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Hey Der State of Hockey legion, and welcome to live in-game commentary coming to you from the United Center, also known as the Mad House on Madison Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. Tonight, your Minnesota Wild will be battling the Chicago Blackhawks, who are going to be a surly bunch. In fact, I get the sense that every Chicagoan is a bit salty due to the news that the world's largest skyscraper was completed this week. The Burj Khalifa in Dubai stands at a whopping 2,707 feet, which bumps Chicago's beloved Sears tower to fifth on the list of world's tallest buildings. You can sense the tension just walking around Grant Park.
So the Wild will be catching the Hawks in a grumpy mood, but fear not. We've got reinforcements in the form of about 25 fathers and brothers in green Wild jerseys who the Hawks are not going to want to mess with. Len Boogaard is a mountie in Canada and looks tougher than his son. And Jukka Koivu? The former hockey coach could knock you unconscious with his stare. So watch your step Chicago. You may consider yourselves tough, but we come from a land where it's zero degrees outside, and you guys are complaining about temperatures in the teens. That's a point for Minnesota.
And here's another one. We're about to sic Josh Harding
on you again, and his M.O. is stifling the Blackhawks. He's won three of his four starts and has a 1.50 goals against average against you. If you were mad about the building, you're going to be really upset when Hards starts flashing his leather at you.
The good guys will be without Owen Nolan tonight, who is out with a lower body injury. Pierre-Marc Bouchard
, Brent Burns and Chuck Kobasew remain out. John Scott will be the lone healthy scratch.
As for the clothing, the Wild will go with the road whites tonight. The Blackhawks are looking sweet in their black throwbacks trimmed in red and cream with the smaller Indian head image on the chest. The regular Hawks jerseys are pretty awesome, but these throwbacks are mint.
Wow! I have chills running up and down my body right now as I just watched Jim Cornelison belt out an unbelievable rendition of the Star Spangled Banner with a packed house of more than 20,000 clapping and screaming throughout. Just amazing. Do major sporting events really need popular recording artists to try and give the National Anthem their own flavor every year? Hire Jim Cornelison for every Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup and Nascar race, and you are good to go. Now hopefully I can type with tingling fingers.Period 1
17:18 - Marek's a killer! Zidlicky goes behind his own net and drills Troy Brouwer into the Wild cage, nearly tipping it over.
15:21 - First scoring chance goes to Chicago, but the first big save goes to Mr. Harding. Jordan Hendry gets open at the point and he's got a clear shot at the goal, but Harding sponges up that shot, not allowing a rebound.
13:41 - Harding comes up with an even bigger stop here, make that three big ones. Colin Fraser gets right in on him and tries to go upstairs, but Hards denies him with a huge glove save. The rebound pinballs around in the crease, and Fraser gets another crack from the other side. Harding scrambles over and stuffs him on that side as well.
13:01 - The Wild's top line works the puck around like the Harlem Globetrotters of hockey until the puck ends up on the stick of Andrew Brunette, who just can't pull the trigger right away despite a wide open net. That gives Brent Seabrook a chance to slide over and bail out his goaltender, Cristobal Huet.
8:39 - It'd be nice if Harding wasn't forced to make this many spectacular saves so early on, but it certainly is fun to watch. Hawks superstar in creation Patrick Kane gets around Greg Zanon and fights off a slash and a loose Zanon stick to get in alone on Harding. The U.S. Olympian looks to have Harding completely fooled on a deke move, but Harding dives to his right to get his glove on a shot one foot off the ice and looking like a sure goal.6:08 - MIN 1 - CHI 0 - Alain Latendresse, your son has just quieted this enormous crowd save for the suite full of Wild fathers, and a couple rows of Wild fans right in front of me. Kyle Brodziak throws the puck at the goal from the side of the net. The puck hits Huet and bounces right out front where Guillaume Latendresse smacks it right back into the goal.
2:51 - My goodness G-Lat! The big man is on a mission tonight. Already with one goal, he enters the Chicago zone and splits two defenders to get in on Huet, who finally stops him on the doorstep. 2:34 - MIN 1 - CHI 1 - Tie game, and this place is hopping again. The Hawks gain control in the Wild zone and Kris Versteeg throws the puck in front to a wide open John Madden (not the Favre-loving, bushy-eyebrowed guy), who fans on his first attempt and puts it off the post, but he's got plenty of time to poke his own rebound into the gaping hole.
