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Best of Hockey Unplugged - October 26

by Kevin Falness / Minnesota Wild
Hockey Unplugged is an event that Wild players and fans look forward to throughout the season. Unplugged host Kevin Falness engages in an always-entertaining Question & Answer period with two players, which is then followed by an autograph session. Already, we’ve got two Unpluggeds under our belt, and it featured two fan favorites: Matt Cullen and Greg Zanon. Those two veterans appeared at Jimmy's in Vadnais Heights, and here’s the best of what they had to say:

For the entire audio recap, click here.

KF: Did you guys know each other before becoming teammates here in Minnesota?

MC: No, we sit next to each other in the locker room and we’ve become pretty close. I shared the flu bug with him recently. So we went through that together and that was nice.

KF: Blocking a shot or scoring a goal – which do you prefer?

GZ: Since I don’t score many goals I will have to take blocking shots. Scoring goals doesn’t hurt as much so I’d like to score more, but I don’t think it’s going to happen so I’ll take blocking shots.

KF: How about for you Matt, of the ten different things that might happen to you over the course of a game, where does blocking a shot rank?

MC: (without hesitation) Tenth, by far.  Put scoring goals at the top and getting hit by a shot, because I don’t block shots, I get hit by them, at the bottom.

KF: How exactly does one go about becoming a “shot blocking specialist?” Is there something special that you have to do to prepare for that role?

GZ: I think I’m just prepared in knowing that it’s going to happen. There’s not much I do. I’m pretty well protected although there are still some bare spots I just hope that I don’t get hit in.

The hardest I’ve been hit was when I was with Nashville, and playing here I got hit twice by Zidlicky. I couldn’t walk the next day.

KF: How about the numbers game? Greg, last year you were #6, then you come into this season wearing #5. We’re you just trying to stick it to Kim Johnsson?

GZ: No (laughs). I’ve worn #5 since my first year in juniors and had to take a different number when I came here because Kimmy was here at the time. Now that he’s gone, I went back to what I know.

KF: Was it ever something you approached Johnsson about?

GZ: No, he definitely had more games than I did, and he was a veteran guy in the league so there was no question about it. I was #6 in my first year in Milwaukee (AHL), and it was available, so I took it. It just so happens that (Johnsson) got moved, and the #5 became available so I made the switch back over.

KF: How about for you Matt, you sign here over the summer as a free agent. How did you land on the #7 despite Clayton Stoner filling that jersey at the end of last season?

MC: July 1st when I signed they called and asked me what number I wanted and I said #7. Being out in the East, you don’t follow the teams in the west as closely. I didn’t know that Clayton had worn #7. I asked if #7 was available because that was my number in high school at Moorhead and they said yes.  They must’ve talked to him, and sorted it out.

KF: When it comes to the shootout, how do you decide what you’re going to do?

MC: Everyone does it a little different. There are some guys that just come and do whatever they feel like. For me, I usually have one move or shot in my head that I want to do and then a back up if that’s not there. I usually like to have something in my head because it’s too easy to get caught up in the nerves and excitement of the moment, so I like to come up with a plan.

KF: There’s 18 skaters on the roster each game. How many rounds does the shootout have to go before #5 gets a turn?

GZ: For me, the first thing I do when the shootout comes up is hand my stick to the trainers so I don’t have to hold it while I’m standing there cheering for my teammates and hoping we win. It would have to get deep. I just hope it never gets that deep.

KF: There’s a chill in the air, and that means that winter is about to be upon us. Are you ready?

GZ: Last year was my first winter in four years and I spent most nights in my backyard walking my daughters up and down the hill because they couldn’t walk in all the snow. So we’d sled down and then I would carry both of them back up. We also have a pond in the neighborhood that the people take care of. Getting them out on the ice every opportunity that they wanted to get out there and teaching them how to skate were some of the best times last winter, for sure.

MC: I’m kind of similar to “Z,” I’ve had one winter in my entire career and it was when I was in New York. Otherwise, I’ve been in warm weather climates. I’m planning on spending a lot of time pulling the kids up and down the hill and I’m actually going to try and build a backyard rink this year. I’m not a real handy guy, so I could end up flooding the house but I’m going to try. My four year old is skating now so I want to be able to get him out, and hopefully spend some time on the outdoor rink.

KF: How are you going to build it? What framework are you working with?

MC: Pretty basic. I have a hose, so far. (laughs)

Be sure to join the Wild for the next Hockey Unplugged on Tuesday, November 9th at Park Tavern in St. Louis Park, from 7-9PM with Niklas Backstrom and Antti Miettinen.
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