Koivu scores twice, to give Wild 5-3 home win over Colorado

Dany Heatley

"Beware the Ides of March," one of the more ominous and famous lines from William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar.  It was a moment of foreshadowing for the great Roman leader who was going to be betrayed by supposed allies who were jealous of Julius' growing power and popularity.  It is a play perhaps every student is exposed to in English or Literature classes when they go to high school.  I remember it rather well, the scheming of characters Cassius and Brutus before they murder the great leader.  "Et tu Brute" gasped by Caesar as he realizes who his assassins were which included his supposed best friend Brutus, but his realization was all too late to prevent his demise.  Its a classic tragic tale.  Did a similar "Ides of March" moment take place Tuesday night for the Minnesota Wild when Anaheim's Corey Perry delivered a late and dirty check to Jason Zucker who sustained an upper body injury and earning Perry a 4-game suspension.  So where is this moment?  How about the non-existent reaction by Zucker's teammates who did not confront Perry after the hit.  Wasn't that a classic case where the 'Code' kicks in?  If Zucker hadn't been knocked nearly unconscious by the devastating hit, would he had turned to his teammates in a sort of an "Et tu Brute" moment and asked why they didn't stand up for him more forcefully?  In fact, the Wild's overall reaction to the hit does seem to appear rather ominous.  In the 5-minute power play that ensued the Wild looked completely confused for the first two minutes.  Zucker is not even a player that is normally used on the man advantage, but the effect was rather evident.  Poor passes and even worse execution made what should've been an opportunity to add to their lead into a momentum builder for the Ducks which led to them getting the tying goal and eventually netting the game winner.  So was this game our "Ides of March" moment?   

Zach Parise

I think we could very well find out tonight.  After Zucker was taken out of the lineup, the team really looked out of sync the rest of the game as lines were juggled trying to find a new combination that would work.  The Wild certainly will not get any sympathy from division rival Colorado tonight.  The Avalanche have suffered through more than their fair share of injuries and they will hope to ambush a Wild team that seems to be in a state of confusion.  So will the Wild put these fears to rest and answer with strength or will they appear emotionally fragile and unfocused? 

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1st Period Thoughts:  The first period was typical period for the 2013 Minnesota Wild where they tease you with some moments of excellent hustle, a few decent scoring chances, a failed power play and then a let down late that allows the opponent to tie the game.  Its like a bad country song, really.  The Wild were a little sluggish at the start which prompted Zenon Konopka to try to spark his club with a fight with Cody McLeod.  Konopka weathered a good barrage of punches by McLeod early, but then rallied to control the rest of the fight, landing a number of quality hooks and then even getting his arm over and around McLeod's head to throw a few punches Nolan Ryan-style.  I think you have to give the edge to Konopka who appeared to be in control of the fight and the Wild got a little more jump in their skates because of it.  In fact, the Wild would answer right away as some good forechecking pressure by the slightly modified 4th line of Mike Rupp forced Ryan Wilson to get rid of it where it was stolen by Matt Cullen who fed a puck out front to Torrey Mitchell who lifted a quick shot just underneath the arm of Semyon Varlamov and in to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead.  Minnesota then tilted the ice in its direction with good hustle and forechecking pressure that created scoring chances for the 1st line of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle but the Wild were really aiming for the corners and missing them high and wide.  The Avalanche tried to counter attack but Niklas Backstrom was sharp and when Backstrom sort of got lost a bit, he was bailed out by a head's up play by Ryan Suter who spirited away a loose puck that sat in the blue paint after an attempt by Matt Duchene.  The Wild would have their obligatory power play, and even get lucky by having a short 5-on-3 when Greg Zanon slashed the stick out of Devin Setoguchi's hand but Minnesota just couldn't convert.  They managed to set up Cullen in the slot who blasted it high and wide as did Setoguchi and Minnesota's missed opportunity would be repaid by a cheap goal for Colorado.  Late in the period, after a hooking penalty by Justin Falk who was caught flat footed by a player who nearly made an end to end rush (how is that possible?) the Avalanche's P.A. Parenteau scored on a fanned shot that fluttered up and fooled Niklas Backstrom who seemed to have lost track of the biscuit.  The goal really killed the crowd and you could sense the team now was feeling pretty anxious.  Worse yet it was scored with less than 30 seconds left in the period which is a cardinal sin in any sport.  I thought Pierre-Marc Bouchard looked ok on the 2nd line, but still that line doesn't look nearly as good without Zucker being on it.  Bouchard tried to play fast, but he doesn't play with the same level of fearlessness that Zucker had.  Justin Falk looked terrible out there.  Being tied 1-1 with Colorado is a recipe for disaster.  

