Today, the Minnesota Wild face the Detroit Red Wings at the Xcel Energy Center. The Wild are coming off a disappointing loss to Colorado on Thursday, in which they coughed up a lead in the third period. The Red Wings come in on a two game losing streak, during which they have surrendered 9 goals. That could bode well for offensively-challenged Minnesota, who snapped a streak of 6 one-goal games (in regulation) with a three goal outburst in Thursday’s loss. Zach Parise scored his first goal in five games, and continues to look strong on the puck with linemates Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley.
Two new rookies will be in the lineup tonight. Johan Larsson will be making his NHL debut tonight, getting the call along with Jason Zucker. Larsson and Zucker were called up after Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Justin Falk fell ill–who hasn’t had a bout with a cold or flu this year? The 21-year old Zucker leads the Houston Aeros in scoring with 19 goals and 22 assists. Larsson has 27 points this season with Houston. Goaltender Josh Harding remains on IR status, as his doctors work on his medications for the treatment of his MS. Cal Clutterbuck will most likely play tonight, after taking a stick to the eye area that caused him double vision during the Colorado game. He only skated three shifts in the second period after being injured in the first. Falk’s illness also gets Elk River, MN native Nate Prosser back in the lineup.
The Wild did not skate this morning with the early 5pm puck drop. The callups and illness have thrown lines 2-3-4 into flux. We can be sure the top line of Heatley, Koivu and Parise will remain intact. Beyond that, Head Coach Mike Yeo will be patching things together as game time approaches. Niklas Backstrom will get the start in goal, hoping to rebound from Thursday’s loss. The Wild are 5-4-2 with Backy in net this season.
Detroit counters with rookie goaltender Petr Mrazek who has looked great in the AHL and is 1-0-0 for the big club. Injuries are a factor for Detroit this season, as Johan Franzen (hip), Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder), Pavel Datsyuk (shoulder), Mikael Samuelsson (groin), and Jonas Gustavsson (groin) are day-to-day for Detroit. Toad Bertuzzi, (I know it’s Todd) is out indefinitely with a back injury, as is Darren Helm. Brendan Smith is nursing a shoulder injury. It is unfortunate that Bertuzzi, the player most hated by Wild fans, won’t be able to be jeered and boo’d tonight. It’s probably time that thug retires, as he should have been forced to years ago.
The keys for the Wild tonight include a fast start, scoring on the power play and limiting the Red Wing’s chances. Slow starts have doomed the Wild recently, so, hopefully, a couple of restful days at home will have helped. The Wild have to score; they are ranked 29th in the league with a pitiful 2.0 goals per game average. Excellent goal tending has allowed Minnesota to steal some wins thus far this season. The defense is going to have to clog up the neutral zone, and limit turnovers, if they hope to slow down Detroit’s potent offense. Moving the puck out of the defensive zone quickly, and getting it in behind the Red Wing defenders, is key to jump starting the Wild offense.
It is Hockey Day Across America today, and the Wild is giving all fans in attendance a commemorative puck. The game starts at 5pm CST. The Minnesota Wild’s equipment manager, Tony DaCosta, tweeted earlier that fans should wear their green Wild jerseys today. Gone Puck Wild will be back after the game with a full game wrap-up. LET’S GO WILD!!