Minnesota Wild lose third straight in 3-0 loss to Los Angeles Kings

Cal Clutterbuck

"Well you're the real tough cookie, with the long history, of breaking little hearts, like the one in me, that's ok, let's see how you do it, put up your dukes, let's get down to it, hit me with your best shot, why don't you hit me with your best shot, hit me with your best shot, fire away," are the lyrics to Pat Benetar's famous song Hit Me With Your Best Shot.  Last night Dany Heatley took Marc-Edouard Vlasic's best shot after the game concluded last night in San Jose and after a cross check to the back, Vlasic then gave a two-handed chop to the forearm of Heatley that left him skating back to the Wild bench in immense pain.  At the time a few Wild players verbally abused Vlasic and the Sharks' over the dirty play but that was about it.  When asked about it, Vlasic said that he was only 'defending himself' and that an attempted slash by Heatley that missed had to be answered back but that he did not intend to hurt him.  I wonder if Vlasic thought the same thing when he delivered this hit to Philadelphia's Danny Briere last season.  Seems a bit dirty doesn't it?  Unfortunately, the NHL chose not to suspend 'Pickles' as he's known by his teammates for that hit and makes you wonder if he'll draw a suspension from the NHL Department of Player Safety this time around.  Had Vlasic had that official history of a suspension I would think the likelihood of him being forced to sit a few games would've been considerably higher.  My guess is Vlasic has a 30-70 chance of being suspended.  Even if Vlasic is suspended for A game, the Wild are likely to be without the services of Dany Heatley of at least a couple games if not more so it hardly seems like fitting justice to me.  Its just a little slash on the wrist to Vlasic, but the league didn't mean to hurt him.  Really, it didn't.       

Kyle Clifford

With all of the Vlasic / Heatley Incident speculation aside the Wild are going to have to hit control, alt, delete in their minds after last night's game and re-focus and come ready to play in Los Angeles this evening.  The Wild escaped with a come-from-behind shootout victory when the two clubs played in the friendly confines of Xcel Energy Center on March 30th.  The Kings will no doubt want to avenger their loss plus continue to gain ground on what is a very contentious race to the playoffs.  The Kings, perhaps more than any other team in NHL history realizes just how much one point can mean in a season after having qualified for the playoffs last year by just one point and then making a magic run to its first ever Stanley Cup.  The Wild would be smart to learn from this example and understand there are no mulligan hockey games anymore.  They need to try to earn points in each and everyone of them if they want to qualify for the post season and let's face it that was the real underlying message of Minnesota's siginificant splash at the trade deadline yesterday.  So will the Wild fight back or will they hobble back to Minnesota, a little dazed, confused and banged up? 

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Zach Parise

1st Period Thoughts:  Minnesota would stumble then trip out of the gate as the Kings cashed in twice early in the game on chances from a strong transition game.  The Wild tried to attack as the 'captain line' of Jason Pominville, Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu entered the Kings' zone with speed as Koivu hammered a slap shot wide of Jonathan Bernier, and the miss turned into a great outlet pass for Justin Williams who picked it up off the wall and then turned on the jets for the Wild's zone in a 3-on-1 with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown.  Tom Gilbert tried to play the middle to prevent the pass and Williams wired a shot by Niklas Backstrom to give the Kings' a 1-0 lead.  The Kings would add another just 2 minutes later as Jeff Carter would get a pass from former Flyers' teammate Mike Richards and he'd blast a shot by Backstrom to lift Los Angeles to a 2-0 lead.  With two shots and two goals, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo had seen enough and he would pull Backstrom in favor of Darcy Kuemper.  The quality scoring chances would continue for Los Angeles as Kopitar motored his way by the Wild defense and he'd be denied by the leg pad of Kuemper.  The Wild would stabilize things a bit as they started to move their feet a bit more in their own zone and the Kings were not able to have so much freedom in the Minnesota zone.  Minnesota would start to go on the attack with the 'captain line' and they'd put on a great exhibition of stickhandling, deft passes and puck movement as they created a few quick chances that Bernier was up to the task to stop.  The Wild would follow it up with its line of Kyle Brodziak, Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund and Coyle would carry the puck deep in the Los Angeles zone before being muscled off the puck by Jake Muzzin before dishing the puck back to Mikael Granlund who tried to move out front for a close range chance and his short-side bid just hit the shoulder of Bernier otherwise it looked like it was destined for the back of the goal. A few minutes later the 'captain line' would again dominate the Kings' zone with their speed and their strength on the puck that was driving the Kings crazy as they chased the Wild around their end of the ice.  A late tripping penalty on Torrey Mitchell who got his stick into the skates of Colin Fraser gave Los Angeles a golden opportunity to add to its lead.  Minnesota's penalty killers would raise their game and they'd outhustle the Kings to earn a few clears of the zone and the Wild would go into the 2nd period still trailing 2-0.  For the second night in a row the Wild have dug themselves a hole by spotting their opponent a two-goal lead and now have to try to scratch and claw their way back into the game.  The 'captain line' looked scary good towards the middle of the period and Pominville demonstrated some definite chemistry with Parise and Koivu that dare I say almost looked Sedins-like.  The Wild will start the 2nd with about 11 seconds of power play time to kill off.  