2nd Period Thoughts:  The Wild kept pushing the pace against Colorado and its porous defense and the shots started to mount right away.  Varlamov appeared to be fighting the puck and eventually the Wild's relentless attack would finally break open the flood gates.  One line that seemed to be getting better and more dangerous with each shift was the 2nd line of Cullen, Setoguchi and Bouchard; as you could see the cohesion increasing as the period went on.  Almost mid-way through the 2nd period, Bouchard would receive a pass just beyond the Wild blueline and as he saw his linemates rush up ice Bouchard waited just a brief moment allowing Cullen to get up to speed so when he gave him the puck the Moorhead-native was flying through the neutral zone so when he entered Colorado's zone he was able to put the Avalanche defenseman on their heels.  Specifically, the bearded Greg Zanon who dropped to the ice way early to block what he thought was going to be a shot by Cullen but the speedy Wild forward skated around him and then lifted a backhander that Varlamov knocked down but Setoguchi was there to tap it over the goal line to give Minnesota a 2-1 lead.  Zanon would get involved again when he delivered a not bad hip check to Mike Rupp who thought it was a bit late.  Rupp would skate over and sort of give a few punches to the back of Zanon's head and both players would head to the box as Rupp was given a roughing minor and Zanon with the trip.  With the ice a little more open the Wild would add to its lead as a big rebound was picked up by Ryan Suter who slid a pass over to Jonas Brodin who wired a shot over the shoulder of a slightly out of position Varlamov to make it 3-1 Wild.  It was a nice first NHL goal for the rookie who has been playing beyond his years since joining the team.  Yet with the arena buzzing the Wild helped kill some of those good feelings with an absent-minded next shift as Colorado would work the puck deep and it was Ryan O'Reilly winning a puck battle against two Minnesota defenders and he'd backhand a pass out towards the slot where Gabriel Landeskog was waiting to undress Backstrom with a nice little forehand to backhand move before lifting up and in to cut the Wild lead back one, 3-2.  Minnesota would respond rather quickly itself, as just a minute later a turnover near the blueline became a rush up the ice that was turned into a 3-on-2 by great hustle by Ryan Suter.  Parise raced in and drove low before sliding a pass back to Suter who then passed it back to Parise for what the Avalanche thought would be a one-timer and they dropped to the ice but the savvy Minneapolis-native one-timed a cross-ice pass to Mikko Koivu for an empty net goal.  It was a beauty of a tic-tac-toe play to give the Wild a 4-2 lead.  Minnesota continued to control the play late in the period and the Wild earned a nice cheer from the home crowd as they nearly scored again at the buzzer as Koivu was stonewalled on a point-blank range chance after a nice pass by Charlie Coyle.  Nice response by the Wild after letting up and giving the Avalanche an easy one after a bad defensive breakdown.  Maybe its just me but Tom Gilbert seems to be laboring out there with his skating.  The legs just seem a bit heavy to me.  The Wild registered 19 shots on goal, compared to Colorado's 12.  

