The Wild hosts the Colorado Avalanche tonight at Xcel Energy Center on the front end of a home-and-home with the division rival. The National Hockey League’s Board of Governors has approved realignment and the Wild and Avs will continue to be in the same division, but thoughts on that forthcoming.
Tonight, Minnesota will insert Pierre-Marc Bouchard on the wing alongside Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi. It will be Bouchard’s first game since March 5 when the Wild traveled to Chicago. Bouchard will replace Jason Zucker, who suffered an upper body injury after taking an illegal hit from Anaheim’s Corey Perry on Tuesday.
Speaking to the media after practice, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said that he would like to see Bouchard ‘make a point’ tonight. The Wild bench boss also said that Zucker skated before the team’s practice, but didn’t get a chance to speak with the rookie.
Niklas Backstrom will get the nod in net tonight. Lifetime against Colorado he is 21-5-3 with a 2.18 goals against average, a .927 save percentage and four shutouts.
The NHL’s Board of Governors approved changes to the League, which includes divisional structure and playoff format. The Wild will be in Division B, as it is currently being called, along with Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets. The new division will give the Wild five rivals in the Central time zone (Colorado is on Mountain time). This means a better travel schedule and more 7 p.m. State of Hockey start times, two things the Lighthouse is personally thrilled about.
“Travel-wise, what it’s going to do for us is huge,” Yeo said today.
This will also give the Wild more geographically relevant rivals, something Yeo personally enjoys.
“As much as anything else, I love rivalry hockey and I think (realignment) is going to bring that here,” Yeo added.
As for playoffs, there will be a few changes. Per the NHL:
Playoff qualification will be primarily Division-based, with the top three finishers in each Division qualifying for the first 12 spots in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (and the first three “seeds” in each Division).
The two additional playoff spots in each Conference, designated as “Wild Cards,” will be awarded to the next two highest-placed finishers in each Conference, ranked on the basis of regular-season points and regardless of Division.
A full breakdown of changes in the League’s the playoff format and realignment, along with a nifty graphic breakdown, can be found on Wild.com. These changes will take place at the beginning of the 2013-14 season. What do you think the Wild’s new Division should be called? I’m not sold on B.