Posts and Kuemper enough for the Wild as they snap 3-game losing streak in 2-1 win over the Rangers

Keith Ballard

I was watching the critically acclaimed film Rashomon (1950) by legendary Japanese film producer Akira Kurasawa the other day and it really got me to reflect on the current state of the Wild.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the film, it is considered to be one of the best film's ever made.  It was a screenplay derived from the book In the Grove by Ryunosuke Akutugawa and the story is about the rape of a woman, and death of a warrior told from 4 different perspectives.  Yes, a rather violent story, but it isn't gory at all or there is np real graphic injury.  The focus is on how 4 different people can go through the same event and then recall such a different experience.  I sometimes wonder if that is not a perfect analogy to what I've seen and heard from some Wild fans and media members after Tuesday's pathetic 4-3 shootout loss to the lowly Edmonton Oilers.  Of paricular concern was the paltry performance of the power play which failed to find the back of the net during a 5-on-3 power play that lasted nearly a minute and a half or the nearly two-minute long 4-on-3 power play in overtime where failed to register a shot on goal.  One perspective from the TV broadcasters Anthony LaPanta and Mike Greenlay were sympathetic saying fans should be okwith that since the team did score once during the four opportunities they had.  Another perspective was from Head Coach Mike Yeo was that they would look into the slow movement and lack of player movement.  Lastly there were fans like myself who were thinking, especially after Yeo's comments, with both disdain and frustration as we ask 'what really has changed about the power play for the last few months?'  Either way, the power play is what it is, but we have 3 distinctively different viewpoints.  

Matt Cooke

Like the film we have an apologist / bright side-er in LaPanta and Greenlay, then a silent witness in Coach Yeo and lastly an antogonist who are fans like me who see a terrible power play and very little change over a long period of time.  On Wednesday the Wild spent a fair portion of their practice time working on the power play and shootout.  Will that practice pay off against the New York Rangers or will it end being too little, too late?  

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Mikael Granlund

1st Period Thoughts:  I thought the first 5 minutes of this game were absolutely horrendous for the Wild.  Lots of poor passes, not a lot of hustle and it looked like another team sort of going through the motions.  Minnesota's defenseman were turning bad situations into worse ones by making passes to players who were in even in an even more suspect position.  This put Minnesota on its heels as the Rangers tried to work the puck deep into the Wild zone.  The Rangers were sending pucks towards the goal and fortunately for the Wild they were not connecting but Minnesota was playing with fire.  The Wild's top line would try to go on the attack as Mikael Granlund entered New York's zone with speed and as he moved to the middle of the ice he'd have the space to shoot the puck from the high slot with other forwards bearing down on Cam Talbot but instead he'd try an improbable pass that never made it to Zach Parise and the Rangers would counter attack.  Big 6'6" Brian Boyle would motor down the middle of the ice, splitting Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon who reached and eventually tripped up Boyle as he got off a wrist shot before sliding into the boards and giving New York the first power play of the game.  On the power play the Wild did a decent job at denying the middle of the ice to the Rangers and they were able to get the kill without too much trouble.  Shortly after the Rangers power play, the Wild's 4th line would go on the attack and Erik Haula cycled the puck with Nino Niederreiter.  They were unable to get any shots on goal but as the Rangers tried to leave the zone former Wild 1st round (4th Overall in 2005) pick Benoit Pouliot got sent head over heels by a nice hip check by Keith Ballard.  The Wild would take advantage of the chaos and they almost managed to light the lamp as Ballard directed a shot on goal that was blocked by Talbot and then batted out of the air by Jason Pominville and steered away by the Rangers' goalie.  In the process the Wild would draw their first power play of the game as Hastings, Minnesota-native Derek Stepan sat in the box for hooking.  On the power play the Wild moved the puck pretty well with its 2nd power play unit as Jared Spurgeon found Jonas Brodin open and he fired a shot that Talbot froze.  Minnesota's top unit was unable to do much of anything with the man advantage and you could sense the anxiety starting to build in the arena.  With a failed power play behind them the Wild's 3rd line would strike as Kyle Brodziak forced John Moore to get rid of the puck a bit early that was picked up by Rick Nash who inexplicably sent it out into the slot where it was ripped home by Niederreiter.  1-0 Wild.  The goal didn't make the Wild much more responsible as a long pass by the Rangers turned into a near breakaway for Carl Hagelin and he was stonewalled by a fine save by Darcy Kuemper.  Minnesota would draw another power play as Pouliot was given a hooking call.  The Wild were not able to get much of anything going offensively but they still would carry their 1-0 lead into the 1st intermission.  Minnesota outshot the Rangers 9-7 in the period.  It was a sloppy period of hockey, and the Wild need to simplify their game.  A few passes and send the puck on goal instead of trying to make the pretty play.  

