Wild trim roster to 28.

It's time for the Wild to get down to business

After Pittsburgh’s game, it was apparent why this was coming. The Wild needed to get down to their roster to gain some chemistry as soon as possible.

With the cuts made on Sunday, the Wild are now down to a roster of 28. That’s 24 healthy players and 4 injured players. (For those keeping score, the opening day roster has to be 23).

If you couldn't tell, this is Brett Bulmer doing what he's best at.

Among those kept were Marco Scandella (no real surprise after Yeo essentially said he thought he could play top-four minutes in the NHL), Justin Falk (who really has nothing left to gain from remaining in Houston), Nate Prosser (he’s had a great preseason, but I expect him to be one of the last players sent down), Casey Wellman (he hasn’t really played at all, but showed some good signs in Pittsburgh) and Brett Bulmer (wait, what?).

Basically, with Bulmer, the Wild want to see more of him. He’s a Cal Clutterbuck-esque forward. He gets under players’ skins, he hits, he’s fearless and he can skate like the wind. With the injuries (the forwards injured are Kassian and Almond, both of whom probably had the best shots at making the opening day roster), it’s not outside of the realm of possibility that Bulmer makes the cut to play with the big squad on Oct. 8.

That’s going to have to be a judgment call by the management though.

For now, the Wild just want to see more of him.

So, basically, here’s our depth chart:

Forward (16):
Devin Setoguchi/Mikko Koivu/Dany Heatley
Guillaume Latendresse/Matt Cullen/Pierre-Marc Bouchard
Darroll Power/Kyle Brodziak/Cal Clutterbuck
Colton Gillies/Eric Nystrom/Brad Staubitz

Extras: Casey Wellman, Brett Bulmer
Injured:
Matt Kassian, Cody Almond

Defense (10):
Greg Zanon/Marek Zidlicky
Nick Schultz/Marco Scandella
Clayton Stoner/Jared Spurgeon

Extras: Justin Falk, Nate Prosser
Injured:
Mike Lundin, Drew Bagnall

Goalies (2):
Niklas Backstrom
Josh Harding

Looking at it, it’s certainly not the best team out there, but it doesn’t look half-bad either. Spurgeon and Stoner have most certainly earned their roster spots this preseason, while Scandella has at least earned the opportunity to be an injury fill-in for Lundin.

Here’s the thing, though. Lundin is one of our top-four defensemen. So who becomes the odd man out when he returns?

To me, it’s Scandella, and for the same reason that Colton Gillies became the odd man out last season.

Scandella is still young, and the front office obviously wants him to get ice time. If he’s not able to get top-four minutes in Minnesota, I think it’s the best move for him to get top-two minutes down in Houston.

It’s a tough message to deliver to a kid who has impressed this preseason, but it is what it is. The Wild will likely keep eight defensemen, and he won’t benefit from sitting in the press box on a nightly basis when Lundin returns from injury.

Prosser has had a great camp

If the Wild keeps eight, I think the two extras that they keep are Falk (nothing left for him to learn in Houston) and Prosser (great camp). Both players really have done their thing down in Houston, and I think both have at least earned the chance to try to work their way into a regular role with the team during the season. Given how steady our regular defensemen have been this preseason, however, I think the Wild only keep seven, which I think makes Prosser the odd man out for right now.

As for the forward, I think you’ll see Wellman sent down and, unless Bulmer blows someone away and one of the bottom two lines has a catastrophic injury, Bulmer sent back to juniors.

Neither is going to benefit from being a healthy scratch on a nightly basis and, when Almond and Kassian get healthy, I think those are the two that you’re going to see round out the squad. The Wild love the toughness that Kassian brings and, really, it’s hard not to. The dude is a grade-A, bona fide fighter and he’s tough as nails. He’s great in the room and he’s a pretty decent skater as well, which means that he’s a player that both Yeo and Fletcher are going to like.

As for Almond, I think he’s gone as far as he can in Houston. Would I rather see the Wild bring in a fringe veteran so that he’s not just sitting in the press box? Sure. But he at least gives the Wild a viable option if injuries present themselves or if they don’t want to throw an enforcer in on the fourth line.

As far as who’s gone, let’s take a look quick.

Jordan Hendry was released from his tryout and told to search for a one-way contract elsewhere, but also told that if nothing better presents itself he has a two-way deal waiting for him in Minnesota, but he would be starting in Houston.