2nd Period Thoughts:  The Wild would get the early kill on a nice hustle play by Parise.  Minnesota were very sloppy with their passes and this really prevented the Wild from getting anything going offensively.  Los Angeles would add to its lead as Justin Williams raced in while Minnesota was in the midst of a line change and he'd wind up a blast a slapper that went over the shoulder of Kuemper and underneath the crossbar and in.  It was shades of Mike Bossy as the Wild found themselves down 3-0.  It was Williams' 2nd goal of the game and an unbelievable shot.  Minnesota tried to rally back with its top line and again Parise, Koivu and Pominville moved and cycled the puck down low with tremendous speed and efficiency but all they were able to generate was a pass out to the point to Jonas Brodin who moved down the slot where he got off a backhander that was stopped by Bernier who knocked it down but unfortunately no one was able to pounce on the rebound.  The Wild would get its first power play of the game as Jordan Nolan got an elbow up into the grill of Zenon Konopka near the Kings' bench.  Minnesota's power play got things going early as they set up Jared Spurgeon for a blast from the point that was calmly gloved by Bernier.  You could sense the level of desperation in the Wild as they really tried to pour it on offensively as they tried to storm the crease as Koivu fed a pass out front that was shoveled on goal by Parise and then Pominville couldn't get it by Bernier.  The Wild tried one more time as Ryan Suter carried the puck in and his shot attempt was blocked by a diving play by Slava Voynov but the Wild continued as Pominville was stopped at point blank range and the Kings went back on the counter attack where Kopitar looked to be off to the races for a breakaway where he was harassed and hauled down by Spurgeon for an easy tripping call.  Minnesota was again strong on the penalty kill, getting sticks into passing and shooting lanes and the Wild were able to get a big kill.  Minnesota tried to answer back with its 2nd line of Setoguchi, Bouchard and Granlund and it was Bouchard ringing a wrist shot off the left post and out.  Another period would conclude and now the Wild were down 3-0.  I love the way the 'captain line' is playing and I like how they tried to keep it simple and crash the net and probably should've been rewarded for their effort.  The 2nd line of Bouchard, Granlund and Setoguchi was a little better, but Setoguchi seems to have to slow down in order to accomodate his linemates and thus the unit is far less explosive than when Cullen was centering it.  Thinking of how Cullen played with Setoguchi, its really kind of fun to think about just how dangerous the Wild could be with the 'captain line' and that quality 2nd line that was such a force for a while.  There were not a lot of shots reaching either goaltender, but the problem was proportionately quite a few of them were finding the twine behind Wild goaltenders with Minnesota holding a 11-9 edge in shots.  Defensively, Clayton Stoner still leaves a lot to be desired.  

