Game #56: Minnesota Wild vs Vancouver Canucks, Tuesday February 15, 2011 at 7:00pm CST, Xcel Energy Center [GAME PREVIEW]

Record Pts Div. Rank G/G GA/G PP% PK%
Minnesota Wild (30-20-5) 65 3rd NW 2.62 (23rd) 2.56 (10th) 19.9% (7th)

83.4% (11th)

Vancouver Canucks
(36-12-9) 81 1st NW 3.33 (1st) 2.30 (1st) 25% (1st) 85.4% (4th)


Minnesota Wild
Top 5 Scorers: G A Pts
1. #24 Martin Havlat 16 32 48
2. #9 Mikko Koivu 14 33 47
3. #8 Brent Burns 14 20 34
4. #15 Andrew Brunette 15 18 33
5. #7 Matt Cullen 10 23 33
Top 3 Penalty Minutes: PIM
1. #16 Brad Staubitz 101
2. #8 Brent Burns 72
3. #4 Clayton Stoner 49
Goaltenders: GAA SV%
1. #32 Niklas Backstrom (18-12-3) 2.33 .927
2. #60 Jose Theodore (10-7-2) 2.74 .913
3. #35Anton Khudobin (2-1-0) 1.59 .942
Vancouver Canucks
Top 5 Scorers: G A Pts
1. #22 Daniel Sedin 29 44 73
2. #33 Henrik Sedin 13 55 68
3. #17 Ryan Kesler 32 22 54
4. #26 Mikael Samuelsson 15 24 39
5. #14 Alexandre Burrows 17 19 36
Top 3 Penalty Minutes: PIM
1. #3 Kevin Bieksa 69
2. #15 Tanner Glass 58
3. #17 Ryan Kesler 48
Goaltenders: GAA SV%
1. #1 Roberto Luongo (27-9-7) 2.22 .926
2. #35 Cory Schneider (9-3-2) 2.38 .921

A quick scan through NHL Network and NHL Home Ice Radio like on the Power Play with Scott Laughlin and the talk is all the same.  What do you think of the Islanders / Penguins game that resembled the movie Fight Club more than an NHL contest?  Yes, I know the first rule about Fight Club is that you don’t talk about Fight Club.  However today and for the most part this weekend, that was ALL that was talked about.  I am not going to go through all of the events from that game but hearing the comments left by fans at times left one nodding in approval and at other times shaking your head in complete disgust.  I suppose that’s pretty typical but when you hear someone attempt to actually justify the actions of Trevor Gillies when he skated nearly half the rink to elbow Eric Tangradi in the head is just baffling and troubling.  I love hockey fights, but those weren’t fights.  It was brutal thuggery and to get a scant 9 game suspension from NHL rules czar Colin Campbell is ridiculous and remarkably light in my opinion.  I don’t care if the entire Penguins team laughed after watching a one-punch ‘fight’ between Brent Johnson and Rick DiPietro, nothing like that justifies what Gillies did. 

Part of the excuses given by the apologists for thugs like Matt Martin and Trevor Gillies was the feeling of rivalry enhanced by a belief that the Penguins disrespected them.  I am not going to say the Penguins were always innocent, heck any team with Matt Cooke on it is NEVER innocent no matter what comments Pittsburgh part-owner Mario Lemieux may say to the media.  However, if this is a side effect of rivalry, why didn’t this happen between the Canucks and the Wild?  While officially the Canucks apparently don’t consider the Wild rivals, its obvious they do.  The team always seems to bring about the best and occasionally the worst in each other.  Who could forget then Canucks defenseman Mattias Ohlund‘s two-handed lumberjack swat to Mikko Koivu‘s legs.  Or Ohlund’s elbow to Marian Gaborik‘s head?  Or how about the aforementioned Matt Cooke’s spear into former Wild enforcer Matt Johnson?  In the incident involving Mikko Koivu, his leg was broken in the slash while Ohlund earned a paltry 2 games for his act. 

I do not think we’ll see anything like that tonight.  There simply has not been enough bad blood, and both teams have far too much they’re playing for than to wish risk injuries or foolish suspensions the way the Islanders did by trying to send a ‘message.’  The Vancouver Canucks are proving the experts correct so far, dominating with a balanced attack and demonstrating tremendous depth at defense where they’ve suffered some significant injuries.  Most recently they’ve suffered two injuries to their key acquisitions this summer in a knee injury to Baudette, Minnesota-native Keith Ballard and a concussion to Dan Hamhuis.  Lucky for the Canucks, Sami Salo is finally able to come back after tearing his Achilles’ tendon in late July.  Don’t feel too sorry for the Canucks though, they still have the best record in the NHL.  They have a diversified attack with snipers Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler who is having a breakout season goal-scoring wise.  Set up up man and last year’s Art Ross winner Henrik Sedin looks to be on pace for another 100 point season, and Alexandre Burrows as well as Mikael Samuelsson and Mason Raymond give Vancouver quality secondary scoring.  Between the pipes, Roberto Luongo has rebounded from a slow start to give Vancouver a good chance of winning each night.  However I do not believe the Wild will see Luongo between the pipes this evening, why?  Luongo is absolutely lousy playing in Minnesota and he played last night in a 3-2 loss to St. Louis.  Expect Cory Schneider, whose put up respectable numbers in a backup role to get the nod from Canucks Head Coach Allain Vigneault.  Yet, when you look and see 1st in offense, 1st in defense, 1st in power play and 4th in penalty kill its pretty hard not to be intimidated. 

One story that has been ignored due to the rash of goalie fights and other bouts of thuggery, has been the resurgence of the Minnesota Wild.  Minnesota has rallied from 14th in the Western Conference to just outside of the playoff window.  As the old saying go the playoffs are not a sprint but rather a marathon as the Wild have one of the best records since the All Star break.  The Wild do not really have anyone that is going to scare anyone on its scoresheet but what is not generally known is that they have a pretty balanced attack and that makes Minnesota fairly difficult to match up against.  Minnesota’s stingy defensive style along with great goaltending means even a modest offense can bring about wins.  Its a proven formula that Wild fans remember from the days when Jacques Lemaire was at the helm and it should mean Minnesota will have a good chance tomorrow night. 

The Wild are getting healthier, as Marek Zidlicky seems to be getting close to returning from a shoulder injury and talented blueliner Marco Scandella is back skating again after suffering a concussion.  Yet the organization as a whole suffered as 2008 first round selection Tyler Cuma blew out his ACL during an American Hockey League game played at the Xcel Energy Center on Sunday.  Its Cuma’s 3rd significant knee injury, and one has to wonder if it could be a sad end to what was once seen as a promising NHL career.  On the bright side, the Wild seem to have finally been able to bring the road magic that has served it so well over the last month or so, back to the friendly confines of St. Paul and it could use another 2 points in the standings regardless.  


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About Derek Felska

I am a lifelong hockey fan from Minnesota who loves and appreciates the game at all levels. I have been blogging about the Minnesota Wild since 2005. I cover just about every aspect of the organization from the team itself, its coaches, its management, its broadcast as well as its AHL affiliate the Iowa Wild and the club's pool of prospects. In addition to the NHL I occasionally take the time to cover college and high school hockey as well. We are the State of Hockey and I want to make this blog informative and objective from the eyes of a fan. I am a fan of the Minnesota Wild, but I am no homer. I hope what you read reflects this approach!