Parise’s 4-point night and late rally by the Wild not enough in 5-4 road loss to Colorado

Josh Harding

"When he first came to the mountains his life was far away, on the road hangin' by a song, but the string is already broken and he doesn't even care, It keeps changin' fast and don't last for long," are the lyrics to John Denver's classic Rocky Mountain High.  The lyrics might as well describe the fleeting nature of success in sports as teams can go from total dominance to a death spiral in the space of a few games.  The Wild are all too familiar with that feeling of total despair having been mired in a seven-game losing streak.  The vultures were circling the team.  The axe was very close to falling on the head coach, fans were talking about a possible firesale and other significant front office moves appeared likely.  As injuries mounted, it indeed looked bleak.  But adversity sometimes serves to get players, coaches to refocus and push through those obstacles.  Hence where the Wild find themselves right now (knock on wood).   

Marco Scandella

The Wild have scratched clawed and played beyond their talent against some of the best teams in the Western Conference.  But getting back to where the team once was is nice, but can this team go even farther?  Can it climb its way back into the Top 5 in the Western Conference?  One of the teams standing in its path is the Colorado Avalanche.  The Avalanche rode a hot start and kind of settled down since.  Will the Wild take another step closer to overtaking Colorado in the uber tough Central Division?  Or will the Avalanche delay that climb a bit more?  

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Jason Pominville

1st Period Thoughts:  The Wild looked a little out of sync to start the period and were trying to play a run and gun kind of game against an opponent who thrives in that environment.  Minnesota was able to enter the zone with speed but found themselves unable to connect on passes in the offensive zone to get much in the way of shots on goal.  The Avalanche were patient to wait for the errant pass and then quick to transition and Colorado would strike first.  After a bad turnover on the cycle, Colorado would counter with a rush of their own as Matt Duchene took full advantage of the time and space the Wild gave hiim and he stepped aggressively into the slot before dishing a pass off to Ryan O'Reilly for a big slap shot that beat Darcy Kuemper to make it 1-0.  It was a goal Kuemper probably should've stopped considering how far he was out of his crease as well as the fact he was not screened.  The Avalanche continued to swarm in the Wild zone and Cody McLeod would put a little snow into the face of Kuemper after a save that Clayton Stoner took exception to.  Stoner wanted to fight and dropped the gloves and he got McLeod to oblige and Stoner wasted little time getting an early advantage as he was firing a barrage of right handed jabs that were landing with great effect.  McLeod threw a few punches of his own as he tried his best to duck out of the way of Stoner's flurry of punches before deciding to just grab Stoners sweater and haul him down to the ice.  It was a clear cut win for Stoner as McLeod had to leave for his locker room for a few repairs.  Shortly after Stoner's fight win the Wild would draw a power play as Gabriel Landeskog hauled down Mikael Granlund as he tried to carry the puck in deep to the offensive zone.  The Wild would take full advantage of the power play as Minnesota worked the puck out to the point where Ryan Suter let loose a wrist shot that was partially deflected by Dany Heatley and then Zach Parise deflected it again and by Semyon Varlamov to tie the game at 1-1.  It was a great response to Colorado's early strike.  Colorado would go back on the attack, and Matt Duchene really started to cause the Wild some significant troubles.  A misplay of the puck by Kyle Brodziak turned into a pseudo Colorado Power Play as Duchene dangled in and around Wild defenders for nearly a minute before the Wild finally managed to clear the zone.  The speedy and skilled Avalanche began to draw penalties on the Wild who would get caught flat footed on a few occasions.  The first one came on a pretty questionable interference call on Erik Haula.  Haula raced for the puck and looked as though he managed to win the race and seal Nathan MacKinnon off from the puck but NHL referee Jean Hebert sent Haula to the sin bin.  On the power play, the Avalanche moved the puck quickly around the perimeter before trying to work a back door play but good active sticks kept Colorado at bey.  The Wild would even counter attack a bit on the penalty kill as Matt Cooke blocked a shot to have a breakaway but he ran out of gas as he entered the Avalanche zone but he was able to find Kyle Brodziak with a pass and he moved in all alone but was stonewalled by Varlamov.  The Wild got a big kill, but as soon as they'd kill off a penalty they'd take another.  This time it was a tripping penalty on Jonas Brodin who got caught standing still as a long pass reached Matt Duchene who immediately turned on the jets and all the Wild defenseman could do was dive and trip him up otherwise watch him go in uncontested on Kuemper.  The Avalanche's power play again moved the puck with great efficiency, even setting up a tricky little tic-tac-toe play that just failed to connect as Kuemper got across his crease for a big save.  Minnesota would kill off that penalty only to find themselves going right back on the penalty kill as Clayton Stoner tripped up Nathan MacKinnon who fell remarkably easy (cough Dive cough) but NHL referre Jean Hebert was all over it.  The Wild's penalty kill did a better job at preventing Colorado from creating anything in the middle of the ice, and Minnesota take away the passing and shooting lanes and were able to clear the zone to alleviate pressure.  Minnesota had to have felt a little lucky still tied at one after giving up those three consecutive power plays and were only being out shot 10-7.  I thought Kyle Brodziak had an ugly period.  Bad passes, his inability to bury a golden opportunity and I think he had at least 2-3 failed clearing attempts that nearly came back to bite the Wild.  The Wild will have to do their best to stay out of the penalty box as well as apply more offensive pressure if they want to have a realistic chance in this game.  

