Mar 5, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Minnesota Wild center Mikko Koivu (9) during the second period against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Minnesota Wild face the Chicago Blackhawks tonight at the Xcel Energy Center. With just 10 games left in the season, these are the games I live for, a talented Wild team taking on one of the best teams in the NHL. The Wild enter play tonight 13-4-1 on home ice and holding the 6th seed in the Western Conference. Their 46 points trail Vancouver by 4 for the lead in the Northwest Division. Tonight is the start of a critical 3 game home stand for Minnesota. They need to keep pace and gain points if they are to have any hope of home ice advantage for the 1st round of the playoffs. Something that surprises no hockey fan is that the Blackhawks have become the first team to officially clinch a postseason berth. They beat Nashville Sunday to do that and win their fourth in five games. Chicago is a probable lock for the Central Division title and top seed in the Western Conference. The Wild are coming off an impressive 3-0 shutout win in Columbus Sunday evening and took Monday off in order to be rested for the Blackhawks tonight.
The Wild lineup will be the same as in Columbus. Matt Cullen remains out, but is said to be closer to returning. Dany Heatley is undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder today. That was the shoulder dislocated when Marc-Edouard Vlasic pile drove Heatley to the ice at the end of the game in San Jose. The forward lines for tonight will be:
Defensively the Wild will be keeping Falk and Prosser in and the vets Brett Clark and Tom Gilbert scratched. It’s a nice luxury to have 8 healthy NHL defensemen this time of the season. The D-pairs for tonight will be:
Tonight will be a battle in front of a loud sold out arena. The Wild are going to need another good, quick start like they had in Columbus. The first goal is going to be critical in this game. Back in Jan the Wild became the first team in the NHL to beat Chicago, winning 3-2 in a shootout. Goal tender Niklas Backstrom is 5-7-1 with a 2.78 GAA, a .915 Save % and one shutout in 14 games against the Blackhawks. He is also the NHL leader in wins this season with 20. Chicago will counter with either Corey Crawford (15-4-4) or Ray Emery (14-1-0) Crawford sports a 2.02 GAA,and a .922 save %. Emery is nearly identical with a 2.01 GAA and a .920 %. Now that’s a two headed goalie monster. Special teams are going to make or break this game for both teams. The Wild’s power play is deadly when it’s working well, the same goes for the penalty kill the Wild rank 13th in the league in both categories. I don’t see this as a high scoring affair tonight with that first goal being critical as I previously said. OT and a shootout are quite possible tonight as well. GonePuckWild.com will be back after the game with a full recap and analysis. Until then this is Scott Drain yelling, “LET’S GO WILD!!”
Scott is huge fan of the Minnesota WILD!! Ex-Radio personality, aspiring writer, married for 16 yrs. to another Wild fan and caretaker of 3 dogs and 3 cats. Also fan of Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Cardinals, MN Twins, MN Swarm, MN Vikings. When at home can usually be found watching NHL Network or FSNorth.