Kris Foucault, David McIntyre, Carson McMillan, Warren Peters, Chad Rau, Jeff Taffe, Jon DiSalvatore, Jed Ortmeyer, Jarod Palmer, Tyler Cuma, Chay Genoway, Jeff Penner, Dennis Endras, Matt Hackett and Darcy Keumper were all sent to Houston.

So that’s your Wild roster. That’s who has the bet shot of making the team on Opening Day this season. There’s three games remaining, so let’s see who can impress over the next three games and get their shot on opening night.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

Pre-Season Gameday Thread: @ St. Louis

I decided to forego the roster update last night because there was a birthday in the Benzel household, with my daughter turning 3 years old yesterday, so we’ll just combine the game thread and the roster into one today.

Anyway, it sounds like we’re going to get a good look at a lot of the youngsters that are vying for a roster spot on opening day, tonight so here it is, per Russo:

Coach Mike Yeo today opted to keep most of the familiar faces in Minnesota. Instead, here are the lines and defensive pairings against the Blues (note, Niklas Backstrom and Matt Hackett will play in net)

FORWARDS

Kris Foucault-Zack Phillips-Brett Bulmer
Jeff Taffe-Warren Peters-Jed Ortmeyer
Colton Gilles-Eric Nystrom-Brad Staubitz
Jarod Palmer-Taylor Peters-Carson McMillan

DEFENSE

Marco Scandella-Nate Prosser
Justin Falk-Jordan Hendry
Tyler Cuma-Chay Genoway

Jeff Penner and David McIntyre will be brought along as extras.

Zack Phillips will be one of the youngsters with a chance to impress tonight

So, basically what we have here is a chance for a lot of the youngsters to step up and impress. Forwards Cody Almond and Casey Wellman and defenseman Mike Lundin are all on the shelf right now with injuries, so there are some spots that could be won and some second looks that could be given after tonight’s game.

Also, we’ll get a look at the line of Gillies/Nystrom/Staubitz, which could very well be the team’s fourth line by the time the season starts.

To me, the most intriguing lines/defensive pairings are that of Foucault/Phillips/Bulmer and Cuma/Genoway. Foucault, Phillips and Bulmer are three of the Wild’s more impressive offensive talents in their system, so don’t be surprised if they get a lot of ice time and a lot of power play time tonight. As for Cuma and Genoway, Cuma might be one of the dark horses to make the squad this season while this will be our first look at Genoway this pre-season, so it will be interesting to see how the pairing fares.

Per Blues.com, this is the line up the Wild’s youngsters will be facing tonight:

TONIGHT’S LINEUP*
1 – Brian Elliott
10 – Andy McDonald
15 – Jamie Langenbrunner
18 – Jonathan Cheechoo
20 – Alexander Steen
22 – Kevin Shattenkirk
28 – Carlo Colaiacovo
32 – Chris Porter
36 – Matt D’Agostini
37 – Derek Nesbitt
39 – Philip McRae
41 – Jaroslav Halak
42 – David Backes
44 – Jason Arnott
46 – Roman Polak
54 – Anthony Nigro
55 – Danny Syvret
56 – Brett Ponich
58 – David Shields
59 – Anthony Peluso
63 – Mark Cundari
70 – Ryan Tesink
74 – T.J. Oshie
76 – Brett Sonne
84 – Tyler Shattock

Niklas Backstrom makes his first start of the pre-season tonight

Just look at all of those regulars.

So, basically, Wild fans. Don’t jump off the ledge if the Wild or goaltender Niklas Backstrom have a less than stellar showing tonight.

This also means that the Wild’s youth and fringe players will have a perfect chance to show that they have what it takes to be able to compete at an NHL level, because there will be a lot of NHLer’s looking at them from the other bench.

So, some discussion questions for you:

How will the Wild’s youth fare tonight against a fairly experienced roster?

Will Niklas Backstrom look like the Backstrom who was a Vezina Trophy finalist, or the Backstrom who has struggled at times the past two seasons?

Where will the Wild’s scoring come tonight, with mostly youth and fringe players playing?

Can Minnesota’s inexperienced defensive unit hold their own against a fairly experienced stable of forwards?

Will Zack Phillips (my dark horse roster pick), Kris Foucault, Brett Bulmer or Jarod Palmer emerge as surprise front runners to make the roster on opening day?

