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How's it goin', eh State of Hockey legion? Welcome to Wild.com in-game commentary presented by the upstanding folks at Sun Country Airlines. I am coming to you live from the press box/catwalk at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta. I've been here since Monday morning to cover the final week of the World Junior Championships, and I'm still here. When I started spelling "defense" with a "c" instead of an "s" and I typed "Xcel Energy Center" with an "re" I realized I've been here too long. Calgary is a lovely city, but I'm ready to get back to the State of Hockey where the hot dish flows like slow-moving lava.
But before I get on that air machine headed Southeast, I've got some writing to do, particularly about this Minnesota Wild tilt with the Calgary Flames. I've spent a week watching some kids play for their respective countries, but tonight, our boys are playing for two yoooooge points in the Western Conference. They're also playing for Jack "Jabs" Jablonski, and they'll have his #13 hanging on the bench tonight. Word has it that "Jabs" moves his arms today, which is about the best news we could have heard today.
This one is going to require some old-fashioned grit. The guys are going to have to get mean and get dirty, and I'd encourage you to do the same at home. If someone talks to you as you're reading tonight's commentary, you snap at them with a "You be quiet right now, ya heard!" That will shut them up and we can get back to the business at hand.
The Flames are going to be angry as well. They just got embarassed by the Boston Bruins on Thursday night by a 9-0 score. That will mean we've got to have our best, and that's why Niklas Backstrom
is getting the start in goal tonight. I could literally drop a water bottle from my spot in this press box and hit Backstrom in the noggin...but I won't because we need this win.
The Wild will not have Pierre-Marc Bouchard
in the lineup tonight. He's got a lower body issue that he's dealing with. Mike Lundin
and Justin Falk
will be the healthy scratches. Jarod Palmer
(upper body) and Guillaume Latendresse
(concussion) will be following their teammates tonight on the in-game commentary. What up fellas?
As for attire, the Wild will go with the road whites for tonight's contest. The Flames are sporting their home reds trimmed in black, gold and white with the burning "C" on the chest.
A lengthy ceremony to honor Olli Jokinen and his 1,000th game accomplishment is complete. Let's hope that's the only achievement we honor tonight, and not a certain Flames forward who is one goal away from 500.Period 317:58 - MIN 0 - CGY 1 - The Flames finally solve Backstrom, and the Wild will now have to rally. Stempniak enters the zone and fires a high shot on goal. Backstrom makes the blocker stop, but the puck pops into the slot where Lance Buoma slaps at it and knocks it past a diving Backstrom.
16:48 - We very nearly just saw number 500 for Iginla. He gets loose in the left circle and winds up to launch a rocket past Backstrom. The puck hits hard off the post and flies out of play. Holy cow! That was close.
14:39 - Can you call a timeout if you don't have the puck? It's been all Flames so far in the third. Their power play is playing keep away from the Wild's penalty killers right now and pumping shot after shot at Backstrom. He continues to come up with saves, but the pucks keep going to guys in red.11:27 - MIN 0 - CGY 2 - So Iginla's 500th couldn't come at a worse time, and now the entire Flames bench has emptied to swarm him on the ice. This one isn't too pretty, but it still counts. From the right boards, he throws the puck toward the goal and it banks off of Koivu's skate and goes behind Backstrom. Needless to say, this crowd is pumped up and Iginla is now all smiles on the bench. Great player, and he should retire now.
8:45 - MIN 0 - CGY 3 - Not good. The Flames power play strikes as Bouwmeester takes the puck and ducks down low before backhanding a pass to the front where it's rammed home by Glencross. Let's start with a Wild goal and then figure things out from there.
6:19 - MIN 1 - CGY 3 - There's the one we needed, and now we just need a couple more. The first line, which has looked good all night, finally gets rewarded. Koivu gets the puck in front to Heatley, who has his back to the net, but he's able to sweep a shot that squeezes through the pads of Kiprusoff and in. The comeback has begun.