3rd Period Thoughts: The third period clearly demonstrated the overall problem facing the Wild.  While they had their moments of working hard, they just were never rewarded for doing so.  On top of that, it just seems that no matter what they did, they were continually one or two steps behind the puck all night long.  When you can't get to the loose pucks before the opposition, you're going to find it difficult to put forth a consistent offensive effort.  That was the tale of the puck.  Of course when you're missing players and have "new" players inserted into the lineup with little to no practice, it certainly isn't going to help matters.  The players are frustrated, the coaches are frustrated, and the fans are especially frustrated, since it is now after midnight for the second night in a row.  The team just didn't seem to have the gas left in the tank to will themselves to a comeback. 

The interesting part of this game was the fact the Wild were not way outplayed.  The Kings had some great scoring chances early but after mid-way through the 1st period the Wild played better defensively and the Kings didn't get much going offensively themselves. Don't get me wrong, the Kings capitalized on the few chances they had and for the most part played a tight defensive game that limited the Wild's chances and that was more than enough to earn a shutout.  Jonathan Bernier was sharp and wasn't giving up rebounds for the Wild to take advantage of and that's why Minnesota got shutout.  Niklas Backstrom's two goals on two shots really put the Wild in a big hole early and for the next few minutes afterwards the team seemed to be in a stupor as it gave a few more odd man chances off the rush but after that the Kings were content to muck and grind along the boards and make the Wild have to scratch and claw to even get a single shot on goal.  I thought Darcy Kuemper did an adequate job.  The one goal he gave up would've been scored on anyone and he played it properly, it just was a phenomenal shot by Justin Williams. 

The only line that was working for the Wild all night long was the 'captain line' of Pominville, Koivu and Parise.  This line cycled the puck at a Sedin like level where they almost unconsciously knew where each other were going to be and caused all kinds of problems for the Kings defensively.  While they did not manage to score a goal the chemistry between them was obvious and they have all the makings of a truly lethal NHL line.  As good as this line was, I think last night provided further evidence of how much this team misses Matt Cullen.  The 2nd line was lost out there, unable to do much of anything and Devin Setoguchi was a complete non-factor because his linemates were struggling with the game to a point where they could barely find the time to avoid hits to let alone set up Setoguchi.  This team needs Cal Clutterbuck and Kyle Brodziak to step up into a more offensive role and provide some sort of secondary scoring presence because the Wild were basically reduced to being a one-trick pony last night. 

The loss is the Wild's 3rd straight as well as dropping the team out of 1st place in the Northwest and pushing them back to 6th in the Western Conference.  It isn't panic time yet, but the Wild need to figure out its chemistry issues; especially on its 2nd and 3rd lines soon.  The Wild have been pretty healthy all season (knock on wood) so they're not going to get any sympathy as they play a desperate and confident Columbus Blue Jackets team on Sunday in Columbus, an arena where they've traditionally struggled to win in.  Minnesota could really make a statement by earning a win in Columbus, but another loss could cause the natives to get pretty restless. 

Wild Notes:

~ Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Mikael Granlund, Zenon Konopka, Mike Rupp, Cal Clutterbuck, Kyle Brodziak, Clayton Stoner, Brett Clark, Tom Gilbert, Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin.  Darcy Kuemper shared duties between the pipes with Niklas Backstrom.  Nate Prosser and Justin Falk were healthy scratches as Dany Heatley and Matt Cullen.

~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Justin Williams, 2nd Star Jonathan Bernier; 3rd Star Robyn Regher.

~ Attendance was 18,118 at Staples Center.

~ Jason Pominville wore #29 for the Wild joining Jamie "Noodles" McLennanJosh Harding, Jed Ortmeyer and Jon DiSalvatore  to wear that number.   

