The Minnesota Wild had yesterday off for a number of reasons, most notably to recover from nine days of travel, a two-hour time change followed by two afternoon games in consecutive days. They also used it to lick their wounds from a bloody Sunday inflicted by the Montreal Canadiens.
After a day to think about it, the Wild gets its shot at redemption tonight when the Toronto Maple Leafs make a rare appearance at Xcel Energy Center.
First, due to rising flood waters on the Mighty Mississippi River, Shepard Road has been closed down between Eagle Street and Highway 61. Fans attending tonight’s game should plan on leaving early and using alternate routes to get to Xcel Energy Center.
Once you get there, you’ll see Niklas Backstrom getting the start in goal. Backstrom came on in relief of Jose Theodore on Sunday, which means he’ll have appeared in each of the last four games.
The rest of the lineup will remain the same. Todd Richards said that Marek Zidlicky and Cam Barker are getting close to returning, but neither will play tonight. Richards was asked about Guillaume Latendresse returning before these final nine games are up, and Richards didn’t have an answer.
Shifting the focus briefly to college hockey, which will hold its NCAA tournament this weekend (yes, the UMD Bulldogs are in it). As teams start to get eliminated, the watch will be on to see which players are signed by college teams. One player of note is Matt Read of Bemidji State. He attended the Wild’s Development Camp last July, but thus far, he remains unsigned. UMD’s Justin Fontaine was also at the camp, and he will be a hot commodity come April 11th, a day after the Bulldogs win their first national championship.
The Wild is once again expected to be active in the college free agency market again, one year after picking up Casey Wellman, Nate Prosser and Jarod Palmer.
The last four players to have signed with NHL teams since their college seasons ended have Minnesota ties: Minnesota’s Cade Fairchild (St. Louis) and Aaron Ness (New York Islanders) have signed with the teams that drafted them. Minnetonka native Jake Gardiner signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs and St. Cloud State’s Oliver Laurisden signed with Philadelphia.