There was plenty of discussion about Evander Kane again this morning about Saturday’s mysterious healthy scratch in what turned out to be a 4-2 win for the Winnipeg Jets over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Neither Kane or head coach Paul Maurice were interested in shedding much more light on the actual reason for the move, a topic that the media in Toronto, myself included, already tried to uncover during the post-game address on Saturday.
It was mostly a subdued and measured Kane during the scrum — nothing like the defiant guy who publicly disagreed with the assessment of Claude Noel earlier this season that he was actually a healthy scratch against the Chicago Blackhawks after declaring himself fit to play after the morning skate that day back in November.
As I wrote in my column today, I thought Kane might be ready to sound off about what happened. Instead he stayed with the script and mostly bit his tongue.
Near the end of the scrum, colleague Paul Friesen asked Kane if he wanted to be traded?
“I’m here to answer hockey questions, in terms of the game tonight,” was Kane’s response.
Not exactly a vehement denial by Kane, but I don’t think he’s reached the point where he might take that step and ask to be moved.
On the ice, Kane was in good spirits and looks to be drawing back into the lineup against the Minnesota Wild and will be skating on a line with Bryan Little and Michael Frolik.
Part of the reason for the move is that Jets captain Andrew Ladd won’t be available, thanks to an undisclosed injury he suffered on Saturday.
Ladd is officially day-to-day but Maurice raised the possibility he could be lost for the final three games.
Dustin Byfuglien has already been ruled out of the remainder of the regular season after tearing a muscle on Saturday, presumably in the second period against the Maple Leafs.
Speaking of injuries, I should have mentioned this the other day but rookie centre Mark Scheifele has also been ruled out of the final three games, despite the fact he started skating as he continues to rehabilitate his knee.
In other lineup news, Carl Klingberg will draw into the lineup for Byfuglien after being recalled from the St. John’s IceCaps on Monday morning.
Klingberg, a second round pick (34th overall) of the Atlanta Thrashers in 2009, has posted career highs in goals (20) and points (38) in 62 games this season but will see his first action with the Jets since appearing in six games in 2011-12 — despite being called up on a couple other occasions as insurance.
Klingberg will play on the fourth line with Jim Slater and Anthony Peluso while Eric Tangradi gets the first shot with Blake Wheeler and Olli Jokinen.
Slater is excited about appearing in his 500th game, a notable achievement that I’ll go into more in a sidebar that will appear in Tuesday’s paper and be available online later tonight at www.winnipegsun.com.
The other news, which would have otherwise taken centre stage, is that Michael Hutchinson will make his NHL debut tonight against the Wild.
Maurice had a quick chat with Hutchinson before he left the ice and gave him a tap on the pads.
Klingberg is among those excited for Hutchinson, who started the season with the Ontario Reign of the ECHL but solidified the goalie position after his promotion to the IceCaps.
“He deserves it,” said Klingberg.
Hutchinson has already turned heads this season and worked his way up the organizational depth chart, but this is his chance to show what he can do at the highest level, even if the Jets are no longer fighting for a playoff berth.
With two games left after tonight, a strong showing could earn the pending restricted free agent another start before the season is out.
As I wrote in Saturday’s paper, it’s hard to envision a scenario that doesn’t involve Hutchinson staying in the organization, either as the No. 3 guy to share the crease with youngster Connor Hellebuyck in St. John’s or is given the opportunity to battle for the backup spot with the Jets.
That issue will work itself out in due time.
While Hutchinson needs to focus on the game against the Wild, you can be sure he’d love to face the Boston Bruins, the team that drafted him, in the home finale for the Jets on Thursday.
Hutchinson chose to adopt the policy of fellow goalie Al Montoya (and more recently Ondrej Pavelec), the age-old practice many netminders abide by that includes not talking to reporters on days they start following the a.m. skate.
I’ll be sure to get some reaction to what figures to be an exciting moment following the game as the Jets try to build on their strong effort on Saturday that moved them to 35-34-10 for the season.
The Wild (40-26-12) is in good position to claim the first wild-card berth in the Western Conference standings, entering tonight’s action with a five point lead on the Dallas Stars with three games left on their schedule.
Ilya Bryzgalov is in goal for the Wild and is coming off a 4-0 shutout of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Since being acquired from the Edmonton Oilers, Bryzgalov is 5-0-3 with a 1.97 GAA and .920 save % in nine games, outstanding numbers for a guy who was brought on board as insurance. That policy is proving valuable as Darcy Kuemper joined Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom on the injured list.
The Wild have plenty of players that are fun to watch — Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Charlie Coyle, Jason Pominville, Matt Moulson, Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin immediately come to mind — even if they’re still more of a defensive-minded team.
Here’s how I expect both teams to start tonight;
Evander Kane-Bryan Little-Michael Frolik
Eric Tangradi-Olli Jokinen-Blake Wheeler
Matt Halischuk-Eric O’Dell-Devin Setoguchi
Carl Klingberg-Jim Slater-Anthony Peluso
Toby Enstrom-Paul Postma
Mark Stuart-Jacob Trouba
Adam Pardy-Zach Redmond
Michael Hutchinson (Ondrej Pavelec)
Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle
Matt Moulson-Erik Haula-Jason Pominville
Matt Cooke-Kyle Brodziak-Justin Fontaine
Stephane Veilleux-Cody McCormick-Nino Niederreiter
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin-Nate Prosser
Marco Scandella-Jonathon Blum
Ilya Bryzgalov (John Curry)