Anaheim Ducks 3, Wild 2; Havlat strains groin

Posted on October 15th, 2009 – 12:46 AM
By Michael Russo

One more loss. One more injury. And a team already in deep, deep trouble.

First to the injury, Martin Havlat pulled his groin on the first shift of the third period tonight and is day-to-day. Not that I’m a groin expert (but I have covered some notorious ones), but I’m betting Havlat, who talks often about needing to keep his groins warm, cooled down bigtime during the second intermission.

Not just because of the intermission, but he didn’t play the last five minutes of the second period — benched for the second time in three games — because of what Todd Richards must have deemed a defensive mistake.

On the Ryan Carter goal, which became the winner, Havlat was streaking out of the zone when Kyle Brodziak whiffed on an outlet pass and turned it over. Seconds later, Carter, who was Havlat’s guy, scored. Havlat didn’t play again in the period.

It looked to me like Richards was giving Havlat the business on the bench after the goal. Then, he gets hurt on the first shift of the third.

After the game, Richards was very disappointed with his team’s effort and how the majority of team didn’t “battle” or “compete” in the first period. He said it was now up to him to bring the urgency and desperation out of them.

The Wild played a great, great second period, outshooting Anaheim 18-8. At one point, it was 10-1 in shots, but the Wild’s power play ruined momentum for the second game in a row.

Hard to name names on a night like this, but Kim Johnsson, VERY tough night. Mikko Koivu 3 of 14 on faceoffs, three shots. Havlat minus-2, one shot and now laboring.

This team’s in a lot of trouble. Four injuries now and a team that’s just a mess on the ice.

Tonight wasn’t about a team in transition. Tonight was about a team that in the first period couldn’t win a puck battle, couldn’t make a play in the offensive zone and was just mindless at times in its own zone, and especially in the neutral zone.

I mean, four players went for a line change with the puck on its side of the red line before Corey Perry’s first goal. Richards called it “selfish.”

Richards praised Owen Nolan and Brodziak, callups Andy Hilbert and Nathan Smith. He said many others were standing around and watching.

James Sheppard, supposed to “step up,” played 12:23. Benoit Pouliot played 13:21, but he did work pretty hard at times. I thought Antti Miettinen was good. Nick Schultz was much better (plus-2).

But the Wild can’t continually play catch-up. Onward to Edmonton. Man, I wish I could make it to practice Thursday because it could be a doozy, but I don’t get in until 3:10 if I’m on time. Although, with so many injuries and back-to-back games, Richards probably should unearth that urgency and desperation from the team in some way other than skating the you know what out of them.

Lots of pressure on the Wild now because things could really spiral. I sensed a very angry coach tonight, and a very frustrated group of players after the game.

Wild vs. Anaheim Ducks; Boogaard out, Scott in

Posted on October 14th, 2009 – 9:00 PM
By Michael Russo

UPDATE:  Per sources (not from team), Martin Havlat’s out with a slightly pulled groin. Played a 26-second shift early in the third. Not seen since.

Live from high above the Honda Center ice, Wild-Ducks about to start.

Derek Boogaard is off injured reserve but is indeed scratched. John Scott is playing.

Wednesday’s morning skate update

Posted on October 14th, 2009 – 1:35 PM
By Michael Russo

UPDATE: Richards says Boogaard is gametime decision, but like I said, John Scott hasn’t practiced as a forward since the weekend.

It looks like Derek Boogaard, after only two practices, will return tonight as the fourth-line left wing. He’s on a line currently in the morning skate and John Scott is wearing a maroon defenseman jersey, meaning he’s a likely extra tonight with Jaime Sifers.

If anything changes, I’ll update. Talked to George Parros. He told Scott if the Wild is ever up 3-0 in his building, he expects him to return the favor and fight him like he did last week in Minnesota. For Parros, it looks like the rematch will have to wait tonight. He can sub out Scott for Boogaard, I suppose.

Probable lines tonight:

Bruno-Koivu-Havlat
Brodziak-Belanger-Pouliot
Miettinen-Sheppard-Nolan
Boogaard-Smith-Hilbert

Probable pairs

Zanon-Burns
Johnsson-Hnidy
Schultz-Zidlicky

Russo Radio tonight at 6 CDT on KSTP.

Defense pairs changed; Boogaard may be ready; Sykora doubtful for rest of road trip

Posted on October 13th, 2009 – 7:24 PM
By Michael Russo

Good evening back in the wintry Twin Cities. I’m coming to you from the OC, where it rained today and there was downright panic on the streets because of it.

The Wild, after three days off (two practice days) are looking forward to getting back to playing Wednesday as it continues its five-game road trip with Game 3.

With the Wild 1-3 (0-3 on the road), coach Todd Richards is searching for ways to win. Against the Ducks, at even-strength, Kim Johnsson and Nick Schultz have been separated. Johnsson will skate with Shane Hnidy and Schultz with Marek Zidlicky.

The Wild has given up 11 even-strength goals, and Schultz has been on for eight and Johnsson six. Richards said he doesn’t necessarily think the combinations are the reasons for the goals against, “but sometimes you just have to switch it up to switch it up.”

Derek Boogaard, because he only plays three to five minutes a game anyway, might wind up playing after just two practices. At least in practice today, Boogaard was on the fourth line with Andy Hilbert and Nathan Smith and John Scott skated as a defenseman with extra defenseman Jaime Sifers.

So if George Parros is looking forward to a rematch with Scott after Scott hammered him in that fight last week, well, Parros might be staring at Boogaard instead. Not a great tradeoff. But other than boxing, Boogaard hasn’t been in a hockey fight since March.

Richards said he doesn’t expect Petr Sykora (groin) to play the rest of the road trip. He didn’t practice for a second day in a row today.

Statistically, the Wild should be better than 1-3. They’re near the top of the league in shots for, near the top of the league in fewest shots against.

But in the past three games, it does seem like the Wild goes through spells of giving up goals. In other words, L.A. scored two in two minutes something. Anaheim scored three in five minutes something. Last game, San Jose scored twice in 2:41 and three times in about seven minutes.

“We do have to find ways to win games because right now we’re finding ways to lose,” Richards said. “It seems to be coming in a flurry. It’s not one in the first, one in the second, one in the third. We have to recognize how important the shifts are after they score or we score a goal. The next shift is huge.”

Richards again reiterated that with no Cal Clutterbuck, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Sykora, it’s essential Benoit Pouliot and James Sheppard step up. He liked Pouliot’s game in San Jose, but he said Sheppard is going through spells of not moving his feet on the ice, which leads to ineffectiveness all over the ice.

Really, there’s a lot of pressure on Sheppard now. I mean, he’s going to get ice time now. He’s going to get responsibility. If you can’t do it now, when are you going to, in other words. And remember, this is the guy assistant GM Tom Thompson guaranteed publicly this offseason would have a breakout year. He’s got no points in four games. 

I meant to mention this yesterday, but I had sort of a weird interview with Sheppard yesterday. With Clutterbuck, Bouchard and Sykora out, both Chuck Fletcher and Richards singled out Sheppard and Pouliot as two guys who must step up with the extra ice time and responsibilities. Pouliot said it is a must and he can’t mess it up.

I threw three or four questions at Sheppard about stepping up specifically, and he consciously made it a point to never use the first person during the back and forth. Here’s two examples of back-to-back questions and answers:

Russo: With all the injuries now, how much do you feel you’re going to need to step up now with the extra ice time you’re going to get?

Sheppard: “Everyone’s got a bigger job. We’d love to have everyone playing, but for the guys who get more minutes or get into the game more, they’re going to be more focused because they’ve got a bigger job and they’re going to be in the game, touching the puck more and getting more minutes. It works both ways. There’s negatives and positives to both things. but for the most part, the guys who are going to play are going to play more intense.”

Russo: Chuck and Todd mentioned you and Pouliot specifically, so do you feel you need to be the guy who steps up?

Sheppard: “Just like I said, the guys who do get these minutes are going to touch the puck more and get more ice time. Hopefully for those guys, they can use them well and not take them for granted and make sure they … I think what I’m trying to say is that it’s not really a big deal for quote-unquote these guys.”

You kinda needed to be there to actually understand what I’m saying, but Sheppard tried hard, and I mean hard, to make it a point to never personalize it. I don’t know what the motivation there was. Maybe he’s sensing the pressure, but I just didn’t see a very confident player there.