Will Jordan Hendry rebound from a less than stellar performance last game?

The puck drops at 7 pm tonight and is not televised. You can listen to the game here or on your radio at KFAN 100.3 FM.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

The Monday Mailbag: 8/8/11

Before we get into mailbag time, it’s time for a few more links from around the interwebs.

HPT Bold Prediction #21: Playoffs on the Island
HPT Bold Prediction #22: Barry Trotz will be fired
Hockey’s Future: Minnesota High School 2011 draft review

That’s all for now, so let’s get 8o your questions!

* * * * *

Blake,

Do you see any of the Wild’s top prospects making the squad this season?

Stan
Grand Forks

Not this year Wild fans

Well, I’m assuming by top prospects you mean players like Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle and, if that’s the case, I don’t think so.

Obviously players like Casey Wellman, Cody Almond and Colton Gillies will be vying for a spot at forward and Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella at defense, but if you’re talking about the team’s top prospects, well, here’s what I think:

1) Mikael Granlund – He’s already said the plan was for him to spend one more year in Finland to take care of his obligations.

2) Charlie Coyle – Probably not. Chuck Fletcher said that he’s planning on keeping him in college. That being said, anything can happen in camp and Coyle probably has the best shot to make the roster of any of the team’s top prospects.

3) Matthew Hackett – Not unless Josh Harding or Niklas Backstrom get injured.

4) Jonas Brodin – He needs a lot more seasoning and there are a lot of defensemen that are more polished ahead of him, so no.

5) Zack Phillips – He could be the dark horse of the group. He can put up points and has the potential to surprise in camp.

So, Stan, there you have it. Those are the five prospects I would consider at the top of the list of our “big guns” that we’ve gotten in the past few drafts, but I don’t seen any of them cracking the roster yet. Some need more seasoning, some have players in front of them on the depth chart, but all are at least one year (if not more) out.

* * * * *

Blake,

Do you think that the Wild will keep Josh Harding around past this season?

Jocelyn
Mankato

Jocelyn, I think this is a terrific question that the organization is probably thinking about right now (and, if they’re not, they should be).

With the exception of a rough spot a few seasons ago, all Harding has done is won games for the Wild. He’s a terrific goaltender

The Wild would do well to keep Harding around past this year

that I think could be in the cards for Minnesota.

The problem is that he’s had injury problems (not that he’s injury prone, he just has gotten hurt in a number of different fashions) and has never really been given the helm for any extended period of time.

The Wild signed Harding to a one-year deal and, to me; this looks like it’s a tryout for Harding, so to speak.

I would imagine that the Wild will probably try to get Harding somewhere between 25-30 starts this season and, if Harding is successful, will likely try to lock up their talented back up for at least three seasons following this season.

Now, here’s my thinking on this. Backstrom has one year left on his deal after this year. He has a no-trade clause (or, at least, a modified one) and a pretty large contract, so it’s unlikely that he’ll be moved unless the team absolutely bombs (and even then it’s highly unlikely).

Say Harding has a good season this year. The team’s third-string goalie is Matthew Hackett, who is still very young and still developing. I think that, after this season, the Wild could get Harding locked up for three years at a reasonable price with the promise that he’ll be the team’s starter after Backstrom’s contract is up.

After Backstrom’s contract expires, Harding slots into the starter role and Hackett into the back up role.

We’ll see how Harding does this season, but that’s how I could see this playing out.

* * * * *

I’ve got a couple kids that want to play with daddy before bed time, so that’s all for today, but keep sending in your questions and we’ll be back with more tomorrow!

Wild acquire Powe; Qualify seven

The Minnesota Wild has acquired Darroll Powe from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for a 2013 3rd Round Pick.

I love this move for Minnesota for a number of reasons, most important of which is that they’re receiving a player that will have the opportunity to contribute next season without giving up a roster player.

But I also love Powe’s game. He led the Flyers last year with 196 hits and the expectation is that he’ll slot in on the other wing on the third line with Cal Clutterbuck. Can you say scary?

All indications is that Powe brings the same type of game that Clutterbuck brings, just without the offensive upside. He’s a reliable penalty killer (he was second on the Flyers among forwards with 257 shorthanded minutes) and he’s a strong, character player – something that the Wild minced no words about wanting to acquire.