0:00 - A very entertaining first period draws to a close. The Wild will head to the dressing room for a "strategery" session, and come back out focused on winning one for the gippers.Period 2
16:24 - Huet makes an outstanding play as the puck enters his zone. He comes out high to play the puck and skips a pass to the Wild blue line or Fraser, who skates in a few steps with it. He then hits Brouwer cutting down the slot, but his backhand just misses wide.
13:05 - A bad line change leads to a chance as Tomas Kopecky gets in alone on Harding from the right side. He has a teammate skating up the middle, but Kopecky tries to stuff it in and Harding shuts the door.
12:31 - Marty Havlat makes a home run pass to Latendresse who has a lone breakaway. He makes a quick move before trying to slide one through the wickets of Huet, but nothing doing. The Hawks keeper is up to the task and the pace just keeps rising. VERSUS is getting a great game to broadcast nationally tonight. Sorry DIRECTV folks.
9:54 - A great play by Eric Belanger in the defensive zone leads to a three-on-one the other way. G-Lat drops it back to Havlat, who gets stick checked from behind. Yet, he's able to maintain control and dish it to the other side of the net for Belanger, who is robbed by Huet. All three Wild forwards are in the crease trying to punch it in, but Huet stands his ground.7:22 - MIN 1 - CHI 2 - Marian Hossa is starting to find his game with the Hawks, and that's bad news for the Wild and the rest of the NHL. The Slovakian sniper gets loose in the high slot, and when Patrick Sharp hits him with a perfect pass, he snaps a quick missile past the blocker of Harding, who was drilled by a Hawks player behind the net just moments earlier. I didn't know there was a rule change stating that goalies are now fair game behind their net, but maybe it got sent to my spam folder.
1:13 - Koivu glides down the slot undetected and gets hit with a pass from Havlat. Koivu waits just a bit before sending a wrist shot high on glove side that Huet gets just enough of to stop the momentum as the puck floats right by the post.Period 3
20:00 - I'm really wishing the press box TV's had sound because VERSUS is interviewing Thomas Richards, father of Todd, and one of the nicest guys you could ever meet. And, he's quite a character so I'm betting the interview is awesome.
18:04 - While killing a penalty, Zanon tries to ice the puck but he puts too much loft on this one and it airmails the Hawks net and hits the netting above the glass. That's going to be a delay of game and a 5-on-3 for the next four seconds. 17:56 - MIN 1 - CHI 3 - The Hawks only needed five seconds. The delay of game proves costly as the Hawks when the ensuing faceoff in the Wild zone. Kane gets the puck in the right circle. He patiently picks his spot and then wires an absolute missile up high to beat Harding and pad the Hawks lead.
16:55 - Things are getting worse for the Wild. Latendresse, who has been the Wild's best player tonight, goes down in a heap in his own zone and he can barely make it back to the Wild bench as he's in visible pain. Looks like a classic case of lower body injury.
12:58 - On the Wild's first power play of the night, the puck is won back to Zidlicky at the point. He rifles a shot on goal that Huet stops, and Havlat has a shot at the rebound, but it's a little out of reach and he pushes it just wide.10:51 - MIN 1 - CHI 4 - The Hawks are just too good. They have just worn the Wild down with wave after attacking wave and now they're piling on. Hossa makes a great toe-drag move around a sliding Zidlicky and then he fires a point blank shot on Harding. The Wild keeper makes another great save, but Hossa follows up and chips one in for his second of the night. He now has four goals in the last two games.
5:18 - And the news gets worse as Team USA's World Junior team has blown a 5-3 lead against Canada with under five minutes left and the game is now tied. I'm guessing the arena in Saskatchewan is quite loud right now.
3:59 - The puck is over the line and behind the goal Huet, but it's not going to count. Cal Clutterbuck
knocks Brodziak's rebound in, but the problem is he does it with his skate and a distinct kicking motion and it's immediately waved off. They go to the replay booth for about a 10 second review and the call stands.
0:00 - That's going to do it. The Wild just can't hang with the Hawks and they'll head home after dropping their fourth straight. The Wild is in desperate need of a four-game homestand and they'll get it starting tomorrow.