FIGHTING A REMARKABLE plague of injuries, the Wild complete this two-game homestand by facing the New York Islanders. The Isles already handed the Wild one loss this season, back on October 10, when New York won 2-1 on Long Island. Andrew McDonald and Franz Nielsen scored first-period goals for the Islanders in that one, while Matt Cullen scored Minnesota's only goal. It was one of only nine wins the Islanders have earned this season, and they have lost three straight coming into tonight's game. They are 9-14-6 and in last place in the Eastern Conference.
THE WILD'S LONG LIST of injuries got longer Wednesday when Mikko Koivu suffered a leg injury in the final minute of play. He is listed as day-to-day, and will not play tonight. Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said he hopes Koivu will be back by Christmas. Koivu joins Guillaume Latendresse (concussion symptoms), Devin Setoguchi (sore knee) and Casey Wellman (wrist) as Minnesota forwards unavailable to play tonight. Pierre-Marc Bouchard (broken nose and really, really sore face) skated this morning and will be a gametime decision, but is considered unlikely to play. If Bouchard cannot go, the Wild will likely dress seven defensemen.
STEPPING UP TO TRY TO CONTRIBUTE is Jarod Palmer, recalled from Houston Friday and expected to make his NHL debut tonight. Palmer is a Fridley native, which makes him the 12th Minnesotan to skate a regular-season game for the Wild. He's also the 10th rookie used by the Wild this season, and the 33rd player to play a game, the highest number of players used by any NHL team this year. Speaking of high numbers, he will become the first-ever Wild player to wear #79. Palmer was signed by the Wild out of Miami (Ohio) University in 2010, and has four goals and 10 points in 26 games with Houston this season.
AGAIN PREPARED TO PLAY is Wild goalie Josh Harding, who has recovered from the accidental elbow he took from Nick Schultz on the recent road trip. Matt Hackett, with his unblemished 2-0 record, was returned to Houston on Friday. Harding will be back-up tonight to Niklas Backstrom.
WILD FANS GAVE A CLASSY ovation Wednesday night to former Wild forward Andrew Brunette, who returned to Minnesota as a member of the Blackhawks. They could have done the same tonight for Brian Rolston, except that the former Wild winger is with a concussion. The 38-year-old Rolston has three goals and seven points in 26 games this season. He scored 96 goals for Minnesota over three seasons from 2005-2008.
ROLSTON IS NOT THE only Islander on the injured list. Steve Staois is out with a concussion, Jay Pandolfo has a broken foot and goalie Rick DiPietro has a groin injury. Defenseman Andrew McDonald has missed the last seven games with a leg injury, and Mark Eaton has missed the last seven, but both may be ready to return tonight.
AMONG THE HEALTHY Islanders, Matt Moulson leads in goals with 15, while P.A. Parenteau (4G, 20A) and John Tavares (10G, 14A) are tied for the team lead with 24 points. Minnesotan Kyle Okposo has had a hot hand lately, with three goals and six points in his last seven games. Former University of Michigan goalie Al Montoya – who beat the Wild in that Oct. 10 game – will likely be in goal, where he has a 5-5-3 record along with a 2.5 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.
TRIVIA QUESTION: The Islanders are celebrating their 40th season in the NHL this year, a rich tradition that includes four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980-1983. Who holds the franchise record for most goals in a season? (Answer below.)
AROUND THE NHL: The Montreal Canadiens fired coach Jacques Martin this mornings, making him the sixth NHL coach fired this season. In most cases, the teams doing the firing have not improved dramatically, except in St. Louis, where the Blues are 12-2-3 since Ken Hitchcock took over...The Philadelphia Flyers will be without Chris Pronger for the rest of the season and the playoffs because of a concussion, but it may not hurt them. They've won seven straight with him out of the lineup..Wild prospect Charlie Coyle (obtained in the Burns-Setoguchi trade) announced yesterday that he is leaving Boston University and will play junior hockey in St. John the rest of the season.
TRIVIA ANSWER: Hall of Famer Mike Bossy scored 69 goals in 1978-79 to establish the team record. Bossy led the Islanders in goals for nine straight season of 1978-86, and was an amazingly consistent goal producer. His totals for those nine seasons were 53, 69, 51, 68, 64, 60, 51, 58 and 61. He ended his career with 573 goals in 752 games.
UP NEXT: Another trip out West will take the Wild to Vancouver (Monday), Calgary (Tuesday) and Edmonton (Thursday.) The return home the night after Christmas to face the Avalanche.