Thursday, January 23, 2014

Gameday Thoughts

Photo: Ann Heisenfelt/AP
Wild host the Blackhawks tonight at 7 PM. Since I have about 1,000 (slight exaggeration) thoughts right now, lets get on with it.

  • Zach Parise listed himself at '50-50' yesterday, when talking about tonight's game. If he is not 100%, (whether that is injury related or conditioning related) then lets keep him out for another game. Sorry folks, but bringing him back too early just for the sake of him being back is not worth it. The Wild have cushioned themselves in the standings, so if Parise were to sit out tonight in favor of returning for Saturday in San Jose that would be perfectly acceptable. The team has found weird ways to win while he is out, so who knows what happens tonight if he doesn't play.
  • Yesterday, Niklas Backstrom received a cortisone shot for a nagging lower body injury. He is expected to back up Darcy Kuemper tonight, as the team sent down Johan Gustafsson. Backstrom has struggled between the pipes all year, and perhaps this nagging injury is to blame for it. With just seven games left before the Olympic break, maybe its just best to let Backstrom rest and heal up for the stretch run. It doesn't help that Josh Harding is out, but Darcy Kuemper has stepped in and performed admirably. Don't rush Backstrom back if this injury is still indeed 'nagging' him.
  • With all the line brawls and goalie fighting in this league lately, it is nice to see the Wild with cooler heads out there. After the team shipped out Zenon Konopka, fights from someone in the iron range red have been few and far between. There are a few guys on this team who can drop the gloves (Rupp, Stoner, Veilleux), but winning games seems to be more of the focus here.
  • Has anyone heard from Jared Spurgeon lately? Seriously. If anyone sees him, ask him how he is doing.
  • Kyle Brodziak plays the tough minutes for the team. Its a pretty cut and dry fact. But that should not negate his offensive play and he should not be getting a pass because of it. He is just a mess in the offensive zone. His decision making is terrible. Passes when he needs to shoot, shoot when he needs to pass, gives the puck away, etc. Good teams in this league boast at least three lines that can score. Justin Fontaine and Matt Cooke have been doing their part as the mainstays on the third line this year, but Brodziak has been extremely sluggish. If he can not turn it around this year, maybe its time to look at unloading him to another team in the summer to give Erik Haula a shot at third line center.
  • After starting on the season at a pace to finish with 40 goals, the question is now whether Jason Pominville can get to 30 goals this year. He has two goals in his past 14 games (about the same amount of time Parise has been out), leaving him with 19 on the season. Remember in November when some were talking about him getting some Team USA consideration? 
  • Coming to town tonight are the defending Cup champion Blackhawks. The Wild are the only team in the NHL to have beaten the Hawks twice in regulation this year, and are 2-1-0 overall against them this year. Chi-town is coming off a 5-4 shootout loss to Detroit last night. Huge key for the Wild is to stay in the game early on and let the tired legs of Chicago kick in late in the game to give them a chance. Minnesota played a Dallas team on Tuesday who was also in the second game of a back to back, but gave a more lethargic effort than the Stars did. Lets hope that is not the case tonight.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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