2nd Period Thoughts:  The 2nd period started with a crash and a bang as the Avalanche's Jamie McGinn tattoo'ed Nate Prosser with a huge hit near the Colorado bench and as Marco Scandella skated over to defend his teammate but the play would continue as the officials wouldn't let them get into a scrap.  A turnover in the neutral zone and Nate Guenin threaded a pass to John Mitchell who fired a wrist shot from the high slot that beat Kuemper, 2-1 Colorado.  Another soft goal.  Minnesota would draw a horrible holding call on Tyson Barrie.  On the power play the Wild had some outstanding chances but just couldn't finish.  It would start with a Parise shot taken off the rush and the Wild followed up the play swung it back to the slot where Heatley fanned on the shot and the rolling puck yielded a rebound that was shot on goal by Jason Pominville and as the puck skittered through the crease Parise and Heatley couldn't manage to bury what looked like an easy tap in.  With the Wild failing to capitalize on the power play the Avalanche would sense an opportunity and the game would get out of hand.  It would start with the Avalanche attacking off the rush as Erik Johnson skated into the offensive zone before sending a pass back into the slot where Paul Stastny ripped it by Kuemper to make it 3-1.  Minnesota would try to answer back and the team had some not bad forechecking shifts by the 3rd and 4th lines.  I liked how Keith Ballard and Marco Scandella held the zone and then took their oppotunities to shoot.  Yet the Avalanche would tun the tables on Minnesota as it had its 4th line on the ice and the Wild zone looked like a hooting gallery as Colorado set up chance after chance while the exhausted Wild could only watch and hope Kuemper would bail them out.  Finally Kuemper would deflect a shot up and out of play but you could sense it was just a matter of time before Colorado would add to its lead.  The Avalanche would again swarm all over the Wild zone while Minnesota's defensemen were unable to poke check it away and Colorado would score again as a big shot by Mitchell that drew a big rebound that was buried by Maxime Talbot, 4-1 Avs.  Mike Yeo would swap out Kuemper for Niklas Backstrom to spare the youngster's confidence.  Backstrom would have to help kill off a lazy holding penalty on Torrey Mitchell.  The veteran goaltender had to make an amazing stop to keep the Wild's deficit at three going into the 3rd period.  A trainwreck of the period partially triggered by that lack of focus that led to that early goal.  