2nd Period Thoughts:  Minnesota started the 2nd period with its 2nd line of Mikko Koivu, Charlie Coyle and Matt Moulson.  The line had good forechecking pressure as Moulson swung a pass out to Koivu who was given a lot of time and space and he ripped a wrist shot that was denied by Talbot.  The Wild would kill their own early momentum as Brodziak skated through the neutral zone and got his stick into the grill of Chris Kreider giving the Rangers a power play.  This would prove to be a costly power play as the Wild were content to let the Rangers operate on the perimeter and Derek Stepan would patiently wait for his opportunity before firing a laser of a wrist shot by a screened Kuemper to tie the game at 1-1.  The next few minutes were spent trying to mount an attack or preventing the Rangers' from doing the same so shots on goal were few and far between.  At times the effort of the Wild seemed to be an interesting mix of contrasts, where some Wild players effort was pretty lazy as they stood around and reached for the puck (cough Dany Heatley, Clayton Stoner cough) while others were busting their tail all over the ice (Haula, Niederreiter).  Minnesota would finally create a little pressure as Mikael Granlund wound find Zach Parise with a pass, but unfortuantely the puck was rolling so he'd have to wait and settle it which gave Talbot a chance to square up and Parise's shot struck him in the shoulder and he was able to make the stop.  The Rangers had their share of close chances too as Ryan McDonagh stepped into the slot and took a pass from Rick Nash and his shot would rang off the left post and out.  Minnesota answered back with a scoring chance by Matt Moulson who bowled over Dan Girardi before getting off a quick shot that was dismissed by Talbot.  The Wild would draw a power play late in the period as Hagelin hauled down Koivu.  On the power play the Wild tried to generate more shots on goal by working the backdoor passes but the puck was always rolling or on edge causing Pominville to wait and the opportunity was lost.  As another Wild power play fell by the wayside, Minnesota would have one last great chance as the top line would race through the neutral zone with speed where they worked a tic-tac-toe play back to Spurgeon who probably would've had a goal if he shot a one-timer but instead waited and Talbot was able to square up and make the save keeping the game tied at one going into the 2nd intermission.  Minnesota is sometimes forgetting the benefit of shooting quickly and not allowing the goaltender to square up which even if it doesn't go in will likely lead to rebounds. I am not sure what to expect in the 3rd with the game tied.  The Wild have seemed to think the 3rd period was a time to wind down and relax and that would be the recipe for a disaster against the Rangers.  If I'm Justin Fontaine I'd be really annoyed watching Dany Heatley loaf through his shifts.  The Wild really is a better team when it has more speed in its lineup.  Yet I'm going to guess the Wild have $7.5 million reasons not to make this move.  Either way, its a shame.  

