Yesterday was a grand ol' event for Wild assistant captain Ryan Suter, who managed to collect a goal, an assist, a plus-2 rating and two blocks while skating an unusually low 19:46 of ice-time alongside his longtime former defensive partner - Nashville's Shea Weber - in Team Toews' 17-12 win over the hometown team. Having not found the back of the net since opening night, will this open the offensive flood gates for Minnesota's top defender? Probably not, but he might return with a little more confidence under his belt. Confidence never hurts, am I right?
The Wild get back to business tomorrow night against the Western Conference cellar dwellers in Edmonton. And it does appear GM Chuck Fletcher has recalled defenseman Stu Bickel as extra insurance. This latest recall comes while top defensive prospect Mathew Dumba participates in tonight's 2014-15 AHL All-Star Game in Utica, New York. Will Fletcher make the switch tomorrow?
This Week's Schedule
Tuesday 8:30 PM @ Edmonton Oilers (FS-N)
Thursday 8:00 PM @ Calgary Flames (FS-N)
Sunday 2:30 PM @ Vancouver Canucks (FS-N, FS-WI)
Game of the Week
Minnesota needs to get back on track immediately if the team is going to make the playoffs for a third straight year. With seven points separating the Wild from a two-way tie with Calgary for the West's second wild card spot, an opportunity to beat the league's second-worst team couldn't have come at a better time. Of course, it also wouldn't hurt to beat Calgary and Vancouver, too.
The Oilers are led in scoring by Jordan Eberle, and consecutive first overall picks Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, with 29 points apiece. Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins are also tied for the team lead in goals with 12 each. Amazingly, former Minnesota draft pick Benoit Pouliot is the only player on the team to have both appeared in 20 or more games and still have a plus (plus-1) rating on the season.
On the back end, Edmonton is led in scoring by Justin Schultz's three goals, 19 points and a negative-8 rating. There's an obvious oil spill in net this season, as neither one of Ben Scrivens or Viktor Fasth have posted numbers better than a 3.05 goals against average or a .895 save percentage. Ufta.
Key Player of the Week
It may have been just under 38 minutes in relief of Devan Dubnyk last Tuesday in Detroit, but Darcy Kuemper stopped all 14 shots he saw, backstopping the club to a much-needed overtime point. The question now is whether or not it's enough for the youngster to build off of.
That said, he may not even see a single second of game-time in the net or on the bench as Minnesota's GM may choose (with consent from Kuemper and his agent) to send his prized young goalie to the minors for a two-week conditioning stint after coming off an injury. It certainly wouldn't hurt for Kuemps to get some regular starting time under his belt before getting back into the big club's lineup. If the Wild are going to make the playoffs, they'll need the hulking netminder's help to do so, but he needs to be at the top of his game.
A conditioning stint might be just the ticket, but we may already be seeing signs Kuemper is rediscovering his game. It's about time.