3rd Period Thoughts:  Minnesota had good energy to start the 3rd period, and a huge hit delivered by both Justin Falk and Cal Clutterbuck to Chuck Kobasew angered the former Wild winger and he'd drop the gloves with Clutterbuck.  It wasn't that bad of a fight although Kobasew didn't seem to really want to trade punches with Clutterbuck as he tried to tie him up and keep him too close to throw anything.  Clutterbuck would get his arm free and he fired a few wicked jabs right underneath Kobasew's visor until it was finally stopped by the officials.  Kobasew would earn an instigator penalty on top of the fighting major giving Minnesota a power play.  The Wild's power play was ok, setting up a few good scoring chances with the best one coming off a quick shot by Kyle Brodziak that Varlamov stopped and Parise jammed at but couldn't get it completely by the Colorado goalie who reached back to deny Minnesota another goal.  The failed power play again came back to bite the Wild as Colorado would get a little lucky as a long shot by Erik Johnson was stopped by Backstrom but the rebound went right to the stick of Parenteau who ripped it by the Minnesota netminder to cut the lead to one, 4-3.  The Avalanche were looking very hungry, taking every opportunity to shoot the puck on goal.  Colorado was pinching a bit with its defenseman and the Wild were making it easy for the Avalanche to hold the zone by trying to clear it low but after a few failed attempts Minnesota would learn from its mistakes and start making short little passes and the result was the Wild were now able to counterpunch a bit.  This led to some nice scoring chances in transition as Parise ripped a shot wide of the mark off the rush, and moments after that a big shot by Setoguchi created a big rebound and Bouchard just wasn't quite able to pounce on it soon enough and he pushed a shot just wide.  The game would start to open up and pretty soon both clubs were trading rushes up ice.  The speedy Avalanche were swarming all over the Wild end and Landeskog's near breakaway bid was steered away by a clutch save by Backstrom.  With a little over a minute, Colorado would pull Varlamov for an extra attacker.  It wouldn't work as Ryan Suter helped work the puck out of the zone before pushing the puck up to Parise who gave a cross-ice pass to Koivu who backhanded a shot into the empty net to seal a 5-3 victory.  

Its pretty tough to blame Niklas Backstrom for the goals Colorado scored tonight.  The floater looks easy to us but with such a strange trajectory its a pretty tough puck to track, and he was left out to dry on Landeskog's tally.  Backstrom came up with some big stops when the Wild really needed it, making 29 saves in the victory.  I thought Ryan Suter was again terrific, not only tallying 3 assists but making some timely defensive plays and is playing with a high level of comfort now.  While the Wild's defense relied a little too much on the boards and glass to get themselves out of jams at certain points of the game they settled down and began to make the tape-to-tape passes and suddenly Colorado's forecheck didn't seem so oppressive.  It was great to see Jonas Brodin get his first goal, a nice reward for some strong play this season.  

Minnesota got offensive contributions from all over tonight.  With the 4th line getting things going as Torrey Mitchell had an outstanding game.  He was pesky all night long, using his speed very effectively and I loved seeing him taking his chances to shoot the puck.  Mike Rupp also played well, and his ability to The 2nd line also had a good game as Culen, Bouchard and Setoguchi brought what we have grown to expect which is a lot of speed and a swarming style that drives opponents nuts.  While Bouchard may not charge into the corners the way Zucker did he fit in rather well in the little cycling game in the offensive zone and showed an assertiveness to pounce on loose pucks.  The top line paced Minnesota as it has throughout most of this season and Parise and Koivu continue to raise each other's game.  

This game was prime for a bit of a let down after the big challenge on Tuesday against Anaheim where the Wild let one slip away.  The team had a frustrating 1st period but they didn't let it spoil their game and they managed to finish what they started.  It is what good players do and its what good teams do.  The Ides of March?  Meh, not by what we saw tonight.  

Wild Notes:

~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle, Matt Cullen, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Devin Setoguchi, Kyle Brodziak, Dany Heatley, Cal Clutterbuck, Torrey Mitchell, Mike Rupp, Zenon Konopka, Tom Gilbert, Clayton Stoner, Jared Spurgeon, Justin Falk, Jonas Brodin and Ryan Suter.  Matt Hackett backed up Niklas Backstrom.  Nate Prosser, Brett Clark and Jason Zucker were the healthy scratches.

~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by the fans were: 1st Star Jonas Brodin, 2nd Star Matt Cullen, 3rd Star Ryan Suter

~ Attendance was 18,989 at Xcel Energy Center.

~ Hockey Day Minnesota 2014 is going to be in Elk River, Minnesota (my hometown) in the Handke Pit, the place where I learned the game and how to skate.  