3rd Period Thoughts:  The 3rd period would start off with a little snarl as McGinn tried to light up Nate Prosser again as he got his elbows up and Prosser went after McGinn and the two would drop the gloves.  McGinn was hammering away early and they appeared to land but not have a great effect as Prosser rallied back before he pulled the jersey over the head of McGinn before wrestling him to the ice.  I'll give McGinn the victory, but good to see Prosser stand up for himself.  The feistiness would continue as Kyle Brodziak would catch Tyson Barrie flatfooted as he fell over backwards as Brodziak motored his way towards the Colorado goal where he fired a low shot that was gloved by Varlamov who decided to show Brodziak his save and Brodziak bumped into him slightly as he stopped which drew the ire of Gabriel Landeskog who shoved him into the boards.  This turned into a big scrum as Matt Cooke also got sent into the bin as he tried to defend his teammate.  With the penalty boxes loaded up with 3 players apiece, the Wild would strike as Zach Parise found a little room off the rush and he beat Varlamov with a wrist shot that seemed to flutter by the Avalanche goalie cutting the Colorado lead to two, 4-2.  The Wild would continue to attack and the top line came close to cutting the lead to one, as Jason Pominville tried to fire one through at a sharp angle.  The Avalanche would try to counter attack as Ryan O'Reilly thought he had his 2nd goal of the game as his shot hit off the cross bar and straight down where it was swept out of danger by an alert Keith Ballard.  Minnesota was undaunted and they'd use their first line and with a simplified approach as Keith Ballard got off a hard wrist shot that drew a big rebound that Parise got a piece of before Mikael Granlund tapped it home to make it 4-3 and you could hear the anxiety level from the home crowd as now you had a 1-goal game.  The Wild were doing all they could but you could tell they were running out of gas as they had shortened their bench.  Minnesota was starting to overhandle the puck while the Avalanche were just hoping to poke check it away and chase.  Keith Ballard would have his wrist shot blocked and it was chased down by MacKinnon and he simply could not get back fast enough and he lifted a forehand over the shoulder of Backstrom to make it 5-3.  The Wild are just dead now right?  Nope.  Minnesota answered immediately (just 11 seconds later) as Mikael Granlund managed to step around a big check and he would thread a perfect pass to Pominville for a picture-perfect tap in goal, 5-4.  Minnesota would pull Backstrom for an extra attacker but they just couldn't get any shots on goal and the game would finally slip away from them.  

It was not Darcy Kuemper's best night, as he gave up for goals on 23 shots but at least two of those were of the soft variety.  Especially the 2nd goal, where he was beaten cleanly by a wrist shot from the slot is a save he simply has to make.  That goal turned into the 3-goal rally the team tried to claw back from in the 3rd period.  Niklas Backstrom entered the game and was respectable, making 8 saves but you have to wonder a little about what could've been if he had managed to stop MacKinnon's goal late.  To add insult to injury for Backstrom, because of that goal he is the one who gets tagged with the loss tonight.  Defensively it was rough night for Jonas Brodin who was fighting the puck all night long while I thought Minnesota had a great game from Keith Ballard.  Sure Ballard got burned on MacKinnon's goal but he was doing a lot of good things out there and I really liked how he played with the puck on the point as well as how he stepped up to hold the offensive zone.  Another bright spot for the Wild was its penalty kill who went a perfect 4-for-4.  

Offensively, it was all about the top line of Parise, Pominville and Granlund.  The line combined for 18 shots on goal and 9 points in the game including all four of the Wild's goals.  They nearly were able to will the Wild to at least a point in the standings with their 3rd period surge but all night long they were making good things happen in the offensive zone.  The line has fantastic chemistry and whenever Mikko Koivu returns to the line up I think you'd have a hard time breaking that line up.  Kyle Brodziak had some quality opportunities but he couldn't manage to bury those chances.  He too was battling the puck and the inability to bury the biscuit probably made it that much more frustrating for him.  I thought the team got a good effort from Nino Niederreiter who at times looked like a beast out there with the way he handled the puck and took it to the scoring areas on the ice; he nearly willed himself a goal early in the 3rd on a good power move to the net.  One player who I've been disappointed in Charlie Coyle who I felt was guilty over holding onto the puck far too long and when he did decide to pass it he often passed it to players who were in absolutely no position to do much of anything with it which led to a giveaway.  He needs to be more assertive to take his own chances to shoot the puck.  