With the acquisition of Devin Setoguchi, the Wild’s top-six is more or less set, but the Wild now have a strong contingent of players jockeying for position on the team’s third and fourth lines. Powe, Clutterbuck, Matt Cullen, Eric Nystrom and Brad Staubitz will likely all get some good looks in the team’s bottom-six, while you’ve also got James Sheppard, Casey Wellman, Colton Gillies and Cody Almond competing for spots as well.

To me, when you look at the players that will likely make the roster (the first five I mentioned), I think it makes the most sense for the roster spots to go to Gillies and Almond. (Keep in mind that this is before camp, so obviously this could change.)

Gillies and Almond both play a game that suits playing on the third and fourth lines. To be honest, I think either player could flourish being slotted between Powe and Clutterbuck, while I think Gillies could really find himself in a great position to have a strong rookie season playing on the wing with Cullen and Clutterbuck.

Initially, that would leave Sheppard and Wellman as the odd men out.

For Sheppard, I think that it’s very clear that he needs to play at least one full season in Houston. Sheppard is a player that should not be a bottom-six forward. He has top-six skill that just hasn’t been realized, and I think that the best thing for him will be what the Wild did with Gillies – stick him in the AHL and let him develop both his game and confidence in his game.

For Wellman, it’s clear that the best position for him is going to be on one of the top two lines for Minnesota. He’s not a checker. He’s a finesse player with a tremendous amount of skill. Because of the chemistry that Kyle Brodziak has shown with both Guillaume Latendresse and Martin Havlat, to me that means that Wellman is going to have to wait one more year to get his shot, and that’s not a bad thing. A full year in Houston will also do Wellman wonders, especially if Houston can build off of their success this season.

Next season, the Wild will likely have an influx of very highly skilled, young players vying for roster spots. Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund will both be jockeying for spots on the roster. Add Wellman to that mix and you could potentially have a deadly stable of youngsters ready to contribute, and that’s never a bad thing.

* * * * *

The Wild also made their qualifying offers today. They qualified seven players, which were Powe, Gillies, Sheppard, Wellman, Justin Falk, Jarod Palmer and Jeff Penner. They did not qualify Patrick O’Sullivan.

The seven aforementioned players will all become restricted free agents as of July 1 if they are not signed before then, though I would imagine that the lot of them will be.

As far as O’Sullivan is concerned, from what people are making it sound like, the Wild will try to re-sign him to a two-way contract should he not sign with any NHL squad or in Europe.

In other RFA news, the Montreal Canadiens did not qualify Benoit Pouliot, which is making the Latendresse trade look better and better by the day.

* * * * *

Speaking of free agency, I’ll be hosting our annual UFA day chat here and at Hockey Primetime and I’m currently working on getting some solid guests lined up to help field your questions. We’re still unconfirmed as to whether or not there will be a radio show, but I’ll keep you updated as I hear.

Wild Loses Almond, Recalls Peters

Looks like the Wild have lost another centerman, as the team has recalled Warren Peters after Cody Almond was the recipient of the ever elusive “lower body injury” last night.

Bad news for the Wild, who are already paper thin at the position, with John Madden playing injured as well.

Peters will play tonight, for sure, and likely will center Brad Staubitz and Jed Ortmeyer or, in other words, will help them open the bench gate for players as Todd Richards will likely cut it down to three lines very quickly.

Peters has a grand total of 29 NHL games to his name, including two with the Wild, and two goals in his career.

The good news is that Brodziak should be available for the Wild in Monday’s game against the Blackhawks, but this has definitely been an eyeopener for how thin this squad is at center. At this point, even James Sheppard would be a welcome addition to the squad.

But, who do you go after? Like I said before, a lot of the teams in the playoff race are pretty unwilling to part with players. The Wild could maybe go after Tim Connolly, but I don’t see the Wild going after a fragile forward having a down year. Stephen Weiss would be a very good option — he’s young and under contract for two more seasons — but the Wild will likely have to give up a lot to get him. Likely a roster player and probably a prospect and draft pick (especially since Cory Stillman was had for a player and a pick), but you never know what ace Fletcher might have up his sleeve.

Otherwise, there are always players like Dustin Penner available but that doesn’t necessarily fill an immediate need, though it would be a helpful addition.

