Harding starting tonight (updated)

Posted on February 12th, 2009 – 10:12 AM
By Michael Russo

I got Niklas Backstrom and Derek Boogaard at each other’s throat again this morning. That’s like the favorite part of my day these days.

I was interviewing Boogaard about his three penalties (including double minor) last night for tomorrow’s notebook, and Boogaard admitted that Jacques Lemaire was giving him the “death stare” in the penalty box after the Avs tied the game in the third period. He said it was pretty frightening.

At that moment, Backstrom came up to his stall two stalls down. I said loudly, “Backs couldn’t have been too happy with you either.”

Boogaard says loudly, “What are you talking about? I only took one more penalty than him last night.”

Backstrom retorted, “I at least made somebody bleed. What do you do? I hope [NHLPA Executive Director Paul] Kelly saw. Maybe my jersey will sell more now.”

Which shows Backstrom’s reading the papers. Last week, Boogaard said, in response to Kelly questioning the role of fighting in the NHL, that his jersey sales are right up there with Marian Gaborik because fans love the fighters.

By the way, I’ve gotten a few questions lately from readers about the defensemen not protecting Backstrom by leveling guys after they hit him or come close to him. I asked tomorrow’s birthday boy about that, and Backstrom said there’s a time to get tough and he’d prefer the defensemen don’t waste their energy that way. But he did say getting bumped is part of the game and that maybe the Wild forwards need to crash the other net more.

What else funny happened this morning? 

Oh, it’s Colton Gillies’ 20th birthday. He’s the youngest guy on the team. The oldest guy on the team, Owen Nolan, turns 37 today. I went over to Gillies to let him know that he was one years old when Nolan scored 110 points in his last year in Cornwall and was preparing to be the No. 1 pick in the Draft.

Gillies gave me the old, “Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”

He said only a select group of people know it’s his birthday because he doesn’t want anyone pulling a prank. So between only you and me, it’s Gillies’ birthday.

Because the Wild checked into its hotel at 2 a.m., only seven guys were at the rink today. Both goalies, Gillies, Dan Fritsche, Peter Olvecky, Boogaard and Andrew Brunette.

Brunette and Backstrom worked off the ice, the other five on the ice. Harding, who was in goal for that 6-5 shootout win last year, will get the nod.

Chris Osgood’s in the cage for Detr-oy-it as East Canadians like Doug MacLean pronounce it. I love walking to the rink, by the way, from my hotel. It always makes me think of that Alan Alda, John Candy, Rhea Perlman movie Canadian Bacon from the ’90s. I think Rip Torn was in it, too.

When you’re walking to the rink, Windsor, Ontario, is literally 200 yards across the river, so I always think of that movie, which was a comedy about how President, we’ll call him Alda because I can’t remember and don’t feel like looking it up, wanted to start a war with Canada to raise his approval rating.

Kevin Pollak was in it, too, if I remember correctly, and one of my favorite standup comics, Steven Wright.

Ok, talk to you before the game. Not sure of the scratch, but I’m assuming Boogaard will be out. He often doesn’t play against the skating Red Wings, and after last night’s penalties, I see a message being delivered.

I have to return home via Atlanta tomorrow, so I need to write my Sunday stuff now (little legroom on those Delta 757′s in coach, so my laptop would get squashed by a seat recliner). I’ve noticed that lately, I’m getting roughly the same three questions regarding the Wild over and over again in my email box, so I plan on answering them in my Sunday column.

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