Its a frustrating game to see the Wild play so atrociously in the 2nd to nearly comeback to win the game in the 3rd.  The team self-destructed with their own mistakes in the defensive zone that turned into pucks in the back of their net.  I still don't understand why Mike Yeo keeps scratching Jason Zucker.  The Avalanche are a fast, up-tempo team so why help our opponent out by putting a slower player into the lineup?  If its for intimidation, then why is it Prosser and Stoner feeling compelled to drop the gloves?  The Wild Head Coach gave credit for is team's late-game rally but also pointed out its sluggish start proving to be costly.  He gave kudos to the Parise-Pominville-Granlund line but he also said there were a number of players who he felt were not giving their best.  Hopefully Minnesota can bring the effort they had in the 3rd to douse a red-hot Calgary Flames squad on Saturday.

Wild Notes:

~ Wild roster tonight is as follows: Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund, Jason Pominville, Charlie Coyle, Dany Heatley, Nino Niederreiter, Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cooke, Justin Fontaine, Torrey Mitchell, Erik Haula, Mike Rupp, Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, Nate Prosser, Keith Ballard and Clayton Stoner.  Niklas Backstrom shared duties between the pipes with Darcy Kuemper.  Jason Zucker and Stephane Veilleux were the healthy scratches.  

~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by Altitude Network's Peter McNab were: 1st Star Jonathan Mitchell, 2nd Star Matt Duchene, 3rd Star Zach Parise

~ Attendance was 14,697 at Pepsi Center.

Wild Prospect Report:

Mathew Dumba

D – Mathew Dumba (Portland, QMJHL) ~ Dumba and the Winterhawks are making a strong case to be a contender for the Memorial Cup this year after an 8-1 trouncing of the Everett Silvertips.  The Calgary-native chipped in 2 assists and was a +4 in the victory.  Dumba has 2 goals, 8 points, 11 PIM's and is a +14 in 6 games played this season. 

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 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!

Brunette celebrate’s 1,000th game as Wild earn 3-2 home win over Colorado

Antti Miettinen attempts to score on Anderson

When I woke up this morning, I was determined to write my intro to tonight’s post-game report as I always do.  I often write this in the morning or around noon in part to save time, but to provide some sort of segue to the game.  Tonight could mark the return of Peter Forsberg the Colorado Avalanche lineup since he last suited up for the team in 2008.  So as I thought this morning I figured I’d go with the very cliche “He’s baaack” kind of round about explanation to jump into a talk about the returning former Avs stud.  The origin of this commonly used cliche is the creepy little girl in the Poltergeist movies from the early to mid-1980′s, Heather O’Rourke whose cinematic catch phrase is about as signature as cycling the puck is to the Sedin twins popularly known as creepy kids of their own by fans across the State of Hockey as Children of the Corn.  While not nearly as creepy as his aforementioned Swedish brethren, Peter Forsberg does share a few a few commonalities as the creepy duo as both hail from the town of Ornskoldsvik which has been a pretty impressive little bastion of hockey talent considering Forsberg, the Sedins, as well as Canucks’ great Markus Naslund and budding Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman call this community their hometown which numbers just a little over 40,000 people.  Forsberg is one of the most popular players to have ever played the game in Sweden, known affectionately as Foppa, but talk to Wild fans (and other Avs haters) and you’ll hear a less affectionate version that describes his style of play “Floppa.”  Even though Forsberg, a player known to be dirty who loved to dish out cheap shots when he wasn’t amazing fans with his excellent stickhandling and great hands near the net could at times show great strength when dishing out hits but could fall remarkably easy when nearly any opposing player skated by him.  Like Heather O’Rourke, Forsberg spent lots and lots of time acting, acting as though someone had tripped or cross checked him, diving to the ice with great regularity and being so skilled at it that he managed to convince more than a few NHL referees to give him the call the Swedish forward desired.  The propensity of Forsberg and his Avalanche teammates to fall with little to no contact caused some fans to start whole websites dedicated to ridiculing “Floppa” and his their antics.  Forsberg may be in the lineup tonight, then again he may not be.  

