The Minnesota Wild take on the Colorado Avalanche tonight at the Xcel Energy Center. Minnesota is coming off a tough loss to Anaheim on Tuesday and is looking to bounce back in a big way tonight. This is a start of a home and home series, damn I love these! Apparently the Avalanche see this as a chance to gain some ground on the Wild in the Western Conference. I see this as a chance for the Wild to beat them into submission, take the two points and go to the Pepsi Center and eat their lunch their as well. This is the third meeting of the year for the the two teams. The first was a 4-2 Wild win on opening night Jan. 19 and the second a 4-3 shootout win for Colorado on Valentine’s Day. Colorado is winless on their last 6 road games and sits in last place in the Western Conference. Really, you’re gonna come swaggering into the “X” and expect points there? The Wild currently hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the west. Minnesota did just about everything right, except score on Tuesday. They’ve been playing hard, out-shooting and out-chancing opponents. They have also gone 6-4-0 in their last 10 games. There has been some inconsistency in their play as of late with a 3-3 record in the month of March. That is something the Wild are attempting to rectify with the signing of defenseman Brett Clark. He is a veteran with 681 games over 13 NHL seasons with Montreal, Atlanta, Colorado and Tampa Bay. The 6-foot, 195-pound Clark was signed as a free agent on a 1 year prorated $900,000 deal. He totaled 17 points (1 g, 16 a) in 18 games with the Oklahoma City Barons in the AHL this season. Clark will bring some more internal competition to the Wild’s defense corps for sure. He will be a scratch for tonight but could be in the lineup on Saturday. I like the addition. He’s a vet with experience in all situations including the playoffs. He can play the power play, that’s an area the Wild struggled in on Tuesday. Struggled is the most polite term I could come up with for the last games power plays. But I digress.
The bottom dwelling Avalanche are last with just 24 points on the season and a dismal 3-4-3 record over their last 10 games. They have gotten 1 serious weapon back into their lineup though. Captain Gabriel Landeskog is back in the lineup and to say the Colorado team has missed his leadership and offensive output is a vast understatement. The Avalanche rank last in the league in shots allowed at 32.2 per game. This is good for the Wild who sometimes pass more than they shoot. Sometimes the Wild pas and pass up shots when they should shoot. Then they pass a little more looking for a certain play or shot instead of taking a shot when a lane or chance presents itself. The Av’s have been scoring a little more overall than the Wild with a 2.44 to a 2.24 goals per game average, both rank in the bottom third of the league. In the goals against category Minnesota ranks seventh with a 2.40 goals against average while Colorado is nearly a 1/2 goal worse at 2.88 good for 21st in the NHL. To put is simply SHOOT WILD, SHOOT THE DAMN PUCK!
The Wild will be without the services of Jason Zucker tonight. He’s still recovering from the suspension worthy, cheap, illegal, viscous, blind side hit from the Ducks Corey Perry. Perry is suspended for 4 game for the late hit. This means Pierre-Marc Bouchard gets back into the lineup after being a scratch for the last three games. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo wants to see Bouchard playing hard tonight, taking some chances and being his creative, puck-wizard self of old. This is a big chance for Bouchard, who’s days with the Wild may be numbered based on his performance this season. He will be skating on the line with Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi. The top line of Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle will be the same. That leaves the lines of Dany Heatley-Kyle Brodziak-Cal Clutterbuck and Torrey Mitchell-Zenon Konopka-Mike Rupp. The defensive pairings will remain the same as Tuesday. Those are Ryan Suter with rookie sensation Jonas Bordin, Jared Spurgeon with Clayton Stoner, and Justin Falk with Tom Gilbert. The wild are going to have to be solid defensively tonight, aggressive offensively and physical throughout. They played two great periods Tuesady then let is slip away in the third. They have a great chance to take two points not only from the last place team in the Western Conference but a divisional rival as well. The Av’s are hungry and the Wild need a quick start to gain momentum and shut down the visitors, hard and fast. two points are there for the taking. Go get ‘em boys. GonePuckWild will be back after the game with a recap and analysis. Until thenthis is Scott Drain saying LET’S GO WILD!!