Houston Aeros Update:

Houston 3, San Antonio 2 OT

Persistance pays off as the Houston Aeros rallied back from a 2-0 deficit to earn a 3-2 win in over time over in state rival San Antonio tonight.  It wasn't for a lack of trying as they peppered Dov Grumet-Morris with 43 shots on goal.  After giving up 2 goals to Scott Timmins and Jack Combs.  The Aeros would finally solve Grumet-Morris as Chad Rau got a pass from Justin Fontaine that deflected off the goalie and Rau buried it to cut the Rampage's lead to one.  Houston would get the game-tying goal as bad turnover in the Rampage's zone was pounced upon by Jason Zucker who rifled a shot into the back of the net with just over 5 imnutes in regulation.  The Aeros would strike in OT as Tyler Cuma blasted a shot from the point that created a big rebound off of Grumet-Morris and it was Zucker ripping a quick one timer to give Houston a 3-2 win.  Cody Reichard had 15 saves in the win.  The victory snaps a 5-game losing streak for the Aeros.  

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!

Backstrom’s huge shootout save and Bouchard’s goal lifts Wild to 1-0 shootout home win over Los Angeles

Brunette tries to score on Quick

Thomas Jefferson once said, “If angry count to ten before you speak, if you’re really angry, count to a hundred.”  I must admit I have never subscribed to this specific nugget of Jefferson’s wisdom.  Not that you care but I usually speak right away and let the consequences be what they are and that hasn’t always been the best thing either.  I doubt I am alone in possessing a wicked temper, but really what Jefferson is speaking to is of patience and not simply speaking in the heat of the moment.  Counting to 10 can go by pretty quickly and if you’re a bit of a hot head you’d still probably say something pretty nasty that you may regret later.  So counting to a 100 is a bit safer bet, if somehow you can hold yourself back enough to count that long.  This may sound strange but I just counted to a hundred and I timed myself, and without trying to sound like former Micro Machine’s pitchman, the speed talking Jim Moschitta, I managed to finish counting to a hundred in about a minute.  As athlete, emotions are often something very near the surface for any player as they are what often drives competitive instinct.  I wonder what a veteran player like Andrew Brunette would say if he was angry.  Brunette’s demeanor is usually pretty calm and collected but when the opposition tries to push him around he pushes back.  It may not be an aggressive shove but he isn’t just going to get thrown around and be intimidated.  Rarely do you see Brunette chirping back, opting more often to skate back to his bench or towards his linemates than to drop the gloves or agitating the situation further.  That is the sort of perspective one has after they’ve played 1,000 games as Brunette will achieve that career milestone tonight.  He knows not to let his emotions get the best of him and the always modest Brunette, who has loads of humility as he seems to relish making fun of his lack of speed has managed to have a pretty impressive career thus far.  After scoring an eye popping 62 goals and 162 points in major junior back in 1992-93 with the now defunct Owen Sound Platers of the Ontario Hockey League, Brunette was still just a 7th round pick (174th Overall) by the Washington Capitals.  After starting his career for the also defunct Hampton Roads Admirals of the ECHL, he battled his way through the minors where he put up very impressive offensive totals season after season only to earn a few limited stints with the Capitals no one would’ve blamed him for being angry at this point in his career.  Yet any interview you see with Brunette, there is never a shred of bitterness and in 1998 he really earned his first real shot in the NHL as he was picked up in the 1998 Expansion Draft by the Nashville Predators where he scored the franchise’s first goal.  In 2001-02 he joined the Wild, signing on as a free agent and Brunette thrived with the Wild, scoring the most important goal in franchise history when he beat Patrick Roy (for the last goal given up in his NHL career) in Game 7 of the 2003 Western Conference Quarterfinals.  From here on out, Brunette continued to prove the naysayers wrong who criticized his lack of speed but season after season he’d end up with 50+ points.  999 games later, Brunette has accumulated 250 goals and 438 assists for 688 points, not too shabby for a guy who is “too slow.”  I am going admit it, I’ve criticized his lack of speed at times but for his salary and production there are very few players who can match his value on the ice.  His sense of humor, his hard work, especially behind the opposing goal are his trademarks.  Not to make this sound too much like a eulogy but he’s certainly a Wild fan favorite and I hope this team asks him to join the broadcast team when he’s finally retires. 