One person who should be in the lineup this evening is Andrew Brunette.  Oddly enough the team is choosing tonight to celebrate Brunette’s 1,000th game in the NHL rather than the ACTUAL night of his 1,000th game which was last week against the Los Angeles Kings.  Doesn’t that sound like a spouse who may have forgotten about their significant other’s birthday or Valentine’s Day?  Sure sounds like it to me, and if so its pretty sad.  Especially when you consider how this team fell over itself to honor Mike Modano in his “last” game with a whole series of tributes only to have the former North Star, who repeatedly dissed the State of Hockey, sign on for another season with the Detroit Red Wings.  The Wild make a big deal of honoring a player who never played for the organization and then forget to really celebrate their own player’s career milestone for a guy who had some of his most memorable hockey accomplishments take place.  (shrugs)  So will the Wild honor their teammate with another victory or will they play so poorly as they did last Saturday in Phoenix you’d think they were honoring Peter Forsberg instead?    (UPDATE: Forsberg will make his debut perhaps this Saturday as he still has to finalize his immigration visa according to NHL Home Ice Radio on XM.)   

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1st Period Thoughts:  After a very classy celebration just prior to the game, to commemorate Brunette’s 1000th game where his hometown hockey association (Valley East, Ontario) was awarded $15,000, then Bruno himself was recognized with a Tiffany crystal from the NHL and a silver stick from the Wild the puck would drop and it was obvious the team was a little energized.  The Wild had great speed and hustle out of the gate, outworking Colorado at both ends of the ice.  Minnesota was also fore checking well and being physical along the wall as Eric Nystrom lit up Kyle Cumisky with a nice hit.  The Wild clearly had talked about shooting the puck with greater frequency and shots were being blasted from wherever Minnesota could find time and space.  I really liked to see Minnesota being aggressive and taking its opportunities to fire the biscuit; it may not have resulted in a ton of goals but kept the crowd going and the Wild were able to maintain a pretty furious pace.  The Wild were carrying the pace of play, but Minnesota was playing well defensively.  Clayton Stoner was his normal solid self, using his frame to punish the Avalanche along the boards as he dumped Cody McLeod with a big check as well as sealing off the puck from opposing forwards to clear it away out of danger.  Niklas Backstrom was also very sharp, stopping Chris Stewart with a nice save with his leg pad.  Minnesota would finally get on the scoreboard on the power play as Antti Miettinen wound up and uncorked a slapper that was helped by an Avalanche screen to just be out of reach of Craig Anderson as it found the top corner.  The Wild’s jubilation would be short-lived as Colorado struck just 11 seconds later as Minnesota fell asleep a bit during a faceoff in its own zone that ended up on the stick of David Jones who got off a quick wrist shot that beat Backstrom 5-hole to tie the game at 1-1.  Minnesota would waste little time before responding in turn as the team’s 2nd line worked the puck down low and Kyle Brodziak poked a pass to Martin Havlat who out battled Paul Stastny for the puck and he carried it out front where he reversed direction and swept a wrist shot by leg pad of Anderson to give the Wild a 2-1 lead.  It was a solid period where Minnesota had lots of speed.  Brodziak was showing tons of great hustle early on, and Andrew Brunette had found himself setup for a number of good scoring chances. 

