Game #60: Minnesota Wild at Florida Panthers, Thursday February 23, 2012 at 6:30pm (CST), Bank Atlantic Center [GAME PREVIEW]

Record Pts Div. Rank G/G GA/G PP% PK%
Minnesota Wild (26-24-9) 61 4th Northwest 2.14 (29) 2.49 (8) 15.5% (23)

83.2% (12)

Florida Panthers (27-20-11) 65 1st Southeast 2.43 (23) 2.69 (14) 18.5% (11) 81.0% (22)

 

Minnesota Wild
Top 5 Scorers: G A Pts
1. #15 Dany Heatley 19 23 42
2. #9 Mikko Koivu 10 27 37
3. #7 Matt Cullen 12 18 30
4. #21 Kyle Brodziak 15 14 29
5. #10 Devin Setoguchi 14 11 25
Top 3 Penalty Minutes: PIM
1. #22 Cal Clutterbuck 89
2. #4 Clayton Stoner 47
3. #21 Kyle Brodziak 43
Goaltenders: GAA SV%
1. #32 Niklas Backstrom (15-15-6) 2.31 .924
2. #37 Josh Harding (9-9-3) 2.59 .919
3. #31 Matt Hackett (2-0-0) 0.85 .977
Florida Panthers
Top 5 Scorers: G A Pts
1. #32 Kris Versteeg 22 26 48
2. #14 Tomas Fleischmann 19 25 44
3. #9 Stephen Weiss 13 28 41
4. #51 Brian Campbell 3 37 40
5. #7 Dmitry Kulikov 4 20 24
Top 3 Penalty Minutes: PIM
1. #21 Krystofer Barch 94
2. #44 Erik Gudbranson 47
3. #9 Stephen Weiss 46
 
Goaltenders: GAA SV%
1. #60 Jose Theodore (15-11-5) 2.42 .919
2. #30 Scott Clemmenson  (10-5-5)  2.74 .908
3. #25 Jacob Markstrom (2-4-1) 2.66 .923
4. #33 Brian Foster (0-0-0) 0.00 1.000

  
It’s interesting the rumors that can be implied when a Wild goaltender is not heading out on the current two-game roadtrip.  Now according to the Minnesota Wild, Josh Harding tweaked something in his lower body.  In the case of Harding, that means either knee or groin, two areas he’s had some issues there over the past seasons.  While he’s had an MRI and it’s been determined that nothing is damaged, he said he wasn’t feeling 100%.  However, there was a bit of back and forth on whether or not he would head to Florida (and Dallas on Friday).  So with that in mind, the Wild have called up Matt Hackett from the Houston Aeros. 

What are these rumors that I’ve alluded to?  Well with the back and forth on Harding’s health status, fans started to wonder if there was a trade in the works.  When a trade is coming, a player will find himself scratched in order to keep him healthy for the new team.  Usually heading into the playoffs and the trade deadline on the horizon, goaltenders often become a hot commodity.  But this year, that just might not be the case.  This year, the teams that desperately need goaltending are out of the playoff picture.  When you’re not in the hunt, you simply do not go shopping for players at the trade deadline, when in general they can be gotten much cheaper during free agency.  The team that comes to mind would be the Columbus Blue Jackets.  At this point, the only “championship” that the Blue Jackets are going to aim for is getting that overall first pick at the 2012 Entry Draft. 

Looking at the teams that are in the hunt for Lord Stanley’s Cup, there are perennial teams like Philadelphia that always need a better goaltender, but because of their own choices they’re stuck with what they have.  Considering the money they threw at Ilya Bryzgalov, they’re not about to bring anyone in.  One possible buyer for a goaltender would be Phoenix.  Now they’ve gotten fantastic goaltending by Mike Smith.  At most, they’d consider getting a new backup.  However, Harding doesn’t bring them anything more than current backup Jason LaBarbera does.  Strangely enough, this year’s Cup contenders appear to have fairly balanced and solid goaltending tandems.

However, there is one team that just might be looking for a goaltender.  Not for backup purposes, but because they eventually will be in need of an heir apparent.  And of course when I name the team, it just could ratchet up rumors on another Wild player.  The team in question has a future Hall of Fame inductee as their number one.  However both that man and his backup are nearing 40 years of age.  This team needs to address the future of their goaltending sooner rather than later.  A goaltender like Harding who is only 27 years old could be a temptation to this team.  And now, I’m going to name the team.  The New Jersey Devils do need to address their goaltending.  Martin Brodeur is 39 years old and is not the same goaltender he was even five years ago.  Johann Hedberg is 38 years old.  While they most likely won’t go shopping for a goaltender right now, expect to see them do so this summer.  However with all that in mind and Marek Zidlicky wanting to go to New Jersey to play, one has to wonder if Zidlicky and Harding could be a package deal to New Jersey for something good in return.

Personally, I am of the opinion that Harding is nothing more than dealing with a tweaked groin and/or knee.  It happens.  I’m sure the conspiracy theories about his possible trade status was upped simply because the injury happened in practice where the average fan couldn’t see it happen.  When we watch them in action during a game, we see their saves.  We see the odd ways that they make a save.  Often, we can pinpoint which save it was that hurt them.  We just don’t have that with this injury.  We have to accept the fact on good faith.  As humans, who are often cynical by nature, we have a hard time doing just that.  I’ll admit, I’ve been wrong before, but I just don’t see a trade coming for Harding.  It’s not profitable for the Wild right now, because the playoff teams aren’t really in need of a goaltender.  Plus, the worst way to shop a goaltender, is to say “he’s not going on our roadtrip, because he’s injured.”  Seriously people, he’s not going anywhere.  At least not right now.

Injury Report: 

Minnesota:  Mikko Koivu (undisclosed, questionable), Josh Harding (lower body), Mike Lundin (lower body), Carson McMillan (lower body), Clayton Stoner (hip), Guillaume Latendresse (concussion), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion, groin),   Clayton Stoner (leg)    

Florida
Jacob Markstrom (knee), Ed Jovanovski (hand), Dmitry Kulikov (knee), Scottie Upshall (sports hernia), Marco Sturm (knee, groin), Jason Garrison (lower body), John Madden (lower body), Matt Bradley (upper body)

Jack Jablonski  Jenna Privette

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