~ The Houston Aeros earned a convincing 4-1 win over Abbotsford in what was a pretty chippy and intense game at home tonight.  Former Bloomington Jefferson star Brian Connelly got things going for the Aeros by netting two goals on the power play and from there Houston never looked back.  Johan Larsson would set up Zack Phillips for his 4th goal of the season and then Jake Dowell sealed it with a goal late in the 3rd period.  Darcy Kuemper was nearly perfect as he had 33 saves in the victory.

Wild Prospect Report:

F – Adam Gilmour (Muskegon, USHL) ~ The Boston College recruit is having a solid season in the USHL as Muskegon's top scorer.  Sunday night, Gilmour had the lone goal in Muskegon's 4-1 loss to Omaha.  The Hanover, Massachusetts' native has 18 goals, 41 points where he's an impressive +18 in 55 games this season.   Combining speed and excellent size (6'3") with scoring touch makes Gilmour an interesting long-term project.

Jack Jablonski & Jenna Privette

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 time 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!

Bouchard’s late 3rd period goal stands as Wild hold off late Colorado surge in huge 4-3 road win

John Madden battles David Jones for the puck

Its getting cold out there, and in many parts of the United States the weather has been downright freakish.  Heavy snows in some cities; especially places like St. Louis and Dallas where in the case of the Blues it meant postponing games, and in the case of the Stars playing before a crowd of no more than a 1,000 at American Airlines Center.  As a Midwesterner who is used to snow they’re not going to get ANY sympathy from me.  Its winter, its what I expect and if they’re not used to it that’s too bad.  A snowflake falls in New York City its national news, a few flurries in Atlanta and you have schools canceling for days.  Its remarkable how unadaptable people can be sometimes.  Its also remarkable how allegedly “tough” people from the Northeast can complain and whine when they get hit with a foot of snow.  Big deal, Buffalo deals with that a few times a year, EVERY year.  It amazes me how just a slight change to their paradigm of what the weather should be like forces them to stay indoors or bundle up to a ridiculous degree as if a single flake of snow touching one’s body means instant hypothermia.  I personally love the cold, I embrace it as a friend.  Today when it was -5 outside I walked outside without a jacket and enjoyed every minute of it on my commute to work.  In some ways, this inability to cope with changing paradigms is also in place in sports.  When a team is seen to be less talented, less skilled if they manage to win games they must be doing so only through trickery, over generosity from league officials and you hear fans from the old paradigm complain the newcomer is ruining the game.  The Minnesota Wild heard that a lot when Jacques Lemaire was behind the bench, when more often than not the Wild simply were outworking their opponents.  Lately, the Wild have been playing better and slowly climbing the Western Conference ladder and you know its only a matter of time before the complaints will start raining in.  If the NHL, and the Eastern Conference-centric media can take their eyes off of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals long enough to notice they too will chime in as well. 

The Wild travel to Colorado who will be looking to take back their 2nd place spot in the Northwest Division after Minnesota leapfrogged them on Tuesday with a shootout victory over the Los Angeles Kings.  There has been some indications that the rivalry between the two clubs is starting to heat up.  More pushing and shoving after whistles, some big hits are being thrown around and lots and lots of talk between benches are starting to turn these match ups into bitter feuds normally reserved for Vancouver.  That makes the games that much more unpredictable and exciting to watch, so who will come out on top tonight.  Will the Wild earn a big road victory or will the Avalanche drown out the red-hot Wild tonight? 