Anyways, that’s it for me. Talk to you after the skates Wednesday.

Fox Sports North HD schedule

Posted on October 13th, 2009 – 9:22 AM
By Michael Russo

If you click the link to the Clutterbuck article, you can see how his skate is just sorta stuck. 

2009-10 Minnesota Wild – FOX Sports North Schedule
  
Date  Day   Opponent  Time 
Oct. 8  Thursday  at Los Angeles  9:30 PM HD
Oct. 10  Saturday   at San Jose  9:30 PM HD
Oct. 14  Wednesday  at Anaheim  9:00 PM HD
Oct. 21  Wednesday  Colorado  7:00 PM HD
Oct. 24  Saturday   Carolina  7:00 PM HD
Oct. 28  Wednesday  Nashville  7:00 PM HD
Oct. 31  Saturday   at Pittsburgh  6:30 PM HD
Nov. 5  Thursday  Vancouver  7:00 PM  HD 
Nov. 12  Thursday  at Tampa Bay  6:30 PM HD 
Nov. 13  Friday   at Washington  6:00 PM
Nov. 15  Sunday   at Carolina  12:30 PM HD
Nov. 27  Friday   Colorado  1:00 PM HD
Nov. 28  Saturday   at Colorado  8:00 PM HD
Dec. 4  Friday   Anaheim  7:00 PM HD
Dec. 5  Saturday   at Nashville  7:00 PM HD
Dec. 7  Monday   at Phoenix  8:00 PM HD
Dec. 11  Friday    at Calgary  8:00 PM
Dec. 12  Saturday   at Vancouver  9:00 PM
Dec. 17  Thursday  at Montreal  6:00 PM
Dec. 19  Saturday   at Ottawa  6:00 PM 
Dec. 23   Wednesday  Edmonton  6:00 PM HD
Dec. 26  Saturday   St. Louis  7:00 PM  HD
Dec. 28  Monday   at Los Angeles  9:30 PM HD
Dec. 29  Tuesday   at Anaheim  9:00 PM HD 
Dec. 31  Thursday  Los Angeles  7:00 PM HD
Jan.  9  Saturday   Chicago   7:00 PM  HD
Jan.  13  Wednesday  Vancouver  6:00 PM HD
Jan.  14  Thursday   at St. Louis  7:00 PM
Jan.  23  Saturday   Columbus  8:00 PM HD
Jan.  27  Wednesday  Detroit   7:00 PM HD
Jan.  28  Thursday  at Colorado  8:00 PM HD
Jan.  30  Saturday   at San Jose  9:30 PM HD
Feb. 4  Thursday  Edmonton  7:00 PM HD
Feb. 10  Wednesday   Phoenix   7:00 PM HD
Mar. 3  Wednesday  at Calgary  9:00 PM
Mar. 5  Friday   at Edmonton  8:00 PM
Mar. 11  Thursday  at Detroit  6:30 PM HD
Mar. 12  Friday   at Buffalo  6:30 PM HD
Mar. 14  Sunday   St. Louis  5:00 PM HD
Mar. 21  Sunday   Calgary   2:00 PM HD
Mar. 25  Thursday  at Philadelphia  6:00 PM
Mar. 26  Friday   at Detroit  6:30 PM HD
Mar. 29  Monday   Los Angeles  8:00 PM HD
Apr.  8  Thursday  at Calgary  8:30 PM
Apr. 10  Saturday   Dallas   7:00 PM HD

All Times Central, Schedule Subject to Change

Digesting Wild’s injury situation; Trade on the horizon?; Fox Sports North to announce HD sched Tuesday

Posted on October 12th, 2009 – 8:12 PM
By Michael Russo

It’s like the survival of the fittest around the Wild these days. Take today, for example.

After GM Chuck Fletcher informed the media that Cal Clutterbuck will be out a matter of “weeks” with a sprained ankle, that Pierre-Marc Bouchard is still out indefinitely with a concussion and that Petr Sykora is doubtful Wednesday against Anaheim with a sore groin, I sat down and watched practice.

In a 5-minute span, Martin Havlat crashed into the boards, Mikko Koivu crashed into the goal and Benoit Poiliot crashed into a teammate. At the end, Jaime Sifers’ skate hit a rut and he crashed backwards onto the ice.