As Brunette gets ready for his 1,000 game, the team regroups after a restful week of the All Star Break.  Brent Burns and Martin Havlat represented the Wild fairly well on Team Lidstrom, but the Wild must jolt themselves back to reality soon as they play a tough Los Angeles Kings squad that is hoping to leapfrog Minnesota in the standings if they can get a win tonight.  Minnesota must re-establish the momentum it had created for itself in the weeks prior to the All Star Break and earning a victory over the Kings who like the Wild have 55 points would give the team some much-needed breathing room, until the next game that is.  So will Minnesota pick up where it left off, or will they play as though they’re still on their All Star break in their minds?  

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1st Period Thoughts:  The initial period was sort of what you would expect after the All Star break as both teams had plenty of energy, but plenty of rust to go along with it.  The rustiest player for the Wild in my opinion was one of its All Stars in Brent Burns.  He was moving his feet well, but his passing was terrible.  This was most evident on the power play where his errant passes really caused the Wild to never really get set up in the Kings’ zone.  I am not sure if he felt a need to impress after his return or what, but he was out of sync on finding his teammates throughout the entire period.  Another player who also looked a bit rusty was Kyle Brodziak, who passed up on a clear chance to shoot the puck to attempt a dangerous drop pass that nearly turned into a transition chance for Los Angeles.  The Kings were also moving well, but the Wild was lucky it was able to disrupt a few of their plays they attempted off of the rush.  The Wild had a few good shifts, where they were able to cycle and control the puck and fire a few shots on Jonathan Bernier but nothing all that threatening.  The Wild’s other All Star Martin Havlat looked very focused as he dangled through the Kings defense but his backhander would be steered wide by the stick of Willie MitchellPierre-Marc Bouchard looked good and I liked his assertiveness with the puck.  Yet Minnesota’s best player was Niklas Backstrom who had to be very sharp as Los Angeles was taking every opportunity to put shots on goal.  The Kings best chance came off the stick of Dustin Brown who took a pass from Brad Richardson in a 2-on-1 and he fired a shot that was just denied by the leg pad of Backstrom.  There was a small amount of boo’s from the crowd at Minnesota’s lack of focus on the power play and deservedly so.  I know this team is trying to refocus itself, all the while attempting to give Brunette his just due for his 1,000th game but they have to feel lucky still being tied at 0-0 after the 1st period.  The Wild somehow out shot the Kings 8 to 7, but they were clearly outplayed. 

2nd Period Thoughts:  I was much more pleased with this period.  Minnesota was hustling better and being less picky with their opportunities in the offensive zone.  They almost lit the lamp on a slapper by Mikko Koivu that rang off the post.  The Wild were swarming early on, as the reconstituted small guy line of Bouchard, Chuck Kobasew and Matt Cullen created some havoc as they set up Brent Burns for a few quick chances on goal.  Defensively the Wild were backchecking pretty well but they gave themselves some trouble by giving up two power plays.  The first one came off a boarding penalty by Burns when he cross checked Kyle Clifford who fell down surprisingly easy for being a pretty strong player (cough dive cough).  Minnesota’s penalty kill was very solid.  Challenging the puck carrier and forcing Los Angeles to settle for shots from long range.  As the Wild killed off the power play they set up Brent Burns who skated in and he wired a shot that was directed wide by Bernier.  Minnesota then followed that up with a solid forechecking shift that put the Kings on their heels.  The Kings would earn another power play on a marginal hooking call on Matt Cullen and this power play would get pretty dangerous.  Niklas Backstrom was outstanding, making some tremendous saves at point blank range as he stonewalled Ryan Smyth who tried to tap a shot by him from the top of the crease.  Backstrom had to have felt a little by himself as his penalty killers repeatedly failed to clear the zone and as they got gassed the opportunities continued for Los Angeles before the Wild goalie was finally able to bail himself out of trouble when he gloved a Drew Doughty shot to get a key whistle.  The game was also starting to get a bit chippy with some shoves and skirmishes near the crease as Richardson tried to goad Cal Clutterbuck into a penalty to no avail.  Clutterbuck would start to step up his game physically as he put a good shoulder into Doughty to knock him off the puck.  It wasn’t their worst 2nd period, but they weathered the storm of a Los Angeles power play that looked pretty sharp.  I liked the effort of John Madden, who did a nice job of denying time and space to the Kings, and Greg Zanon was stepping in front of the shots just as selflessly as he always does.  The officials need to learn how to drop the pucks, how many redo faceoffs do they need?  Brad Watson and Greg Kimmerly are not rookies, they should be better. 

