When the once-hot Wild roll into town on Tuesday night, having gone 0-7-2 in their last 9 road games after holding down the Western Conference for a solid stretch, they will do so without captain Mikko Koivu.
As Mike Russo surmises in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Koivu could be out up to 4-to-6 weeks with a shoulder injury.
Koivu's injury could be Scott Hartnell's ticket to the 59th annual NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa.
Koivu was one of 8 players selected to play in the All-Star Game, by the NHL's hockey operations department, with fewer points than Hartnell at the time of last Thursday's announcement.
Six out of those 8 players were either Ottawa Senators and voted in by the fans (Milan Michalek, Daniel Alfredsson), or were the lone player representing their team (Koivu, Anaheim's Corey Perry, Calgary's Jarome Iginla, and San Jose's Logan Couture).
The two exceptions were the Rangers' Marian Gaborik and Washington's Alex Ovechkin. Both of those players already had Henrik Lundqvist and Dennis Wideman, respectively, joining them in Ottawa.
Now, the question is whether the NHL is operating under a hard rule that each team must be represented. If so, the Wild's Dany Heatley would be the likely candidate to replace Koivu, adding an extra element of drama to the game since Heatley left Ottawa via a forced trade.
There is also speculation that Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata, who leads the team with 22 goals, could be ahead of Hartnell on the list. Vrbata has one less point than Hartnell.
One other option, if Hartnell was not selected based on Koivu's injury, would be Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn. Benn, 22, had an appendectomy on Sunday and will miss at least 10 days worth of action, putting his first All-Star Game in jeopardy. Benn leads the Stars in scoring. There is though, though, that Benn would try and heal up for the game, even if it means playing in Ottawa without first playing in an NHL game.
"It's a tough call there,'' Stars legend Mike Modano, who also had an appendectomy in 2008 and missed 18 days, told the Dallas Morning News. "It's your first one, it's in Canada, so
you have to think he would want to be there. But you have to do what's best and what feels right."
Either way, the NHL would not have to worry about whether Hartnell would accept their invitation. And few players are more deserving.
"Of course I would [accept]," Hartnell said last week. "To play with the best players in the league at the All-Star Game is a great accomplishment. I would go there in a heartbeat. Like I said, [I'm] a little disappointed, but if I get second or third list, I'd still be there."
BY THE NUMBERS - as of the Jan. 12 announcement
Scott Hartnell, PHI: 41 GP, 18 G + 19 A = 37 points
Jarome Iginla, CGY*: 44 GP, 17 G + 19 A = 36 points
Corey Perry, ANA*: 41 GP, 18 G + 17 A = 35 points
Mikko Koivu, MIN*: 39 GP, 9 G + 24 A = 33 points
Logan Couture, SJ*: 39 GP, 17 G + 13 A = 30 points
Daniel Alfredsson, OTT**: 38 GP, 14 G, 19 A = 33 points
Milan Michalek, OTT**: 39 GP, 22 G + 8 A = 30 points
Marian Gaborik, NYR: 40 GP, 23 G + 11 A = 34 points
Alex Ovechkin, WSH: 41 GP, 17 G + 16 A = 33 points
* denotes only All-Star representing team
** denotes voted by fan balloting
Thomas Vanek, BUF: 42 GP, 19 G + 21 A = 40 points
Kris Versteeg, FLA: 41 GP, 17 G + 22 A = 39 points
Ilya Kovalchuk, NJD: 38 GP, 17 G + 21 A = 38 points (no NJ rep. in ASG)
Loui Eriksson, DAL: 41 GP, 14 G + 24 A = 38 points
Anze Kopitar, LA: 43 GP, 12 G + 25 A = 37 points
Matt Moulson, NYI: 40 GP, 20 G + 16 A = 36 points
Radim Vrbata, PHX: 43 GP, 20 G + 14 A = 34 points
Nicklas Backstrom, WSH: 38 GP, 13 G + 29 A = 42 points (injured)
PUCKING CRAZY: There are just a little more than 10 days left to bid on a puck that was part of one of the most disappointing regular season moments in Flyers franchise history.
The NHL, in partnership with MeiGray Group, has put the puck Danny Briere used on his failed penalty shot attempt with 19.6 seconds left in the 2012 Winter Classic – the only penalty shot administered in the 5-year history of the game – up for auction.
At last look, the bid was over $1,110.00. For a Rangers fan, it is a piece of history. For a Flyers fan with some extra cash, it's a chance to destroy a piece of vulcanized rubber and extinguish a bad memory.
The serial number of the puck is No. 143629. In all, 4 goal pucks and 14 game-used pucks were collected by MeiGray.
In addition to pucks, there are jerseys up for bid:
- 18 jerseys worn by the Rangers during the first period. The jersey worn in the first period by Anton Stralman was presented to the Hockey Hall of Fame. The jersey worn in the first period by Brandon Prust is not available.
- 19 jerseys worn by the Flyers during the first period. The jersey worn in the first period by Andreas Lilja was presented to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
- The 7 jerseys prepared for the Rangers who did not play in the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
- The 6 jerseys prepared for the Flyers who did not play in the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
INJURY UPDATE: Forward Zac Rinaldo left practice early on Monday with a cut on his face. According to Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren, the team does not expect Rinaldo to miss any game action.
There is also no change to James van Riemsdyk's status, as he remains out indefinitely with a concussion.
For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers