In the State of Hockey, it’s hard to forget how fantastic Game 3 was Tuesday night.
It was a close game for 40 minutes until some highlight reel goals gave Minnesota the momentum to surge towards a 4-0 win. We have a series on our hands now, folks.
Sure, that’s swell and all, but on the morning of Game 4, it’s time to forget whatever happened earlier in the week and leave it all out on the ice once again as if the season was on the line.
“We played a good game in Game 3, we did what we wanted to do,” Keith Ballard said. “I think we’ve got more. Winning that game doesn’t do much for tonight. You’ve got to start over and do it again. It got the series to 2-1 and we’ve got a chance here at home to even it up, but aside from that, every one starts over.”
With a chance to even the series tonight, the Wild did prove Tuesday night that it isn’t simply going to roll over for the defending Stanley Cup Champions; it can hang with the big boys.
Chicago is known as a fast, skilled team but the Wild has started to show the rest of the League just what it’s capable of.
“I don’t want to discredit them at all, they’re a very good transition team with high-end speed and skill, but I think we’re right in that mix too,” Ballard said. “I think we get labeled as a boring, defensive team. But we play a percentage game and I think at this time of year, that’s what you have to do.”
For tonight, the Wild once again looks to dictate matters on the ice and grab momentum. This postseason, Minnesota is 4-1 when scoring first while Chicago is 6-0.
“There’s not a lot of carry over from game to game,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “You can’t come into the game and just expect things to pick up where they were. That confidence is something we strive to build over the course of the game. We know that we have to be ready for whatever but at the same time we want to try and steer the game in the direction that we want it to go.”
If you missed the news all week or haven’t been counting down the days, tonight marks Matt Cooke’s return to the lineup after serving a seven-game suspension for his hit on Tyson Barrie in Game 3 of the First Round.
Today, Cooke said he’s been ready to go ever since the start of the suspension and is looking forward to getting back on the ice to battle with his teammates.
“I don’t think it’s any different,” Cooke said of getting ready for tonight. “You go out and prepare yourself to play the way I have the last three years. Not much changes for me. Obviously it’s playoffs and emotions are high, the crowd’s going to be great. We’ve got to go out and create energy for our team. I think that that’s something I can help out with.”
The veteran Cooke will join two speedy rookies, Erik Haula and Justin Fontiane, on the third line, while Matt Moulson gets the night off with a lower-body injury. Cooke lauded Haula’s consistent effort against top lines this postseason, noting his speed, competitiveness and his skill — which he believes probably goes unnoticed.
While serving his suspension Cooke was like the rest of us watching the game — knot in the pit of your stomach, hands wringing, adrenaline pumping so hard your heart feels like it’s on the edge of bursting.
“I’ve got a lot of praise for the guys in this room,” Cooke said. “They’ve done a great job battling with adversity, up in games, down in games, tough travel — they’ve done a great job and I’m just thankful that I get a chance to go out and play with them again.”
With Cooke back in, Yeo believes he brings a little more balance back to the lineup.
“They’re looking for a little defensive responsibility plus some offense from every line and I think we have that right now,” Yeo said. “Obviously we have the last change here but at the same time I’m comfortable with any line going out there and playing against any one of their lines.”
Naturally, fans should get to Xcel Energy Center early tonight for a pregame party. Because what’s a Wild home playoff game without one?
From 5-8 p.m. at Gate 2, fans can enjoy a live DJ, pig roast, happy hour prices and NHL alumni autographs.