3rd Period Thoughts:  I was very frustrated with the Wild’s lack of initiative during the closing minutes of the game.  The team was sitting back, content to play for overtime which I don’t see why you would want especially when you consider you are tied with the Kings in points as they are.  It makes zero sense to allow the Kings to win a point when you have the time to deprive them of any.  Give credit to the Kings for dumping the puck deep and applying pressure while the Wild had great difficulty clearing the zone let alone creating anything resembling an attack.  Even when Minnesota had managed to gain possession no one seemed to want the puck instead just passing it to no one and giving up the easy turnover.  It was a maddening end to a promising period where the Wild started to pinch and activate its defense as Jared Spurgeon and Brent Bursn were taking every opportunity to shoot the puck.  Unfortunately, few other Wild players seemed to want that opportunity.  Not the way you want to give up a point to a team tied with you in the standings. 

Overtime Thoughts:  I would say my criticism of the 3rd period is more or less repeated into overtime.  Where is the urgency?  Other than a brief sequence where the Wild were able to create some pressure with Brent Burns, Martin Havlat and Pierre-Marc Bouchard the Wild sat back and played rope-a-dope.  When you consider how abysmal the team has been in the shootout up to this point it seems rather risky to play for that sort of outcome.  A few things were obvious in this game; the guy the Wild want to set up is Brent Burns and no offense to Havlat, Koivu and others but it a bit of an indictment that no one else wanted that opportunity to pull the trigger.  I know Burns is the franchise leader in overtime goals but still, any forward should want the puck on his stick at that point in the game.  Luckily for the Wild, their passive performance throughout most of overtime didn’t come back to bite them. 

Shootout Thoughts:  First of all, why in the heck should anyone wait for Toronto to begin the shootout.  Former NHL referee Kerry Fraser is 100% correct, put the replay on the officials at the game.  Give them that ability so they can review if needed so the fans and players are not needlessly delayed while the Toronto “war room” gets its act together.  The Wild would elect to have the Kings shoot first.  Los Angeles’ first shooter was  its lone All Star Anze Kopitar.  Kopitar would go wide right and bear down on the Wild goalie and it was Backstrom who waited until the last second to fire out a quick poke check to foil the Kings forward’s chance.  Minnesota’s first shooter was Martin Havlat, and he’d skate more or less right down the middle where he tried to get Bernier to move on a shoulder fake before he attempted to squeeze a wrister 5-hole that he closed down pretty quickly.  The Kings next shooter was Jack Johnson.  Johnson would race in where he managed to get Backstrom to drop where he looked to have an easy forehand chance only to see his shot be denied by a last second lift of Backstrom’s leg that just got enough of it to make the save.  Minnesota’s next shooter was Pierre-Marc Bouchard.  Bouchard would take move a little to his left and then move down the middle where the feinted at a deke and he’d move in and slide a backhander that snuck through the wickets to give the Wild a 1-0 shootout lead.  This put all the pressure on the Kings’ captain, Dustin Brown to keep his team alive in the shootout.  Brown would skate in down the middle where he tried to shoulder shimmy and force Backstrom to open up but he did not and his wrist shot would be steered wide by Backstrom to give Minnesota the 1-0 victory. 

Niklas Backstrom was absolutely outstanding.  Making 27 saves including stopping all 3 of the Kings’ shooters to allow Minnesota to steal a victory.  He made big saves all game long, and kept Minnesota in the game at times when it didn’t deserve to be.  Backstrom did have some help as backchecking forwards and defenseman were there to sweep away the few rebounds he gave up and take it out of danger.  Minnesota’s defense also prevented a lot of pucks from reaching Backstrom, blocking 25 shots in the win.  Greg Zanon had 7 blocked shots by himself. 