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1st Period Thoughts
:  You couldn’t ask for a much better start than the Wild had in this game, scoring 2 goals in the first 61 seconds of the game.  Minnesota was hustling well early while the Avalanche looked a little flat-footed.  The Wild scored its first goal on a pretty tic-tac-toe play that was started by some nice hustle by Cal Clutterbuck who won a battle along the boards and then threading a pass to Nick Schultz who was pinching down into the slot and he passed it over to Kyle Brodziak who didn’t get much on the shot but the important thing he was able to get it up into the air and it foun the back of the net to give the Wild the lead.  Fox Sports Net‘s Mike Greenlay insisted the near-fanning of the shot made the difference was was pure garbage, he fans it and puts it along the ice and Colorado’s Craig Anderson makes the save but he gets it elevated and the result is a goal.  With the Avalanche a little stunned by Brodziak’s tally the Wild went right back on the attack with its top line and nice little play by Andrew Brunette to recognize he only had one player shadowing him and he gathered the biscuit from behind the Colorado goal and he moved out to the front where he was able to wrap a shot around Anderson who didn’t put a lot of effort into stopping him, 2-0 Wild.  At this point I was really surprised Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco didn’t pull him.  Anderson can be partly forgiven for the first goal, but the 2nd one was just a lack of effort, if anything I thought he’d pull him to kick his team in the tail to get their heads back into the game but he kept Anderson out there.  I wonder what Sacco then thought moments later when the Wild threaded a long outlet pass to Pierre-Marc Bouchard who raced in on a breakaway, and the diminutive Minnesota forward did not miss by much as his shot just was pushed wide by the leg pad of Anderson.  As Colorado tried to pressure to cut into the Wild’s lead, Minnesota was being physical at the right times and making nice short little passes to elude the Avalanche’s puck pursuit.  Clayton Stoner and Jared Spurgeon were making poised simple plays with the puck and this allowed Minnesota to weather the storm.  Jose Theodore did not see a lot of work, despite the increased intensity of the Avalanche.  Colorado’s only real threatening players were Matt Duchene and Kevin Porter who both had their legs.  I was a bit afraid the Wild made a crucial mistake when Brad Staubitz made a foolish decision to hit Avalanche tough guy Cody McLeod who rather conveniently fell to the ice as though he was shot near his bench and a fracas ensued.  Staubitz ended up with the lone roughing minor.  With the 7th best power play, I really feared the Avalanche were going to get the sparse Avalanche crowd into the game with a goal on the man advantage but Minnesota’s penalty kill was rock solid.  Minnesota was again being physical at the right times to win the little races for the puck and penalty killers like Stoner and John Madden were making the little plays to tap the puck out of the zone which never allowed Colorado to really get set up and work their power play.  The Wild continued to counter punch and Martin Havlat found some space behind the Avalanche defense and he came within an Anderson toe save from giving Minnesota a 3-goal lead.  I thought there were a number of players who had excellent start to the game, effort-wise; especially Brodziak, Stoner, Bouchard, Schultz, Spurgeon and Chuck Kobasew who really was flying all over the ice. 

2nd Period Thoughts:  Sometimes its not about the quality of your goals as much as its about the timing of your goals.  The Wild had just that as they did a fine job of weathering an all out assault by the Avalanche with some excellent goaltending by Jose Theodore who was seeing the puck well, but Minnesota’s defense deserves credit for keeping Colorado shooters to the perimeter.  One player who I felt made a foolish decision was Cam Barker who goaded non-fighter Brandon Yip to drop his gloves.  Neither player threw that many punches, other than a few week hooks in a fight that likely did not get either bench all that excited.  Barker is extremely lucky he didn’t get rocked by Yip causing the Avalanche to get a boost.  Minnesota’s hustle was starting to frustrate the Avalanche, as the Wild drew a tripping call on Milan Hejduk.  On the power play, I really liked their puck movement as Koivu set up Brunette for a nice chance early that forced a desperation save by Anderson.  I liked the puck movement, but late in the power play an ill-advised decision by Brent Burns to try to skate into the slot for a set up was intercepted and turned into a 2-on-1 for Colorado that they capitalized on as Porter dished it over to Hejduk off the rush and he shoveled a shot just out of the reach of Theodore to cut the lead in half.  Minnesota would earn another chance on the man advantage as Kevin Shattenkirk would be tagged with a high sticking penalty.  Minnesota struggled to get set up on the power play  initially but they would stay patient and the top line started to cycle the puck a bit along the half wall, it would lead to Mikko Koivu passing the puck down to Brunette who spun and put a shot on goal that was stopped by Anderson but he could not control the rebound and Brunette poked a shot by him just as the penalty expired to give the Wild a 3-1 lead.  The goal was huge as it deflated a potential surge by the Avalanche as well as gave Minnesota that cushion it so badly needed.  Not the best period but the timing of the goal killed much of the momentum the Hejduk goal had given them. 