In any event, this isn’t a primer for the trade deadline, so we’ll save that one for later. Enjoy the game tonight and I’ll be back tomorrow unless any breaking news happens!

Injury-Riddled Wild Can’t Solve Kings

Well, this is becoming quite the theme. The Wild played hard, but they just didn’t have the offense to get it done.

I’m going to keep this brief, because I’m working on our trade deadline primer that should be up sometime this evening or tomorrow morning, but this was a game that the effort was there for the Wild, but you can’t honestly say that they deserved better.

The Kings wanted it more. Plain and simple.

They forechecked harder, they played smarter, they simply did everything better than Minnesota, right down to hitting the net when they had the opportunity.

Last night, the Wild’s offense was downright putrid at times. They couldn’t get anything going and a large part of that was due to our line combinations.

Before I start on this, I’m not blaming Todd Richards in any way, shape or form for this (a shocker, I know). Quite simply, the discombobulated lines were not his fault. It’s the fact that our top two centers are out right now. The distinct lack of chemistry between Matt Cullen and Andrew Brunette and Antti Miettinen was painfully apparent last night, with that line getting a grand total of four shots on goal. That’s half of what Martin Havlat had on his own.

Meanwhile, John Madden fit in well with Havlat and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, but it was painfully obvious that he was not comfortable playing in an offensive capacity as opposed to a shut down role. Madden was, in a lot of cases, either out of position for what Havlat and Bouchard were doing or simply not expecting it. He battled, he fought hard, but he just wasn’t able to keep up offensively with either of Havlat or Bouchard and the line struggled for it.

It’s a distinct problem when the players through the first half of the game that were most noticeable offensively were Eric Nystrom and Cody Almond, but that was the case for most of the first thirty minutes.

That’s not a recipe for success and that, again, shows that we need to find some sort of depth at the center position.

The good news is that Brodziak will likely be back in the line up on Monday against the ‘Hawks. The bad news, though, is that the team is going to have to do without him for tonight’s game against Anaheim, so expect a type of game similar to what we saw last night.

But that’s enough of the negatives. Let’s look at some of the positives quickly.

Niklas Backstrom, again, was great. Despite giving up three goals, he kept the Wild in the game with some big saves and, were their offense clicking, could have gotten a win or at least a point out of the game.

Brent Burns was great last night, playing physical and he was in on the rush as much as any forward was. For a team that’s struggling offensively, the Wild need Burnsie to step up into the play as much as he can and it looks like that’s exactly what he’s being told by the coaching staff. If he can keep providing some offense from the blue line, it’s going to lighten the load for our beleaguered forward unit right now.

Nystrom also continues to be really good for the Wild. He seems to be playing with more confidence now that he’s finally broken through in the goal column and it’s showing in his game. He’s creating offensive chances now on the team’s checking line.

What else?

The Wild are now sixth in the West, dropping a spot behind L.A. after the loss, and are tied with four other teams at 70 points, and I wouldn’t look at that logjam being alleviated any time soon. This is going to be a race to the playoffs that takes years off of a coach’s life. It’s been hard for any team to gain any sort of separation over the other and it’s going to continue to be hard.

For example, tonight both Calgary and Minnesota are in action. L.A. moved up to sole ownership of fifth with 72 points, but if Calgary and Minnesota both win, there could be a three-way tie with 72 points and a three-way tie with 70 points. Conversely, if both teams lose, there will be six teams tied at 70 points.

The league wanted parity, and this is parity at its best.

There won’t be any gameday preview today, but the puck drops tonight at 9 p.m. and will be on Fox Sports North.

Enjoy your Friday and, if anything happens before tonight’s game we’ll be sure to let you know!

Gameday Thread – Game 61 – Wild @ Kings

I think we’ve finally established that this team is for real. You don’t get to fifth in the playoff race, regardless of how tight that race is, without being for real.

So here’s the catch, though. The Wild now have three games coming up, including back-to-back games tonight and tomorrow, all against teams within two points of them in the standings.

Oh yeah, and they won’t have Mikko Koivu or Kyle Brodziak for at least tonight’s game.

Tonight, the Wild take on the Los Angeles Kings, tomorrow they take on the Anaheim Ducks, then Monday they’re back home for the Chicago Blackhawks.

All within two points of them in the standings.

Suffice it to say that these next three games are big. Like, King Kong big.