Offensively the Wild were far too passive.  Too many passed up chances to shoot the puck and while the shot desparity may not look that alarming being outshot 27 to 25.  Minnesota does not have enough firepower to pass up on those types of opportunities.  The power play was rendered ineffective by poor passing and that will have to improve if it expects to do well against Colorado.  Burns seemed to be the go-to scorer on the team, but maybe its just me but wouldn’t you rather see a forward taking the initiative to be that player looking for the game winner? 

The good feelings about Brunette and the Wild’s victory are nice, but they really have to feel lucky to have earned 2 points tonight.  However a win is a win and while it is not good practice to give those you’re tied with in the standings free points they’ll have to settle for the one extra point they received.  The Wild will hopefully have a better effort on Thursday. 

Wild Notes:

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

~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by Let’s Play Hockey were:

~ The attendance tonight at Xcel Energy Center was 17,504.

~ The State of Hockey News would like to congratulate Andrew Brunette on playing in his 1,000th game in the NHL. 

Wild Prospect Report:

C – Casey Wellman ~ Houston Aeros (AHL)

2010-11 Stats:  26GP  8G 9A = 17pts  8 PIM’s  -2

This season is all about development for the Brentwood, California-native.  The speedy center is slowly finding his way through his first full professional campaign.  Minnesota got a taste of Wellman’s skills late last season after the team signed him as a free agent, but made the decision to give him more ice time by having him serve a season in the minors with the Aeros.  After suffering through an upper body injury to start the season he returned to give Houston a much-needed jolt of offense, but is still far from being categorized a go-to scorer.  His speed and creativity are what set him apart but keeping him with the Aeros is probably the best thing for his development. 

LW – Colton Gillies ~ Houston Aeros (AHL)

2010-11 Stats:  40GP  7G 7A = 14pts  53 PIM’s  -4

Its easy to play the hindsight game, but I highly doubt the Wild trade up to nab Colton Gillies 16th Overall in 2007 if they knew how he would turn out.  Of course, there is still time for improvement but the expectations of him being a some prototypical power forward have been tempered to just hoping he can develop into an effective energy line winger.  He has reasonable speed to go along with a big athletic frame but anyone expecting a big bodied scorer will be greatly disappointed.  The White Rock, British Columbia-native has learned to use his frame to deliver hits, but he is not a natural hitter like a Cal Clutterbuck or an Eric Nystrom.  He is the type of player that could dish out one big hit and then just bump into the rest.  So far this season, the Aeros coaching staff has been pleased by Gillies’ play but its hard not to feel a little let down by a 1st round selection whose most optimistic projection is as a 3rd or 4th liner. 

Minnesota High School Boys Hockey Report:

Class 1A Rankings

#1 St. Thomas Academy Cadets (11-5-0)
#2 Hermantown Hawks (17-1-1)
#3 The Blake School Bears (15-2-2)
#4 Totino-Grace Eagles (14-3-0)
#5 The Breck School Mustangs (10-7-0)
#6 Duluth Marshall Hilltoppers (13-7-1)
#7 Hibbing / Chisholm Bluejackets (12-7-1)
#8 Thief River Falls Prowlers (12-6-1)
#9 Rochester Lourdes Eagles (17-2-0)
#10 Virginia / Mt. Iron-Buhl Blue Devils (15-6-0)

Class 2A Rankings

#1 Hill-Murray Pioneers (14-3-1)
#2 Eden Prairie Eagles (13-4-1)
#3 Minnetonka Skippers (13-4-1)
#4 Benilde-St. Margaret’s (15-2-0)
#5 Maple Grove Crimson (15-3-1)
#6 Duluth East Greyhounds (14-4-0)
#7 Burnsville Blaze (13-3-3)
#8 Wayzata Trojans (13-4-2)
#9 Edina Hornets (11-5-2)
#10 Eagan Wildcats (13-4-2)

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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