By Michael Russo
Niklas Backstrom has started a team-record 20 straight games for the Wild. That will be snapped tonight when backup Josh Harding starts for the first time since Feb. 28.
How can you tell this season is officially over. Nobody — and I mean nobody — skated this morning for the Wild, which got the news five minutes before it landed in Columbus in the wee hours of this morning that Anaheim had beaten Dallas to mathematically make this game meaningless for the Wild.
Apparently, somebody got reception on their cell phone on the descent, and the news trickled around the plane. Very quiet landing I am told by the handful of glum players I ran into in the lobby today.
I also just saw Jacques Lemaire outside having a cigar with Mario Tremblay. The two then walked to the arena — maybe for the last time.
Like I said last night, when Lemaire said he’s made up his mind on his future, I think that’s a clear indication his era in Minnesota is over. If not, I think he’d just announce he’s staying to end all speculation.
But this is a guy that needed a few weeks away last year to be convinced he should return. Do you really think after this season’s disappointing ending that the decision he’s already made is to return? I just don’t think so.
Lemaire is also the type of person that doesn’t want to go to Florida, then come back for a press conference. So if his mind is made up that he is indeed stepping down, I can see a press conference very, very soon after the Easter holiday.
Again, though, this is conjecture.
Craig Weller will play tonight for the injured Dan Fritsche. Tonight’s outcome means a huge deal for Columbus, which can still finish sixth, seventh or eighth in the West.
Lastly, here’s an entertaining and clever piece written by Kyle Anway in the Minneapolis Golf Examiner on golf tips on certain Wild players, coaches and managers heading into the offseason.