Separation between East’s have & have-not teams will make NHL trade deadline unique

Cody Franson (Abelimages/Getty Images)

If you don’t know by now the NHL’s points system is essentially a competitive funhouse mirror designed to give more teams the appearance they’ve got a shot at a playoff spot, you should. The league has, to the credit of its business acumen, recognized more teams can sell tickets to fans deeper into their regular-seasons if those fans see the teams are only four or five points out of a post-season berth; now, there’s very likely a very slim chance that team can leapfrog a bunch rivals playing each other down the stretch for one of the last playoff positions, but that’s not the point. It’s a mirage of sorts, and it works.

But the way things are shaping up in the Eastern Conference this year, not even the “loser point” looks like it’s going to create the illusion of competitiveness between the teams that make the post-season and the ones that don’t. Of course, most teams still have approximately 35 games to play, so you can’t be sure about anything just yet, but with the trade deadline set for March 2, it’s starting to look like the East’s eight non-playoff teams are going to serve as a feeder system for the much tighter West. Read more

Wild’s Parise gets puck to the face, picks tooth up off ice

Jared Clinton
(Bill Wippert/Getty Images)

Minnesota Wild winger Zach Parise wasn’t ready to say goodbye to his smile. Unfortunately for Parise, I don’t think they can sew a tooth back in.

Midway through the first period of Tuesday night’s game against the Edmonton Oilers, Parise took a puck to the face and fell to the ice. When he began to gather himself, blood was dripping from his mouth, but that wasn’t the only thing that had found it’s way to the ice. Among the blood, there sat Parise’s tooth. And like a stereotypical hockey player, Parise picked it up. Read more

Wild’s Kuemper looks to get season back on track with AHL stint

Jared Clinton
(Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

In the first two games of the season, Minnesota Wild netminder Darcy Kuemper blanked the Colorado Avalanche in a home-and-home set. By Oct. 23, he had three shutouts, and was leading all goaltenders in just about every key statistical category imaginable. Things haven’t gone so well since then.

From Oct. 25 to Jan. 7, Kuemper has won just 10 games, lost 13, and has had a sub-.900 save percentage in 11 outings, almost half of his appearances in goal. On Tuesday, after missing six games with a lower-body injury and making one relief appearance, the 24-year-old goaltender was assigned to the AHL’s Iowa Wild on a conditioning stint. If he hopes to get his 2014-15 campaign back on track, now’s the time to do it. Read more

Rumor Roundup: What to watch as trade deadline draws near

Fleischmann Kopecky featured

With the 2015 NHL All-Star Game now history and teams returning to action on Tuesday, the focus shifts toward the approaching NHL trade deadline on March 2. It’s expected trade activity will increase over the next five weeks as more clubs fall out of playoff contention.

As the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch observes, only four teams – Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes and Edmonton Oilers – can be considered non-contenders and therefore sellers in the trade market. Between now and the trade deadline, Garrioch believes they will be joined by the Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers. Read more

Sick of Chicago playing outdoor games? Too bad

Ryan Kennedy
Chicago's Patrick Kane in Washington (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

One of several big announcements made by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Saturday afternoon was the slate of outdoor games for the 2015-16 season. Montreal will take on Boston at the New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium, Detroit will travel to Coors Field to face the host Colorado Avalanche and Chicago will venture out to the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium to take on the Wild.

As soon as the Blackhawks were announced as competitors, the Internet crowd got a bit jealous. After all, there are still nine NHL teams that have never played in an outdoor game and don’t have one scheduled right now: Arizona, Carolina, Columbus, Dallas, Florida, Nashville, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Winnipeg. The Jets could have hosted a fourth outdoor game next year, but an agreement could not be reached with the CFL’s Blue Bombers over a stadium date (Bettman hoped that 2016-17 would work now).

The Hawks are already on outdoor game No. 4 now. So why Chicago again?

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Report: Minnesota, Colorado to host NHL outdoor games next season

The crowd at Chicago's Soldier Field for the 2014 Stadium Series game between the Hawks and Pens. (Getty Images)

The Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild will each host outdoor games next season, according to a report Wednesday from TSN’s Bob McKenzie. The games will complement the Jan. 1 Winter Classic, which will take place in Boston’s Gillette Stadium and feature the Bruins and Montreal Canadiens. Read more

Wild’s Ryan Suter suspended two games for headshot on Penguins’ Steve Downie

Adam Proteau
Ryan Suter (Getty Images)

The NHL department of player safety suspended Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter two games for a flagrant elbow to the head of Penguins right winger Steve Downie Tuesday. Suter will forfeit $81,058.72, which goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

Suter had no previous disciplinariy incidents, but the video evidence is clear and damning. If there is any good news to come out of the suspension, it’s that the games Suter will miss come against two of the league’s weaker teams: He’ll miss Minnesota’s games against Buffalo Thursday and Arizona Saturday, and will be eligible to return to action Monday against Columbus.

Wild acknowledges what we all knew, acquires goalie Devan Dubnyk in low-risk deal with Yotes

Adam Proteau
Devan Dubnyk Arizona Coyotes

Mired in a six-game losing skid and fading fast from the Western Conference playoff race, the Minnesota Wild acknowledged the obvious and made a trade for a goaltender, acquiring veteran Devan Dubnyk from Arizona in exchange for a third-round draft pick. With just two wins in the past 14 games, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher was left with little choice but to make some type of move in net. But this move represents a small-g, low-risk gamble that doesn’t mortgage the team’s future, but also isn’t a commitment to a long-term acquisition.

The 28-year-old Dubnyk has done a solid job rehabilitating his reputation in Arizona this season, posting a 9-5-2 record in 19 games. Last season had been an unmitigated disaster, as he’d been dealt from Edmonton to Nashville for Matt Hendricks and his save percentage and goals-against average only got worse as the campaign dragged on. But as a backup to Mike Smith, he’s boosted his numbers back to respectability (a save percentage of .916 and a goals-against average of 2.71) – and with an $800,000 cap hit on a one-year contract this season, he doesn’t hurt the Wild’s flexibility either this season or next. He’s got a chance to further re-establish himself and earn an unrestricted free agent raise on a team built to be in the playoff mix for the foreseeable future. If that doesn’t happen, Fletcher moves in an entirely different direction. Read more