Afternoon from the sky between Pittsburgh to New Yawk. We've been in the air for 25 minutes and it's not a long flight, so I better be quick before we descend into LaGuardia.
Long practice near Robert Morris University today. Battle drills, special teams work, a team meeting a line juggling as the Wild, which has given up the first goal in 10 straight road games and has scored 22 goals in the past 14 games, try to figure things out.
Mikael Granlund has not officially been cleared to play, coach Mike Yeo said today. We'll see if he is by Saturday, but today, even though the second looked great and took part in battle drills, he played most on D and wasn't part of any special teams. Obviously, the team is being careful because of his history of concussions, which personally I don't think is a bad thing.
So there is a chance he doesn't return Sunday against the Rangers and he misses his 12th in a row.
Yeo went back to his line laboratory and experimented with new ones Friday. He reunited the Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Jason Pominville line – the one that hasn’t exactly lit it up when together this year or last.
Kyle Brodziak, without a goal in 25 straight (which actually isn't his career long; I plan to write a bit more about him in the next few days) centered Nino Niederreiter and Dany Heatley and Charlie Coyle centered Matt Cooke and Justin Fontaine, who has been scratched in the past three games.
It’s hard to tell which line is the second and which is the third.
Zenon Konopka centered Erik Haula and Torrey Mitchell.
Obviously, those lines will change if Granlund can return. When I noted to Yeo they were a little, uh, weird, he said, “We haven’t been scoring a lot of goals, so we have to try something."
The Wild sent Brett Bulmer back to Iowa today. He wasn't going to play against the Rangers and if Granlund can return, the team has to make a roster move anyway and it appears Yeo wants to keep Haula in the lineup somehow because he can play center if needed and he kills penalties.
I'm pretty sure the Wild plans to flip goalies after Saturday’s practice because Iowa called up John Curry from Orlando. Johan Gustafsson is expected to be reassigned and Darcy Kuemper recalled to back up Niklas Backstrom against the Rangers and potentially start Monday in Philadelphia.
Watching Gustafsson in practice and talking to scouts who have seen him play in Iowa, the 21-year-old just isn't ready for NHL action. Kuemper appears to have gotten his game in order in Iowa -- one of the three stars after almost every Baby Wild game lately. We may see if it translates into the NHL, where he's had two poor, jittery performances this season.
We're landing and bouncing around the sky. Talk to you tomorrow.