2nd Period Thoughts:  The Wild had some difficulty to start the 2nd period.  They weren’t moving their feet as well and the result was some penalty trouble.  First it was Burns with an interference call.  Colorado came very close to making the Wild pay for their lack of focus early on as puck made its way to the crease where it was punched in by David Jones who was lying on his stomach in the Minnesota crease.  The goal was immediately waived off by Craig Kimmerly but it was still reviewed.  After a fairly lengthy review, you could see Jones’ glove punch at the puck and Kimmerly moved out to center ice where he correctly declared “no goal.”  It was a close call that appeared to wake the Wild up; sort of.  Minnesota would get the big penalty kill thanks to some great hustle by Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Cullen who harassed Colorado in its own zone.  The Wild penalty kill would not have much time to rest as it found itself again a man down a few minutes later as Mikko Koivu was tagged for tripping.  Minnesota’s penalty kill kept Colorado at bey with good active sticks and quality puck pressure that never really allowed the Avalanche to get much going with the man advantage.  Only being up by one goal still made the lead rather tenuous and it was after this 2nd penalty kill that Minnesota got its legs going and started to take back control of the game.  Minnesota would get a huge goal right around the halfway point of the period when Jared Spurgeon stole a puck in the neutral zone where he dished it off to Cullen who threaded a pass to John Madden who was skating down the slot and he ripped a wrister by Anderson to give the Wild a 3-1 lead.  Avalanche Head Coach Joe Sacco had seen enough and he pulled Anderson and sent out Peter Budaj to save the game.  Minnesota kept attacking and nearly added to its lead after one its best offensive shifts all season by the top line who cycled the puck with great efficiency, ultimately ending up on the stick of Brunette who wrapped a shot that struck the right post and out.  It was a nice recovery by the Wild who looked to be on the ropes at the start of the period. 

3rd Period Thoughts:  Colorado would burst Minnesota’s bubble of momentum a bit on a strange goal to start the 2nd period where David Jones working behind his net sort of lifted a puck that bounced off a Wild defenseman and over the shoulder of Backstrom for a goal.  The goal got the Avalanche really swarming around the Wild zone.  They were working the puck out to the point where they tried to blast shots from the point with the benefit of screens in front of Backstrom who was only able to wave at the puck as flew on by his goal.  The chippiness started to become a bigger factor as Avalanche defenseman Ryan Wilson started to take every opportunity to try to goad Minnesota into taking foolish retaliation penalties.  He was marginally successful as he went after Matt Cullen who had followed up a bouncing puck before stopping just short of Budaj and giving him a little spray in the process.  Wilson went after Cullen and a scrum ensued.  Wilson and Clutterbuck paired off but the officials stepped in before they could start throwing punches.  The Wild ended up having the extra penalty, but the Wild penalty killers did a fine job of killing off the penalty.  The scrums continued but it was refreshing to see the Wild not back off down the stretch but instead go on the attack and Colorado simply didn’t have enough defenseman (since they were down to 5 after Kyle Cumisky’s injury) and Minnesota pressed hard for the insurance goal.  Even as Colorado pulled Budaj for an extra attacker the Wild were the team on the attack denying the Avalanche any scoring chance in the closing seconds of the game.  One player who really stood out for me effort-wise all through the period was Eric Nystrom.  Nystrom had a few close chances to score, the best one coming off a pretty redirect chance that just failed to click.  Minnesota is lucky the failed (albeit short) 5-on-3 power play did not come back to haunt them. 

Niklas Backstrom was again very solid between the pipes making 23 saves in the victory.  Backstrom would probably like to take back the first goal he gave up as he was simply caught a little unprepared by Jones’ shot, the 2nd one was an unconventional shot that could’ve beaten any goaltender.  Defensively the Wild were fairly solid at keeping Colorado from having the 2nd chance opportunities near their crease.  The Avalanche’s best skater was clearly Matt Duchene but for the most part the Wild kept Duchene from having a lot of time and space and defensively the Wild’s hustle made a big difference as they backchecked aggressively virtually all game long.  I thought the Wild got strong performances from Greg Zanon, Clayton Stoner and Nick SchultzBrent Burns looked as though he was trying to do a little too much out there. 

Offensively the Wild were pouring it on early, but I felt the team eased up through the 2nd period which could’ve spelt doom if not for a fortunate “no goal” call.  I was not overly impressed with the power play in the 3rd period where the Wild opted for shots from the point instead of working their way in close to the Avalanche crease.  Minnesota did manage to get a power play goal tonight, but at a critical juncture the team let Colorado off the hook and against a better team those sorts of mistakes can be fatal.  On the positive end, it was good to see John Madden be involved offensively, and Matt Cullen had one of his best games in recent memory.  The fore check was pretty stifiling early in this game, and I think that helps get the blood going and gives the team a good energy level at the start of the game.  

