The Minnesota Wild are set to take on the Montreal Canadiens tonight in Montreal, and they’ll have a little support from 15 friends and family members that have come to watch Wild defenseman Marco Scandella play against his hometown team. I’m sure there will be a few other Minnesota fans in attendance, as well.
This is the second and final meeting between the two teams this season. Minnesota hosted the Habs back on November 2nd at Xcel Energy Center, snapping the team’s three-game winning streak with 4-3 win and sending them into a 2-3-2 spiral leading up to tonight’s rematch. Minnesota, on the other hand, boasts a last-10 record of 8-1-1, and has collected points in 12 of the past 13 games (10-1-2) including eight straight (7-0-1). The Wild’s 13-4-4 record and 30 points currently has them sitting just two points behind the division-leading Chicago Blackhawks. Montreal sits fifth in the Atlantic with a 10-9-2 record and 22 points.
Tonight is the battle between likely Team Canada Olympics starter Carey Price (7-8-2, but an impressive 2.05 goals against average, .936 save percentage and a shutout) and potential dark horse and anybody-with-a-heart’s favorite Josh Harding (12-2-2, 1.25 goals against average, .946 save percentage and two shutouts). Montreal games always draw a lot of attention, which is natural for one of the largest hockey markets in the world, and this could be the perfect place for Harding to establish himself as the clear-cut choice for Canada between the pipes.
Speaking of attention, Wild captain Mikko Koivu picked the perfect time to go into beast mode. Koivu would score both Wild goals in a 2-1 victory over the division-rival Winnipeg Jets on Sunday night with both Jari Kurri, Finland’s national team GM, and head coach Erkka Westerlund in attendance. There’s no question the younger Koivu brother asserted himself as a legitimate candidate for captain of Team Finland.
According to Westerlund, Koivu’s only other rival for the captaincy…is another Koivu. That would be his older brother Saku, who has traditionally worn the Finnish “C” in most tournaments since 1998. However, at 39, the elder Koivu brother is close to retirement, and Mikko has risen to the top of Finland’s elite, leading his country to gold at the 2011 World Championships as captain. Then-coach Jukka Jalonen reaffirmed his value and role to the team saying, “this was Mikko Koivu’s team.” And so it could be once more.
It should be an exciting game tonight. Minnesota is having the best start to the season they’ve ever had. The team has big names from around the league–Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Ryan Suter and Mikko Koivu–and a rising crop of ultra talented youngsters that are ready to join them as fulltime NHL stars in the not too distant future. Wild GM Chuck Fletcher has set this team up to be a serious Cup contender for a long time to come, and Minnesota fans are just seeing the first-fruits of what’s in store.
Remember, tonight’s game starts at 6:30 p.m. CT.