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, Minn. — March Madness is certainly not limited to the college basketball court, when one considers the NHL’s made scramble of teams to sign their college draftees and finalize playoff spots. That’s the case in both scenarios for the Minnesota Wild, who host the Dallas Stars on Thursday having just gotten one of their college prizes in uniform, and as they hover near the clinching point in the Western Conference playoff race.
The Wild return home after a shootout loss in Nashville on Tuesday night — a game which all involved agreed had a real playoff feel. With the Predators already in the postseason and the Wild close to clinching a sixth consecutive trip, a May meeting between those teams is not a far-fetched idea. For Minnesota, Tuesday also marked the NHL debut of prized collegian and Olympic forward Jordan Greenway, who signed with the Wild less than 24 hours after his Boston University career ended with a Terriers’ loss to Michigan on Sunday in the NCAA East Regional final.
Greenway won’t be skating in the NCAA Frozen Four, which will be played at Xcel Energy Center in a week. Instead, he’ll skate as part of the home team on the Wild’s home ice for the first time on Thursday.
“You see that he’s going to be a good player,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said after Greenway’s debut in Nashville. “Positionally he was fine and he’s got great reach. This is a tough game for number one for a young man’s career, but I thought he handled it well.”
Although the rookie is less of a story than the cagey veteran in Minnesota these days, after Eric Staal became just the second player in franchise history to record a 40-goal season on Tuesday.
“It’s nice. It feels good,” said Staal, who joins only Gordie Howe in NHL history to have 40-goal seasons nine years apart. “When you’re at 39 you always want to get it out of the way, especially when you’ve got people texting you, calling you, my kids and people are watching, so it is nice and it was nice to get it in that moment.”
For Dallas, the eight-game streak without a win (0-6-2) is finally over after they beat the Flyers in overtime on Tuesday. Unfortunately, their hopes of making the playoffs are all but over as well. Statistically, the Stars need to go unbeaten in their final five games, and get plenty of help Youth Greg Olsen Jersey
, to have a chance of sneaking in, meaning that every game is like an elimination game now.
“We live to fight another day. We’ve got to go win a road game and that’s the players’ attitude,” Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said after the home win over Philadelphia. “Everybody is kind of focused on that.”
The teams have split their first two meetings of the season, with the Wild winning at home in late December, and the Stars handing Minnesota one of its worst losses of the season, 6-1, in Dallas in early February. The will follow up Thursday’s game in Minnesota with a Saturday night meeting in Texas.
Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia walked briskly onto a field for his first NFL training camp in charge with a black cap, black pullover and black shorts while a yellow pencil was nestled over his right ear.
And, he didn't waste any time sending messages on Friday.
Patricia pulled aside safety Tavon Wilson, one of many former New England Patriots now in the Motor City, to say a few words early in practice.
Wilson, knowing Patricia expects everyone to always hustle, listened to what Patricia had to say and then sprinted to rejoin his teammates on another field.
After speaking briefly with team president Rod Wood, the new coach tried to connect with as many players as possible as they stretched out and warmed up. He chatted with some, slapped hands with others and simply tapped helmets as he roamed with a bounce in his step and a smile on his face.
During drills, Patricia spent time with many of the position groups to evaluate quietly or teach with words and gestures.
While Patricia tried to sound businesslike in his news conference before practice, it was clear how fired up he was even before his white sneakers hit the green grass.
"When you walk out on the field again, the painted lines, the fresh cut grass, all of that sort of atmosphere around it, it's exciting," he said. "If you have been in this game a long time Browns Game Jerseys
, it takes you back years to when whether you were playing or first started coaching or even just a little kid running around."
The Lions have been around .500 in recent years, winning nine games in each of the past two years after averaging nine wins over the previous two seasons.
That was not enough for Jim Caldwell to keep his job with the franchise for a fifth season.
The Lions fired Caldwell and hired Patricia shortly after last season, hoping some of what he learned as one of Bill Belichick's top assistants will rub off on a team with one playoff victory in 60-plus years.
Even though Detroit made only subtle roster changes , linebacker Jarrad Davis said the major move made on the sideline may make an impact.
"It can be a huge difference," Davis said. "The way he came in, honestly, just set the tone right away. You know, he came in, he laid down the law. He gave us the rules and he came in with energy. ... He came in, made it clear, gave us the expectations. And now we have something we can chase."
Davis declined to say what the Lions are chasing, and Patricia has insisted he is only interested in talking about small-picture goals such as making the most out of each day.
Even though Patricia has not ever led an NFL team, a veteran coach who gave him a pivotal opportunity many years ago believes he is ready.
Detroit defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni, who hired Patricia as a graduate assistant at Syracuse in 2001, said he knew he would be working for a high-energy, bright coach when he accepted the offer. What he didn't know was how detail-oriented Patricia would be as a head coach.
Patricia has a detailed planned for everything, Pasqualoni said, including the team's hydration and nutrition plan.
"Until you work with him there's no way of knowing that," Pasqualoni said.
NOTES: The Lions put LB Devon Kennard and DE Cornelius Washington on the non-football injury list. ... DE Ezekiel Ansah is on the physically unable to perform list.