3rd Period Thoughts:  Early on it wasn’t pretty as the Avalanche were swarming early, and when Nick Schultz couldn’t sweep away a puck that hit his skates and instead made its way over to Hejduk who shoveled home a near empty net goal to cut the Wild’s lead to one 3-2.  At this point I was a bit worried as Colorado was really pouring it on and the Wild was on its heels.  My confidence was not helped when Martin Havlat was tagged with a 4-minute minor for high sticking.  Early on the man advantage the Avalanche operated in the Wild zone with near impunity as the Minnesota’s penalty kill looked real tired (as a good portion of it had just left the ice just before Havlat’s penalty) and Colorado was really peppering Theodore with shots.  When Theodore wasn’t making the save the Wild were lucky as John-Michael Liles rang a blast from the point off the pipe.  After that first frantic minute the Wild penalty kill stabilized and Minnesota’s penalty kill just started to take over.  With some good aggressive forechecking by Matt Cullen and Cal Clutterbuck the Wild frustrated the Avalanche power play with some excellent pressure through the neutral zone that created some cheap turnovers.  Clayton Stoner botched a clearing attempt in the last minute of the 4-minute Colorado power play but he kept hustling and made amends by blocking a shot.  The Wild got the huge penalty kill and this deflated some of that momentum the Avalanche had built up.  In classic Wild fashion, Minnesota would go back on the attack a bit and bad clearing attempt by the Avalanche was intercepted by Havlat who rifled a shot on goal that was stopped by Anderson but he gave up a big rebound to Bouchard who patiently stepped around the Colorado goalie for the easy backhand goal to give the Wild a 4-2 lead.  Theodore would make an outstanding sprawling save from his back to deny Kevin Porter who was waiting near the top of the crease.  The goal really crushed the Avalanche’s spirit.  Late in the period the Avs would pour it on as they pulled Anderson for an extra attacker and Chris Stewart scored with 10 seconds left but Bouchard’s goal was the difference in Minnesota earning another crucial road win. 

Jose Theodore was outstanding between the pipes, making 38 saves in the win.  The goals Theodore gave up were all quality goals and he delivered numerous big saves to keep Colorado at bey throughout most of the game.  That is pretty impressive for a guy who hasn’t had a start in nearly 2 1/2 weeks.  Defensively I think all of Minnesota’s blueliners have been influenced by Clayton Stoner.  I think after watching their fellow defenseman seal off opposing forwards from the puck and escorting it out of danger we’re seeing the rest of the defense follow in kind as Nick Schultz, Brent Burns, and even Jared Spurgeon was seen pulling off this maneuver this evening.  The defense may see some reshuffling as Cam Barker did not play during the 3rd period for an undisclosed injury. 

Offensively the Wild got a great initial jump to put the Avalanche behind the 8-ball right away, and then it was the ability of Minnesota to answer Colorado’s goals to earn the huge victory.  Minnesota did have two missed opportunities with two failed breakaways by Bouchard and Havlat and sometimes those missed chances comeback to haunt you but it didn’t tonight.  The Wild are continuing to find offense with a scoring by committee approach.  I don’t mind it because it is keeping all of the lines working hard taking their opportunities to shoot the puck. 

Wild Head Coach Todd Richards wasn’t overjoyed in his post-game interview broadcast on Fox Sports Net North, “I was hoping we’d show more poise,” but admitted the team stepped up when it had to.  This was especially true on the 4-minute power play that Richards agreed was “huge” in the overall outcome of the game.  Minnesota now will travel to Phoenix, a team also fighting and scrapping to stay in the playoff picture so the Wild can expect a real battle in the desert.  

Wild Notes:

~ Wild roster tonight is as follows: Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette, Antti Miettinen, John Madden, Matt Cullen, Kyle Brodziak, Brad Staubitz, Eric Nystrom, Chuck Kobasew, Cal Clutterbuck, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Martin Havlat, Clayton Stoner, Nick Schultz, Jared Spurgeon, Greg Zanon, Cam Barker and Brent Burns.  Niklas Backstrom backed up Jose Theodore.  Marco Scandella was the lone healthy scratch.  Marek Zidlicky (shoulder), James Sheppard (knee) and Guillaume Latendresse (groin and sports hernia) are still on injured reserve. 