* * * * *

NHL.com’s Game Preview

Russo’s Brodziak Update

Wild.com Gameday

LA Kings Insider Update

* * * * *

Persevere
The key to tonight’s game for the Wild is going to be perseverance. They’re down two centers, missing Kyle Brodziak and Mikko Koivu for tonight’s game. That’s two of their key penalty killers, two of their key offensive cogs and two of their key face off men.

John Madden and Matt Cullen? Prepare to get a lot of work in tonight.

Cody Almond and Jed Ortmeyer? Prepare to get a lot more work than you thought.

Basically, the Wild just have to make it through. They have to just keep on keeping on right now, because their little mini-road swing just got a heck of a lot harder.

This is a Wild team whose confidence is sky high right now and why shouldn’t it be? They’re 5-2-1 over their last eight games. They have a goaltender who is on top of his game and they’re playing some of the best hockey we’ve seen them play in quite a while.

But this latest problem is proof that something needs to give.

Lack of Depth
Brodziak’s absence has highlighted just how paper thin this roster is right now, especially up the middle.

While some teams are able to cope without their two of their top centermen, the Wild simply don’t have the organizational depth right now to do so. For all intents and purposes right now, Ortmeyer is a body. He’s a body with NHL experience, yes, but there’s no one in their right mind who thinks that he’s going to be able to replace what Brodziak brought to the table – especially over the last handful of games.

Tighten Up
So the Wild are going to need to tighten up.

It’s a tired adage of how you play a road game, but it’s effective nonetheless.

Minnesota cannot get into a track meet today. They can’t hope to have their offense beat the Kings – at least not in a wide-open, high scoring game.

Instead, they need to dig in, lock up that neutral zone and wait for their opportunity to strike. In other words, they need to ask themselves “What Would Jacques Do?”

That’s going to be the key to their success tonight. The Kings have too many offensive weapons for the Wild to go blow-for-blow with them and come out smelling like roses. The Wild, instead, needs to get down and dirty. They need to grind and grind and grind some more until the cracks in the Kings’ armor begins to show.

Then they counter-attack and capitalize on the Kings’ mistakes.

This is a difficult game, yes. But it’s also winnable if the Wild play a smart road game.

The puck drops tonight at 9:30 p.m. and is televised on Fox Sports North.

Prospect Profile: Carson McMillan

I’ll just give it to you straight: The Houston Aeros lack a certain offensive sparkle this season. Not quite the Bondo gray of last year, but not much better. It’s clear, anyway, that scoring will have to come from everyone for the team to even have a prayer of moving out of the division basement.

Carson McMillan - Photo by Chris Jerina (click photo for more from Chris)

And one guy who has stepped it up so far this season is sophomore winger Carson McMillan. He’s racked up 2 goals and 3 assists in 10 games, which maybe isn’t all that mind-blowing until you realize he only had 8 points in 56 games last year.

Can I get an ‘AMEN’?

Carson was in the same draft class (but 2 rounds behind) Cody Almond, who looked great almost from the start last season and earned a call-up to Minnesota as a result. Even when Almond wasn’t getting on the score sheet, his hockey sense was evident, and in comparison, McMillan seemed a little lackluster.

He often struck me as being a half-step behind at times, aggressive but not particularly smart about it, and prone to the occasional bad penalty. He had come out of Juniors so highly touted, earning more than a point per game in his final year with the Calgary Hitmen, what I was seeing each night for the Aeros just didn’t jive.

But it’s amazing what a year can do for a guy. His positioning is good, he’s not taking untimely penalties, he’s faster and more in-the-play. And it’s showing on the stats sheet as he is in a three-way tie for leading scorer on the team (which, admittedly, isn’t saying a whole lot).

He’s scored in the last two Aeros games and I got to see the most recent one. It was a 2 on 1 with center Warren Peters, who carried the puck in and dished it at the last second over to McMillan, who one-timed it in the net before Texas Stars goalie Richard Bachman could make it across.

After the game, he was quick to deflect credit:

“The goal tonight was all Warren Peters. He made a heck of a fake on the defense and on the goalie and gave me a wide open net, and I thanked him about a hundred times after the goal.”

Sure, but if I had a dollar for every time a couple of Aeros have been in that same situation and the pass was mishandled or overskated or otherwise not capitalized on, I could buy myself some seats on the glass at the X.

