By Michael Russo
Just ran into “Iron Mike” Keenan, and after we talked Florida real estate, he confirmed to me that Calgary will dress 16 skaters tonight rather than the normal 18.
Robyn Regehr and Adrian Aucoin were injured last night in Dallas. The Flames had to call up two defensemen who will make their NHL debut — John Negrin and Matt Pelech. However, because the Flames are so close to the cap, they had to send down a regular forward, Dustin Boyd (entry level deal, so no waivers), and Warren Peters.
The Wild may dress seven defensemen tonight, coach Jacques Lemaire said. If they do, it’ll be interesting if Marc-Andre Bergeron plays wing again or if Kurtis Foster does. Foster practiced as a winger on Thursday. At the very least, the Wild could use Foster at the power-play point instead of center Eric Belanger or Kim Johnsson. If Foster plays, which I think he is, a forward will sit — like Craig Weller unless somebody’s hurt and they’re not saying (they had an optional this morning).
Nik Backstrom is in, and I’m pretty sure I saw Anton Khudobin leaving with his equipment. Khudobin has been officially reassigned.
Terrible night for the Wild last night, but we’ll get to that in a second.
For the first time in 13 years of helping pick Masterton nominees, this is the first time somebody my chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association is picking truly has a shot at potentially winning the award.
I mean, let’s be honest, choosing Marian Gaborik last year for, uh, not getting hurt was probably a throwaway pick.
But if anybody exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey, it’s Kurtis Foster. After all, his first words to the doctor after breaking his left femur last year was, “Will I ever play again?” not “Will I ever walk again?”
He then began a 10-month exhaustive rehab to get his NHL career back on track with big goals along the way. The first one was walking down his aisle at his July wedding.
Foster returned to the Wild’s lineup last month. His first home game was exactly one year after his previous home game, March 17, 2008. His injury led to a “rule change” where players must now let up on icings.
His injury has shown others you can return from a broken femur. In fact, last month he called 15-year-old Michigan high schooler Thomas Royea after he heard the sophomore broke his femur in a game. He also called up a University of North Dakota player, Derrick LaPoint, who broke his leg, to offer words of encouragement that it can be done.
Onto the Wild, terrible night for the idle Wild last night.
St. Louis scored three times in the third in Detroit to beat the Red Wings and move four points ahead of the Wild. Spring Lake Park’s David Backes was unbelievable, scoring a career-high four goals.
Anaheim also beat Vancouver 6-5 in a shootout (just a fun game to watch) to move five points ahead.
Want a good web site to pay attention to the playoff race, click nhlplayoffrace.com. As it’ll show you, the Wild’s “tragic number” is down to six points. That’s the combined points gained by the eighth-place team or lost by the Wild.
St. Louis has 85 points, Nashville (with a game in hand) has 84.
Most points the Wild can get is 91, and that’s by going 5-0. What do you think the chances of that are? I’d say I have a better chance of winning this year’s World Series of Poker.
And as we’ve stated many times, the Wild’s on the wrong side of the tiebreakers.
The teams that deserve to make the playoffs will. Anaheim’s 8-2 in its past 10; St. Louis 7-2-1 in its past 10; Nashville 5-2-3 in its past 10.
The Wild’s 4-4-2. The good news is if you take the win-one, lose-one pattern the team’s been on the past eight games, the Wild’s due to win tonight.
I’m in a notes pool with the Calgary Herald, and Scott Cruickshank is reporting that Robyn Regehr, who was bleeding nastily from the head the last time I turned on the Flames-Stars game last night, sustained a possible knee injury — per sources. He’s doubtful for tonight. Gaborik typically goes head-to-head with Regehr.
With no Cory Sarich tonight, Dion Phaneuf should play about 35 minutes. Phaneuf’s having a terrible year — except against the Wild. For some reason, he’s been a force against the Wild. Hmmm.
OK, I’ll be back on after the morning skate to update blog. Have a good day.