3rd Period Thoughts:  Minnesota's top line would provide a huge boost in the opening minute of the 3rd period as Mikael Granlund drove towards the Rangers' crease where he got off a quick shot that was kicked away by Talbot.   The Wild would crash the net and Pominville would pounce on the rebound that was also stopped by the sprawling Rangers' goalie, and Granlund would gather and dish it back over to Parise who fired it home to give the Wild a 2-1 lead.  The Rangers' defense was guilty of just standing and watching the play as all 3 of the Wild's forwards were able to put pucks on net before Parise finally buried it.  The Wild would again seem to take their foot off the gas as the veterans on the 3rd line were a bit lazy on the shift, mishandling the puck and it turned into a few quality scoring chances for the Rangers and Kuemper had to bail out his team again on a fine save from in close on Derick Brassard.  Minnesota would counter punch with the modified 2nd line of Niederreiter, Koivu and Moulson and the hard work of Niederreiter led to a great potential opportunity for Moulson in the slot who would lose control of the puck just as he pulled the puck around Girardi.  Minnesota would sit back and wait for the Rangers to attack and shots and scoring chances would pile up as the Wild tried to defend its one goal lead.  New York nearly tied it up off a wide shot by Anton Stralman that was rang off the post by Brad Richards who shot the puck right off the carom.  Kyle Brodziak would make that passive strategy that much more interesting when he cleared a puck into the stands from his knees giving the Rangers a power play with about 3:20 left to play.  On the power play Minnesota again did what they could to protect the middle of the ice and Minnesota would kill it off.  Rangers' Head Coach Alain Vigneault would pull Talbot for an extra attacker towards the tail end of the power play to give his team a brief 2-man advantage but Minnesota would clog up the middle of the ice and circle the wagons around Darcy Kuemper and Minnesota would slide by with a 2-1 victory.  

Kuemper was very solid, making 29 saves in the victory.  The big goaltender seemed a bit calmer than he has in previous nights and he had at least 2 huge saves to bail his club out and got help in the form of 3 saves from the post.  Defensively the Wild were ok, I am not sure I'd say they were great.  Jonas Brodin still is shying away from contact instead of taking the hit to make an important play with the puck.  He was a +2 but teams will continue to exploit that part of his game.  I thought Clayton Stoner was slow and lazy and he wasn't getting a lot of shifts late in the game.  Minnesota needs more from him.  

Offensively the Wild had better performance from its 2nd line once Niederreiter was moved up and Coyle was moved down.  It was a good move because Niederreiter works harder along the boards, controls the puck better and generates more shots and opportunities for his teammates.  The top line found a way to get a goal when the team needed it, but more is needed from them.  They too could benefit from keeping it simple as they did on the play they scored on, a simple drive to the crease which led to secondary chances which ultimately led to the game-winning goal.  Yet the other player that must be mentioned and who I felt was worthy of a star was Erik Haula.  Haula was all over the ice; coming up big at both ends of the ice.  I really would like to see him get a chance in the top 6 someday.  His speed, his skill and versatility is so huge for the Wild.  A few guys that need to pick up their game are vets Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cooke and Dany Heatley who were mostly lazy throughout the game.  Slow to pucks, reactive play really was a sore spot for the Wild.  

This was a huge 2 points for a team that was starting to feel the pressure from those clubs that have been chasing them in the standings.  I would say it was a marginal improvement over Tuesday's disappointment.  I do not like the fact the team decided to sit back and defend a 1-goal lead in the 3rd period.  Minnesota has a real tough challenge this Saturday against Minnesota's expansion sister club in the Columbus Blue Jackets.  The Blue Jackets are playing great right now and are desperate to get back into the post-season.  They are playing like a team with confidence and the Wild must be better than they were tonight if they wish to come away with 2 points in that game, and quite frankly they need those points.  So relish it now Wild, but go back to work and take it to the Blue Jackets.  

Wild Notes:

~ The Wild roster is as follows: Mikko Koivu, Matt Moulson, Charlie Coyle, Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund, Jason Pominville, Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cooke, Nino Niederreiter, Dany Heatley, Erik Haula, Cody McCormick, Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella, Keith Ballard and Clayton Stoner.  Ilya Bryzgalov backed up Darcy Kuemper.  Niklas Backstrom, Mike Rupp, Justin Fontaine and Nate Prosser were the healthy scratches.  

~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by Wild Radio were: 1st Star Mikael Granlund, 2nd Star Darcy Kuemper, 3rd Star Zach Parise

~ Attendance was 18,885 at Xcel Energy Center.