So credit where it’s due. The Aeros need someone who can finish, and McMillan finished. Here’s to a lot more of that this season, because this team is going to need it.

And if the Wild can get some decent production out of him, along with the toughness he’s already brought, that’s a big win for a 7th rounder.

Well, two more down last night. 

At this point, the Wild might be better off calling up the entirety of the Houston Aeros franchise…You know…To protect their regulars from what has become the Curse of the Wild this season. 

Last night in Calgary, the Wild were already down six regulars who, for those keeping score at home, are Martin Havlat, Guillaume Latendresse, Owen Nolan, Andrew Ebbett, Marek Zidlicky and Nick Schultz. 

Or, in statistical terms… 

35 percent of their goals and 35 percent of their assists. 

Them’s some pretty big shoes to fill. 

So, you’re missing four of your top ten scorers, not to mention your regular backup goalie. Couldn’t get much worse, right? 

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeell… 

After last night’s game, we’re now down two more players.  Niklas Backstrom, who took a slapshot to the throat early in the third period, left the game and would not return despite his attempts to the contrary and James Sheppard left with a knee injury following a check from Robyn Regher. 

I’ll let you digest that for a second. 

That’s right.  Nine regular players are currently on the sideline. 

And here we were, supposed to be a healthier team with Marian Gaborik gone.  The hockey gods are truly laughing at us right now. 

But, on the up side we’ve gotten a glimpse into the future…And my goodness does it look bright. 

Casey Wellman 

What can’t I say about this kid? 

No goals…Yet…But he’s been flying around the ice like a madman.  Once his brain catches up to the speed of his legs, this kid is going to be l-e-t-h-a-l on the ice.  That’s right…So much so that I spelled it out. 

Wellman seems to have that sixth gear that the truly speedy players in the NHL have.  Alex Ovechkin has it, Marian Gaborik has it and, yes, Casey Wellman has it. 

The biggest difference between the three’s speed? 

Ovechkin goes from 0-to-suspension in 3.0 seconds. 

Gaborik goes from 0-to-groin explosion in 3.0 seconds. 

Wellman goes from 0-to-60 in 3.0 seconds. 

He seems like he’s just thisclose to exploding into an outburst of points for Minnesota and, when he does, it’s going to be a thing of beauty to watch. 

Cody Almond 

I’ll be honest…I didn’t know much about Almond until this season.  But what I’ve seen from him, I like where he’s going. 

Much like Wellman, he seems like he’s just on the cusp of exploding, but what’s different is that Almond looks like he could honestly develop into a solid power forward in the NHL. 

He buzzes the net, he hits and he’s got tremendous hands and speed.  He’ll get an ample look in training camp next season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he stuck.  The kid looks good and he looks like he could really succeed between two skilled players. 

Heck…He looked right at home between Havlat and Latendresse.  Just sayin’. 

Nate Prosser 

19:31 minutes his first game and 21:00 his second. 

Not bad for a kid who was signed with the intent that he would just practice with the team for the remainder of the season. 

Injuries struck and, lo and behold, Minnesota’s own Prosser found himself in the line up and he’s made the most of it, to the tune that he might have very well been Minnesota’s best defenseman over the last two games. 

Now, he’s got a tough road ahead of him if he’s to crack the Minnesota lineup next season, but right now he’s looking like he might not have that tough of a time doing it. 

So, with these three, the future is most certainly bright for the Minnesota Wild.  They might not ever develop into anything more than role players, but for right now they’re taking center stage and thriving.

Almond Recalled; Earl Demoted

Veeeeeeerrrrrrrrrry interesting. 

The Wild have sent Robbie Earl down to Houston, recalling Cody Almond.  This is Almond’s first call up to the big show and, as Brian Stensaas said over at Russo’s Rants, there’s a chance that he cracks the lineup tomorrow against the Atlanta TrashOurYoungGuys (in all seriousness, the Thrashers are my favorite team not named the Minnesota Wild…I just thought that the name given by Razor was funny). 

Almond is having a decent season with Houston, despite having struggled after an early injury.  He has four goals and ten points in his last nine games with Houston and has been one of the team’s more intriguing prospects over the last year or two. 

As for Earl, Richards said that he “has slipped a little.” 

It will probably be determined tomorrow whether or not Almond debuts, but I’d say there’s a good chance.

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