5:55 - Unbelievable. The Wild comes within an inch of pulling within one. A shot off the backboards hangs near the goal line and Brodziak is the first to reach it. He shovels it toward the gaping net but Kiprusoff dives headfirst at it and knocks it away just as it is about to go in. Come on, man!
0:00 - The Wild will have to get back on track at home on Tuesday against San Jose. It doesn't happen here in Alberta.Period 2
18:28 - Backstrom gets his arm up on a Mikael Backlund rocket, but then has no idea where the puck is. It's bouncing around at the side of the net, but the nearby Flames are unable to capitalize on it.
17:07 - Oh my! Dany Heatley
makes a sick play when he pulls up at the top of the left circle and then winds up like he's going to fire a slap shot. Instead, he saucers a pass to the front where Setoguchi is crashing the net. Seto deflects it right on but Kiprusoff snuffs it out with his best save of the night.
14:57 - Brad Staubitz doesn't like a shove after the whistle from former Minnesota State Mankato Maverick Tim Jackman. Those two start going back and forth with some verbal barbs. There won't be any penalties out of this. Just some good old fashioned intensity.
13:13 - The Wild power play has a clear focus on just getting shots to the net. Koivu does, and that nearly results in a goal as Kyle Brodziak
whacks at the rebound. Heatley also has a crack at it but Kiprusoff is down on the ice and despite not knowing where the puck is, nobody can jam it through his pads.
8:42 - Look out! Zanon takes a shot up high that appears to catch him in the visor. He goes down hard, but as he always does, he pops right up and shakes the cobwebs. A scary sight though, and the fans let out a big gasp when they see it.
4:29 - The Wild are getting chances this period but just can't put one in. Heatley controls the puck as he circles behind the Calgary net before throwing a pass to the other side. Koivu has a lay-up but he can't get good wood on the shot and it skitters away.
1:41 - Now it's Backstrom's turn to come up big. With the puck lost in a forest of skates and trees in front of Backstrom, new Flame Blair Jones finds it and fires quickly on goal. Backstrom quickly slides to his left and makes a big stop.
0:00 - We're done with two periods. Still no blood.Period 1
19:35 - That's the kind of start we like to see from the boys. A long shot forces Miikka Kiprusoff into a pad save, and Devin Setoguchi
swoops in and nearly puts away the rebound. Good tone set early by the Wild while one obnoxious fan screams "Go Flames Go!" for the entire first minute of the game.
17:03 - Roman Horak tries to skate into the Wild zone with the puck but access is denied. Greg Zanon steps up and plants a big check on him, sending him hard into the boards.
13:45 - The top line has some jump in their skates so far tonight. Setoguchi is buzzing all over the place and his linemates are going right along with him. They generate another chance as Mikko Koivu
gets loose in the left circle and pumps a hard wrister up high that his countryman Kiprusoff snares with the lobster mitt.
13:06 - The Flames come alive and Backstrom has to make repeated big saves. He turns away a nice tip by former Alaska Anchorage Seawolf Curtis Glencross, and then makes an even bigger stop on a point blank try from his countryman, Jokinen.
10:45 - Backstrom makes a save so pretty it could be put on a postcard. Jay Bouwmeester winds and fires a hard, low slapper. Backstrom has to deal with traffic, but he goes down in the splits and picks it out of the air with a solid glove save.
5:04 - The Wild power play is seeing its first action of the night. Koivu has another chance from nearly the same spot as his last shot. Once again, the Kipper is able to get his glove on it and hold on for the faceoff.
2:29 - Former Dartmouth Big Green Lee Stempniak leads a two-on-one into the Wild zone. Nick Schultz is the man back, and he plays it perfectly to force Stempniak into a shallow-angle shot that Backstrom stops easily.
0:29.3 - Cal Clutterbuck
smokes Cory Sarich in the corner with a big hit and Sarich goes into the endboards back-first. Sarich gets up and punches Clutterbuck in the face, but Cal is going to be the only player to get penalty time. He gets called for interference on a very suspect call.
0:00 - There you have it. That's 20 minutes in the books. No score yet, but plenty of time to settle this clash.