Iowa Wild Report:

Recent Score:  Iowa 3, Milwaukee 2

In a game strangely similar to one the Wild had played on Tuesday, Iowa would jump out to a 3-0 lead in the 1st period against Milwaukee.  Brett Bulmer scored unassisted to get things started for the Wild.  Then Iowa would strike twice on the power play as Zack Phillips and Stephane Veilleux helped give the Wild a 3-0 advantage.  At this point the Wild would put the game into cruise control and Milwaukee did all they could to claw back into the game.  The Admirals would finally get on the board in the middle of the 2nd period as Miikka Salomaki found the twine behind Johan Gustafsson to make it 3-1.  The Wild would hold Milwaukee at bey the rest of the period.  Milwaukee would really make the Wild feel anxious midway through the 3rd when former Wisconsin Badgers defenseman Joe Piskula hammered a slap shot from the point that beat Gustafsson to cut the lead to one.  Yet unlike Minnesota, Iowa was able to withstand Iowa's late game surge to earn a 3-2 victory.  Gustafsson had 26 saves in the victory.  

Wild Prospect Report:

C – Brady Brassart (Calgary, WHL) ~ The Vernon, British Columbia-native's big night helped propel the Hitmen to a 5-3 victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Tuesday.  Brassart chipped in 3 assists including one on the game winning goal.  The 6'2", 196lbs center has 49 assists and 83 points to go along with 94 PIM's and a +13 rating over the course of 68 games played this season. 

D – Mathew Dumba (Portland, WHL) ~ The Wild's blue chip defenseman prospect was clutch for the Winterhawks on Tuesday night, tallying the game-tying goal en route to a 3-2 overtime win over a tough Tri-City Americans squad.  The Calgary-native has 6 goals, 18 points and 37 PIM's to go along with a +23 rating in 24 games played this season. 

RW – Kurtis Gabriel (Owen Sound, OHL) ~ The rugged power forward helped the attack rally back from a 1-0 deficit as he set up Kyle Hope's game-tying goal.  Hope would add one more in the 3rd period to give Owen Sound a 2-1 victory over the Plymouth Whalers.  Gabriel has 34 assists, 48 points and 95 PIM's to go along with a +3 rating through 58 games played this sesaon.  

C – Anthony Hamburg (RIT, Atlantic) ~ It was a disappointing end of the season for the Phoenix, Arizona-native who spent it as a healthy scratch for the Tigers' first round match up against Holy Cross.  The Crusaders won the best of three series as they won 3-2 in overtime to end RIT's season.  'Poppa Hammer' as the college junior calls himself had pretty modest totals of 2 goals, no assists and 4 PIM's in 22 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!

Defensive breakdowns burn Wild in 3-2 home loss to the Rangers

Wild vs. Rangers

The sports journalism world lost a treasure when it lost Bert Sugar to cardiac arrest on Monday.  Sugar was known as an opinionated historian of the sport of boxing.  He was both old school and classic at the same time.  He covered the greatest of the sport including Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and Joe Frazier.  His ability to both describe the action and create poetry with the word is something you don’t see nearly as much in today’s sports journalist.  Sugar’s ability to recall and connect modern and boxers from the past was unparalleled.  In the hockey world, perhaps its ‘Bert Sugar’ is broadcaster and journalist known to many as ‘The Hockey Maven’ Stan Fischler.  Fischler stays active on the Madison Square Garden Network where he provides analysis as well as interviews hockey figures in his own classic style for New York Islanders, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils games.  ‘The Hockey Maven’ loves to reminice about the old days at Madison Square Garden where he first fell in love with the sport of hockey in 1939.  His love of the game comes through in his interviews, and his broad perspective of the past and present makes him unique in his ability to truly compare the great players of yesterday to the great players of today.  Some may find Fischler’s anecdotes antiquated but all too often people see new players and call them innovative only to find out someone else long before had thought of and implemented the same thing. 

Stan Fischler  ‘The Hockey Maven’ Stan Fischler

I’ve been known to pull off a pretty good Stan Fischler impression along with a not too bad Don Cherry but still accept no substitutes.  The Wild’s playoff chances officially fizzled away in their 3-0 loss to a desperate Washington Capitals’ squad on Sunday.  So the team officially has nothing to play for other than pride.  So is pride enough for this team to pull off a big upset of the top team in the Eastern Conference, the New York Rangers? 

