the Wild putting itself through that again.
One other minor detail, but Waddell told the Atlanta Journal Constitution a few weeks back that he’s not trading Kovalchuk. Of course, I’ve seen coaches fired days after public votes of confidence from a GM, so I don’t know how much stock should be put into Waddell’s comments.
Regardless, there’s a trade freeze until the 27th, Doug Risebrough’s in Palm Springs for the holiday and these type of trades aren’t easy to pull off.
Incidentally, the scouts I talked to in St. Louis say it’s clear Gaborik is still laboring and is not pushing 100 percent. Also, there were several scouts there, including one I talked to in my hotel lobby who were just in St. Louis to watch Niklas Backstrom. Scouts are beginning their look-at-this-summer’s-free-agent tour.
Couple other things:
– I talked to Hall of Famer Clark Gillies today about young Colton. Funny story here. I’ll probably throw it in my game notebook and tomorrow’s blog.
– There’s few funnier things than when Niklas Backstrom starts talking smack. I was shooting the breeze with Derek Boogaard today and Boogaard asks me if I thought his hit on Rene Bourque would make Don Cherry’s Coach’s Corner. Backstrom, eavesdropping while straightening up his stall, blurts out, “Yeah, because you finally hit a guy. Usually you just miss.” Boogaard’s reaction? “What are you talking about?” The two then had one funny back and forth. Backstrom said Boogaard hits nothing but glass a lot, and Boogaard said, “Yeah, but that scares the heck out of everybody, so that’s good.”
Boogaard’s brother, Aaron Boogaard, who plays for Wilkes-Barre, is in town for the holidays. His dad’s coming too for a big Boogaard family reunion.
Boogaard leads the Wild with a plus-5, by the way.
– Apparently the Wild’s trying to reinvent Brent Burns’ shot. Assistant coaches Matt Shaw and Mike Ramsey worked with Burns for a long time after practice with his shots from the point. Belanger said his one-timer looks “funny” now because you shoot different as a forward than a defenseman. Shaw was out there with a video camera and a laptop to show Burns how he’s shooting.
Lemaire said Burns is doing too much on the ice. More on that in tomorrow’s paper.
– Oh, and Lemaire went on an entertaining rant today about the holidays. He’s not happy he’s not allowed to practice on the 24th and 25th, and that there are no games in the NHL.
“You know, the holidays, I don’t like the holidays – in this game, never did,” Lemaire said. “I know it’s a nice time to spend with the family and all that, but the holidays are killers for certain teams. Other teams, when you have a lot of potential on your team, you can be half-good as you can and you still win. But a team like us, we’ve got to play like it’s a playoff game and it’s hard to be there during these days. You’ve got people at home, you’ve got family, you’ve got friends, go to bed a little later, get up a little earlier, don’t get the proper rest, eat too much, shop too much.”
Then he looks at me and goes: “You know, shopping can kill you. I’ve tried to tell my wife, ‘Shopping kills you.’ She said, ‘No, I feel good when I go shopping.’”
Bye Bye. Talk to you tomorrow.