~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Andrew Brunette, 2nd Star Milan Hejduk, 3rd Star Pierre-Marc Bouchard

~ Attendance tonight was 13,818 at Pepsi Center.

Wild Prospect Report:

G – Matthew Hackett ~ Houston Aeros (AHL)

2010-11 Stats:  26GP  (11-11-2)  2.47GAA  .913%SP

Matthew Hackett has shrugged off a tough start to having a solid first professional season for the Houston Aeros.  The big bodied goaltender with good athleticism is splitting starts with AHL veteran Anton Khudobin and both goalies are playing great and Houston has enjoyed a steady climb in the West Division standings.  Hackett has made great progress in terms of his rebound control and that has led to his drop in his goals against average which at one point during the season was over 3 goals per game to now a shade under 2.5 goals per game.  It will be interesting to see if he continues to split the duties with Khudobin as the games get that much tighter down the home stretch of the regular season. 

LW – Kris Foucault ~ Calgary Hitmen (WHL)

2010-11 Stats:  47GP  16G 18A = 34pts  46 PIM’s  -8

Kris Foucault is a player who reminds me a lot of Benoit Pouliot, a player who would entice you with a few flashes of brilliance and then underwhelm you with long periods of indifferent play.  The main difference of course is that Pouliot was perhaps given a little a bit more forgiveness for his enigmatic style because the team drafted him 4th Overall.  Foucault doesn’t have that luxury, he was a long shot to begin with.  The Hitmen fans I have talked to have been telling me the same things the last 3 years about Foucault’s game.  Pouliot eventually figured it out, but only after he was traded to Montreal.  Will it take a trade for Foucault to realize the importance of consistency? 

High School Boys Hockey Report:

Brainerd Warriors (Central Lakes Conference) ~ 14-6-0 record

Most recent game:  Brainerd 8, St. Cloud Apollo 0

The Brainerd Warriors are off to a solid season, but life has been tough in the Central Lakes Conference where the Warriors have struggled against some conference foes like St. Cloud Tech and Alexandria which are certainly not amongst the state’s elite teams.  However the Warriors have had shown they can compete against a solid Moorhead Spuds squad in two one-goal losses.  The Warriors are led by scoring phenom, senior Josh Archibald (23 goals, 65 points in just 20 games) who just recently committed to play with the University of Nebraska-Omaha.  Their top line of Archibald, juniors Matthew Pohlkamp (23 goals, 48 points) and Mitch McLain (25 goals, 47 points) are one of the most potent trios in the state.  Yet if a team can keep this line in check the firepower drops off considerably is likely a reason they have not been able to beat some of the state’s better teams.  Between the pipes the Warriors look to junior Jared Stearns to carry the load with a 12-5-0 record, a mundane 3.25 goals against average and a .883 save percentage.  The Warriors next game against Willmar on Thursday.  (UPDATE:  Brainerd narrowly defeated Willmar 2-1 on goals from Josh Archibald and Mitch McLain.) 

Maple Grove Crimson (Northwest Suburban Conference) ~ 15-3-1 record

Most recent game:  Maple Grove 3, Duluth East 2

The Northwest Suburban Conference has a new leader and it has been a steady climb to the top after years of hard work through its youth programs.  Maple Grove has scratched and clawed its way to a #5 ranking in Class 2A according to Hockey Hub.com, and they confirmed their place amongst the elite after defeating Duluth East 3-2 in Duluth on Saturday which is no small feat.  They’ve also earned quality victories over Blaine, Wayzata and Osseo.  Unlike many of the other elite programs, the Crimson are not led by one superstar but have a balanced attack that causes their opponents match up problems that Maple Grove Head Coach Gary Stefano takes full advantage of.  The Crimson’s leading scorer is junior Dylan Steman with a modest 10 goals and 28 points.  In the crease, senior Ryan Coyne carries the mail where he has put impressive totals of a 14-3-1 record, 1.74 goals against average and a .918 save percentage.   The Crimson’s next game is Champlin Park this evening.  (UPDATE:  #5 Maple Grove struggled to defeat unranked Champlin Park 2-1 on goals from Tony Paulson and Spencer Bell.)

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 time 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!

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