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Josh Harding

1st Period Thoughts:  Throughout the last few games I’ve been quite impressed with the effort from the Wild’s 4th line of Jed Ortmeyer, Warren Peters and Stephane Veilleux.  Will they ever be a major force offensively?  No, but their work ethic is outstanding but what you’d expect from 3 guys trying to prove they deserve NHL jobs somewhere.  It was no surprise to me that their hustle and hard work would yield Minnesota’s first quality scoring chance as Peters set up Ortmeyer for a quick shot that was fought off by Henrik Lundqvist.  Unfortunately most the other lines looked indifferent and out of sync as they were creating needless turnovers on passes that bordered on befuddling.  It was one of these poor plays of the puck that yielded a turnover that was pounced upon by Marian Gaborik who raced into the Wild zone and he unleased a heavy wrist shot that had more zip than most Minnesota players’ slap shots that was kicked out by Josh Harding.  As Gaborik fought to chip a backhander on the big rebound he was hauled down by Marco Scandella giving the Rangers their first power play of the game.  On the power play the Rangers confidently moved the puck around as they set up Michael del Zotto for a few rockets from the point that didn’t miss by much.  Minnesota would get a break as tricky shot by Brad Richards turned into a little flurry in the blue paint that where Harding clearly didn’t have control of the puck but because NHL referee Gord Dwyer couldn’t see it he blew the whistle just as the puck tapped in by Derek Stepan.  New York would persist and a point shot by Anton Stralman pinballed its way towards the bluepaint where Harding tried to keep it out as Brandon Dubinsky hacked away at it.  Four Wild players converged near Harding; Nate Prosser, Steven Kampfer, Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley but they only seemed interested in stuffing the puck underneath Harding so when Brandon Dubinsky‘s shot struck the left post and then moved parallel along the goal line no one was there to keep Brian Boyle from jamming it in, 1-0 Rangers.  Minnesota thought it had a chance as Marc Staal fanned on a pass that went right to the stick of Heately who moved in but by the time the puck settled on the ice all he could manage was a weak shot that was easily absorbed by Lundqvist.  Minnesota was trying to counteract the Rangers physical play with some of their own by Devin Setoguchi would sit in the sin bin for two minutes for boarding.  The Rangers were not able to do much with the man advantage and the Wild would intercept a pass that Stephane Veilleux tried to skate down the puck but he had little time and space to do much with it but he gave a centering pass that just failed to click with a crashing Cal Clutterbuck.  The Rangers would counter attack and in the process the Wild would get tagged with a ‘too many men’ penalty and Minnesota finished the period on the penalty kill.  Gord Dwyer had called all 3 penalties on the Wild and he was hearing it both from the bench and team captain Mikko Koivu.  With the Wild having yielded 3 Rangers’ power plays it was no shock they were out shooting Minnesota 13-6.  Minnesota’s defenseman were absolutely atrocious in that period; and overall the execution left a lot to be desired as Wild players were bumping into each other far too frequently for this late stage in the season.  

2nd Period Thoughts:  Minnesota would kill off the minute left of power play time without giving up too much in the way of offensive chances.  The best one coming off the stick of Brian Boyle who fired a wrist shot that was steered aside by Harding.  The Wild finally drew a penalty as Steven Kampfer took a run at Boyle who was nearly a foot taller than him but Boyle lifted a puck into the seats for a delay of game call.  Minnesota would send out its 2nd power play unit and the group seemed to suffer from a lack of creativity as they moved the puck from the halfwall back out to the point where Steven Kampfer hammered a slapper that struck Ryan McDonagh in the boot that had him a little gimpy afterwards.  The Wild were persistent, a failed clearing attempt by Derek Stepan ended up on the stick of Kampfer who worked the puck down to the halfwall where Cal Clutterbuck moved it to Kyle Brodziak camped out near the crease and he turned and flicked a quick shot that snuck through Lundqvist to tie the game at 1-1.  The goal seemed to give the team a little extra boost and the modified 2nd/3rd line of Chad Rau, Erik Christensen and Cal Clutterbuck caused a little havoc in the offensive zone as Christensen repeatedly tried to moved the puck towards the crease where Clutterbuck was waiting for an opportunity to try to bang it home.  Unfortunately he never got the chance.  A few minutes later the Rangers would re-take the lead as some poor defensive zone coverage (go figure) by Clayton Stoner would give Marian Gaborik a gift of a forehand opportunity that he fired at a sharp angle by Harding to make it 2-1 Rangers to a small serenade of boo’s from the home crowd and then an even louder amount of boo’s when the goal was announced.  A few minutes later, the Wild’s 4th line would try to get things rolling as Stephane Veilleux ripped a slapper on goal that was stopped and pounced on by Warren Peters who was hauled down before he could pull the trigger and Veilleux gathered up the loose puck for a wrist shot that was stopped by Lundqvist.  Ortmeyer tried to jam the rebound home but the officials blew the play dead as Lundqvist got control of the puck and Minnesota would be given a power play as Staal earned a minor for interference.  Minnesota would again capitalize on the power play as the Wild moved the puck very effectively and it was a nice backdoor pass by Dany Heatley to Koivu for a one timer that just got by the outstretched arm of Lundqvist to tie the game at 2-2.  The Wild would help the Rangers’ cause by giving them another power play as Warren Peters was given a minor for hooking.  Minnesota’s penalty killers were strong and the Rangers never really threatened on the power play and the Wild would go into the 2nd intermission tied at two.  The Wild out shot New York 13-9 in the period.    