All four are OK, but the scenes were pretty much par for the course for what’s been going on with the Wild since the start of training camp, when players began dropping like flies. Now the team’s 1-3, sitting 15th in the conference — granted very early in the season though.

But now Clutterbuck’s going to potentially be out weeks. He’ll have an MRI when the swelling subsides to determine the extent of the sprained ankle, but there’s a chance it’s a high ankle sprain, which is often a 6-to-8 week injury — at least.

Bouchard saw famed neurologist Dr. James Kelly over the weekend. And while the Wild doesn’t yet have Dr. Kelly’s report, it doesn’t look good. Fletcher said the Wild plans on letting Bouchard rest for a good while to get him right.

For a team with not a lot of skill, it’s not good that one of the Wild’s most skilled forwards will be gone for awhile. And now, the team’s most physical forward will be out for awhile.

Derek Boogaard’s back though. Believe it or not, even though he’s returning from a concussion, he’s spent the past two weeks boxing here in L.A. with some very “well-known people” — i.e. celebrities. Maybe one day he’ll let me write about which celebrities because it’s a pretty interesting story.

Asked how someone with a concussion boxes for two weeks, Boogaard was sorta like, what’s the big deal? He said he wanted to get back into shape and see how his head reacted by taking punches. He said he’s completely cleared up. By the way, Boogaard said he suffered that Sept. 18 concussion not by a stick hitting his chin, but by Raffi Torres hitting his jaw on a check (not from a stick to the chin).

So, back to the injuries. Now what?

Fletcher has been getting a lot of phone calls from GM’s in the last few days. That often happens when other GM’s read that you’re suffering injury after injury.

I know Fletcher’s talking, but I don’t see much help coming. Here’s the problem. What does he have to trade that isn’t Mikko Koivu or Brent Burns or somebody like that?

Plus, how do you trade draft picks? There’s very little skill in Houston. The reason why is the Wild hasn’t drafted much skill to put in Houston.

So while Fletcher can probably trade draft picks for players, how do you justify that when you need to somehow use those picks to hopefully add skill to this organization. In other words, if you trade your draft picks like yesteryear’s Wild, how do you ever catch up? 

Fletcher just doesn’t have a lot of options that I see. I know I’ve harped on this before during some very critical columns last season of the previous regime, but I’ve watched a lot of hockey in the last few weeks. The Wild are so far behind other organizations right now in terms of bright young talent on the roster and in the system, it is downright frightening.

Years of being competitive (not picking high enough), years of trading draft picks, years of sub-par draft picks and years of letting free agents walk away for nothing has left this organization in a terrible position.

There are some good veterans down in Houston, some good defensemen in Houston and in juniors, some sandpaper. But skill? Not much skill from Andy Hilbert, Nathan Smith. Good vets. Not much skill.

Colton Gillies was held out this past weekend with a broken nose, so that’s probably why he’s not coming up. Plus, he’s a big cap hit and the Wild is trying to save cap space to hopefully make a significant move at some point. That’s why the callups came after 4 p.m. so today wouldn’t be charged to the cap.

The Wild desperately needs James Sheppard and Benoit Poulot now to step up, snag the available ice time and prove their worth. This is their opportunity. They must grab it now, or the Wild’s in deep trouble.

If they don’t, the Wild will be able to infuse some skill into the organization around next June with a lottery pick.

How about that for a negative finish to a negative blog to put you all in a negative mood? Sorry, but the truth hurts.

Lastly, Fox Sports North will release its 35-game HD schedule Tuesday. It’s 15 more games than last year and starts with Wednesday’s game against Anaheim.

I had an incredible day yesterday. I went up to Napa and checked out a bunch of wineries, including Val Bure and Candace Cameron Bure’s winery at Chateau Boswell in St. Helena. Just a great time. I’ll probably do my Sunday column on that and maybe I’ll tell you more about my day tomorrow. It was a fun one.

I have a cool day planned Tuesday. Besides practice, I’m going to the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana to check out the Science of Hockey exhibit. It’s the largest interactive and educational hockey exhibition in the U.S.

OK, that is it. Wild players by the way are probably currently in traffic. They’re on their way to Costa Mesa for a team dinner. Speaking of dinner, buh-bye.