Minnesota will get to wait until Friday when they travel to St. Louis for what will be a home at home considering the Wild will return home for another tilt against the Blues Saturday night as the showcase of Hockey Day Minnesota.  The Blues are the only other team in the NHL that has the same amount of games remaining in the Western Conference which means it will be important to do well in this back-to-back match up.  You have to like the way Minnesota played throughout most of this game but it will have to be better against St. Louis, which is a team that lately has given the Wild a lot of problems. 

Wild Notes:

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

~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by Let’s Play Hockey were: 1st Star Andrew Brunette, 2nd Star Matt Cullen, 3rd Star Niklas Backstrom

~ Tonight’s attendance at Xcel Energy Center was 18,194.

~ The Houston Aeros traveled to Rockford to battle against West Division foe the Ice Hogs.  The Aeros found themselves trailing early in this game as Hastings, Minnesota-native and former 1st round pick of the St. Louis Blues Jeff Taffe scored to put Rockford up 1-0 late in the first period.  Houston would then rally back with 4 unanswered with two goals in both the 2nd and 3rd periods to blitz Rockford 4-1.  In the 2nd, it was Elk River, Minnesota-native Nate Prosser lighting the lamp for the 5th time this season and then about two minutes later Jean-Michel Daoust buried a close-range shot to give Houston a 2-1 lead going into the 3rd.  The Aeros would find the twine again on the power play when Patrick O’Sullivan kept his hot streak alive as he blistered a shot by Alec Richards to lift Houston to a 3-1 lead.  Carson McMillan would add an empty netter to seal the 4-1 victory.  Matthew Hackett stopped 24 of 25 in the win. 

~ Just as a reminder, the State of Hockey News will be providing FULL coverage of all the festivities that make up Hockey Day Minnesota, including post-game wrap ups of the high school, college and of course the showdown between the Minnesota Wild and the St. Louis Blues.  The Minnesota Wild announced that former ESPN hockey analyst and current Blues’ broadcaster Darren Pang (Holy Jumpin’!) will also be joining in the event hosted by Fox Sports Net North

Wild Prospect Report:

F – Mikael Granlund ~ HIFK Helsinki (Sm-Liiga)

2010-11 Stats:  28GP  6G  18A = 24pts  8 PIM’s

Granlund seems to have a dramatic flair to his game, as he has shown an ability to deliver in big games.  In a recent outdoor game that looked just as spirited (if not more so) the NHL’s Winter Classic against arch rival Jokerit, Granlund scored twice.  After suffering through a concussion early in the season, the skilled winger is back at it as HIFK prepares for the post-season.  The Oulu, Finland-native has great hands, but his skating ability is still a big question mark where the larger European ice surface may allow him the time and space to avoid defenders which will not be the case on smaller NHL-sized rinks.  Generously listed at 5’8″, Granlund’s skating deficiencies may seem a bit alarming but his hockey sense has always put him in good position on the ice.  Check out the video of highlights from the Finnish ‘winter classic’ which show Granlund’s goals at 1:25 and 5:42 respectively.  

F – Jason Zucker ~ Denver Pioneers (WCHA)

2010-11 Stats:  26GP  17G  11A = 28pts  32 PIM’s

Jason Zucker has been anything but your typical freshman.  Few freshman can boast Zucker’s explosive offensive output, and he has used his speed to its fullest advantage to make the Pioneers one of the best teams in the NCAA.  Wild fans will get their first local look at Zucker, as the Pioneers come to town to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers.  After a reasonable showing at this year’s U-20 World Junior Championships where he just managed to weather a concussion to play in the medal round.  The Las Vegas, Nevada-native has scored most of his goals at even strength, and he has delivered in the clutch as 3 of his 17 goals are game winners.  Little doubt Zucker will realized the fans in the State of Hockey will be watching him rather closely and it will be interesting to see if it brings out the best in him. 

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!