3rd Period Thoughts:  The Wild would dodge a bullet early as a Rangers shot bounced along the ice and past Harding but struck the left post before it was swept aside by an alert Dany Heatley.  The Rangers seemed to have a little more spark in their legs and they continued to threaten in the Wild zone.  Ryan Callahan got some speed going through the neutral zone and he nearly was able to motor around Clayton Stoner but his weak shot was held onto by Harding.  Marian Gaborik was rubbed out on the boards by a nice check by Marco Scandella that drew a healthy cheer from the home crowd.  A few minutes later the Wild finally established some sustained offense as the top line swarmed in the Rangers’ zone and Devin Setoguchi found himself denied twice in consecutive shots.  Minnesota would also set up some big blasts from the point that had Lundqvist guessing a bit.  The strong shift was followed up by another one where Marco Scandella ripped a wrister that was stopped and held by Lundqvist.  The Wild continued to attack and Kyle Brodziak and the 3rd line set up a point shot for Scandella that Lundqvist lunged to stop.  New York was patient and they’d counter attack and Ryan McDonagh set up Ruslan Fedotenko for an easy tap in goal as he got lost by the Wild’s defense (Nate Prosser) who got caught watching McDonagh pinch deep in the Wild zone.  3-2 Rangers.  The goal brought a level of anxiety and furstration to the home crowd.  The 4th line tried to provide some energy as Ortmeyer carried it in deep but they were not able to create anything offensively and time steadily started to slip away from the Wild.  The Rangers would start to sit back in a slightly aggressive 1-2-2 and Minnesota had great difficulty carrying the puck out of their zone and they would waste valuable time just trying to work the puck into the New York end.  Minnesota would pull Harding for an extra attacker but the Wild couldn’t manage much apart from a few bombs from the point by Kurtis Foster that Lundqvist would stop and the Rangers would take away a 3-2 victory. 

Josh Harding played well enough, stopping 29 shots in the loss.  I thought Harding was solid enough, playing his angles well but it were breakdowns near him that were completely out of his control.  Nate Prosser losing track of Fedotenko, or 4 Wild players standing around Harding while the puck was sitting on the goal line are not his fault.  The only defenseman that played well tonight was Marco Scandella; the rest were somewhere between just ok and blech.  Mostly blech. 

Offensively the Wild did something they hadn’t done since December 10th, and that was scoring 2 power play goals.  For the most part it was not from anything spectacular but through persistence and keeping it simple by working the puck to the scoring areas of the ice.  I am not sure if this team will win another game this season but if guys want to pad stats they should follow that formula of working the puck towards the blue paint and just jam at it and hope for some ugly goals. 

(sigh)  It gets tiring covering loss after loss but what can you do?  The effort wasn’t too bad as a whole but defensively it is tough watching the poor ‘D’ coverage cost the team goals.  I know there have been lots of different faces playing back there, but this group has more or less been intact as a group for 10 games or so now.  You’d think you’d start to show some improvement but the breakdowns persist.  Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said it best, “It angers you, I’m not a very good mood right now and we just give ’em a freebie, its a 2-2 game, we don’t do the right thing and we give them a tap in, it can’t happen.”  I agree wholeheartedly.  He added, “that’s too bad, because we had a lot of good efforts and at that point I felt we were in control of the game, special teams were great but we weren’t good enough in front of our net.”  Again, I can’t disagree with anything he said.  Hopefully they play better on Thursday. 

Wild Notes:

~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Warren Peters, Jed Ortmeyer, Stephane Veilleux, Erik Christensen, Chad Rau, Kyle Brodziak, Nick Johnson, Cal Clutterbuck, Clayton Stoner, Tom Gilbert, Steven Kampfer, Nate Prosser, Kurtis Foster and Marco Scandella.  Niklas Backstrom backed up Josh Harding.  Justin Falk, Matt Kassian, Matt Cullen and Jared Spurgeon were the healthy scratches. 

~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by the fans were: 1st Star Ryan McDonagh, 2nd Star Marco Scandella, 3rd Star Kyle Brodziak

~ Attendance was 17,880 at Xcel Energy Center.

Houston Aeros Report:

Jarod Palmer  Houston Aeros’ Jarod Palmer

It was a disastrous weekend for the Houston Aeros, who lost all 3 games in their weekend road trip against Rockford and Chicago respectively.  Like the Wild, the Aeros have dealt with a huge host of injuries but with the injury woes continuing in Minnesota that has continued to put strain on their farm club with call ups.  This has been most notable between the pipes where Matt Hackett has more or less spent the better part of the month up in Minnesota filling in for an injured Niklas Backstrom.  The Aeros thought they’d be ok but Darcy Kuemper injured his shoulder and is undergoing surgery to fix it; and the replacement Bemidji’s Joe Fallon got hurt late in the Aeros loss to Rockford Friday night.  So now the Aeros goaltender is Scott Greenham.  Greenham did reasonably well in his two starts on Saturday and Sunday but he got virtually no goal support; as the Aeros managed to score just once in each of those games.  Remarkably, the Aeros sit in 5th place in an incredibly tight Western Conference where the stand just one game above a 4 way tie for 6th between Charlotte, Rochester, San Antonio and Peoria.  This means the Aeros probably have to win the rest of their games if the expect to make the playoffs.  The Wild are counting on the Aeros to qualify for the post-season so younger prospects who have recently completed junior and college hockey seasons have some extra time to hone their game at the AHL level.  It was the Aeros’ run through the AHL playoffs that served as a valuable training ground for players like Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella, Nate Prosser, Matt Hackett and others that have allowed them to help as well as they have this season.  I am sure the news that Hackett was returning brought a huge sigh of relief for a team that sorely needs it. 

Wild Prospect Report:

Tyler Graovac  Ottawa 67’s Tyler Graovac

C – Tyler Graovac (Ottawa, OHL) ~ I think Ottawa is getting a little more than it bargained for when it was paired off against Belleville.  The Bulls are not just rolling over as many expected and it has made for a spirited series.  The 6’4″, 190lbs Graovac had a goal in the 67’s 4-3 overtime loss on Sunday. 

C – Mikael Granlund (HIFK Helsinki, Sm-Liiga) ~ The Wild’s top prospect has found the Sm-Liiga playoffs a bit more difficult than the regular season as HIFK Helsinki battles its arch-rival Jokerit.  Granlund has just 2 assists in 3 games thus far and is a -1.  HIFK Helsinki finds itself on the brink of elimination as they trail Jokerit 3-0 in the series.  If his team loses out, I would (and all Wild fans) hope Minnesota looks to sign Granlund immediately to save us from a lot of unnecessary contract drama through the summer. 

G – Dennis Endras (HIFK Helsinki, Sm-Liiga) ~ Endras is playing reasonably well for HIFK, but not well enough as Jokerit has managed to shut down HIFK’s offense.  The Immenstadt, Germany-native has been between the pipes for all 3 of HIFK’s games, sporting a 2.46 goals against average and a .928% save percentage. 

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!