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What's the haps State of Hockey legion? And may I be the first to wish a Happy Johnny Appleseed Day to all of you? Of course you know that Mr. Appleseed introduced apple trees to Ohio, Indiana and Illinois - the heartland of America. And that's where I find myself as I type tonight's live in-game commentary - Detroit Rock City, Michigan, just a stone's throw away from Windsor, Ontario.
Tonight, the Wild can make some hay in the Western Conference if it can get past this pesky bunch of Detroit Red Wings. I've got nothing against the Red Wings, or the city of Detroit. Some people say Detroit isn't the best city in the NHL, and some even resort to calling it names. Me? I like Detroit. It's given us lots of automobiles, lots of cover songs by Kid Rock and one of the best baseball games in history that was won by the future 2010 World Series champion Minnesota Twins. So to the people of Detroit, don't let the naysayers get you down. You've got a lot going for you.
Unfortunately, you are the enemy tonight, and really, for the rest of the regular season. So that means we're going to throw a little Josh Harding
action at you to see how you deal with it. Harding is getting the surprise start after Nik Backstrom tweaked something in his lower body at today's morning skate. It doesn't appear to be overly serious, but we're in a playoff chase. We'll go with the healthy netminder. Sorry Motown.
As for other players, Cal Clutterbuck
will return to the lineup after missing one game with a charley horse. That means Robbie Earl or Derek Boogaard or Chuck Kobasew will be coming out as the healthy scratch. Stay tuned. Brent Burns (hip), Shane Hnidy (leg), Clayton Stoner
(hernia) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion) are all out. Jaime "Not Jamie" Sifers and Big John Scott will be patrolling the blue line for the Wild tonight.
As for the threads, the Wild will sport the road whites tonight, and they'll do it again tomorrow in Buffalo. The same outfit two nights in a row? Embaaaaarasiiing! The Red Wings are going with their classic home reds trimmed in white with the flying Goodyear on the chest.
The healthy scratch tonight will be Derek Boogaard, despite Todd Richards saying earlier today that he would play. I think Richards is just keeping us on our toes. That's good. Keeps us fresh.
That's it for the apps. Let's get to the main course.Period 1
17:35 - MIN 0 - DET 1 - In typical Red Wing fashion, Detroit plays keep-away for the first two minutes. Former Notre Dame Fightin' Irish Brett Lebda hits Johan Franzen in the left circle. Franzen rips a slap shot up high on Harding, who gets his upper arm on the shot, but it pops up in the air and lands about a foot over the goal line before Scott reaches back and shoots it out of the cage.
16:01 - After a pass gets past Cowboy Nolan in the neutral zone, Andreas Lilja steps up and takes him out with a leg on leg hit. Lilja is going to get two minutes, and Kyle Brodziak
goes after him. There's the fire that was missing the other night!
15:50 - Oh my! On the power play, a shot from the point hits off the glass and bounces to Antti Miettinen in front. He slides the puck right through the crease where Mikko Koivu
is. The Finnish captain has a wide open net with former Maine Black Bear Jimmy Howard completely out of the play. But Koivu rings it off the post on a glorious opportunity to tie this one.
12:55 - Guillaume Latendresse
just misses wide from in close after a great shift by his line. Marty Havlat and Andrew Ebbett both have great opportunities from in tight, and Nick Schultz is just a second late getting to a loose puck in the slot with Howard scrambling again. Since the Franzen goal, it has been all Wild in this period.10:41 - MIN 0 - DET 2 - What can you do? With Koivu in the box, the Wings enter the Wild zone with Henrik Zetterberg sending a pass over to Tomas Holmstrom just inside the blue line. Holmstrom lets a slap shot go that deflects off the stick of Schultz, trying to block the shot. The puck then zips into the top corner on Harding's blocker side. There is absolutely nothing he can do.
9:45 - MIN 0 - DET 3 - Uncle. The Wings are piling on. Former Boston College Eagle Patrick Eaves tracks down a Kris Draper shot behind the Wild net. He wheels around the cage and hits Zetterberg alone in front. Despite his struggles this year, Zetterberg has a pretty good percentage rate from three feet out and nobody on him. He deposits a quick shot over Harding. We need some bandages, a tourniquet and a whole bucket full of gauze.
6:40 - Team Sweden...I mean...Detroit just won't let up. Harding has to make a huge glove save on a point blank chance by Holmstrom, just to keep the Wild within shouting distance.
5:04 - It's Military Appreciation Night here at the Joe, and the crowd here gives a great standing ovation to all of the military personnel in attendance. Of course, what tribute to our soldiers would be complete without Lee Greenwood's "Proud to be an American"?
3:33 - Well, it's not a goal, but it's still fun to watch. Valtteri Filppula tries to sidestep Greg Zanon, but the man they call "Zans" is having none of it. He puts his shoulder into the Finn and plants him on the ice to a chorus of "oooohs" from the crowd.0:11.1 - MIN 1 - DET 3 - Thank goodness! The Wild gets a huge boost prior to the intermission as Havlat and Ebbett work a nice passing play as they enter the zone. Ebbett then sends the puck to the crease toward Latendresse. The puck hits something, and deflects in. G-Lat is getting credit for the goal, but I think they may change it because it looks to go off a Detroit skate and in. Either way, there's a one up by Minnesota on the scoreboard, and that makes me feel a whole lot better.
0:00 - The horn sounds to end an almost disastrous first period, but we've got some life heading into the second.Period 2
20:00 - If you're scoring at home, and I know you are, you can change the Wild goal to Ebbett scoring from Havlat and Marek Zidlicky. Latendresse told PR guru Ryan Stanzel at intermission that he never touched the puck. What an honorable fellow! Latendresse I mean, not Stanzel.
16:24 - Todd Bertuzzi, who normally gets booed whenever I see him touch the puck, slides a pass to a pinching Brad Stuart, but Harding kicks his right leg out to make a solid toe save.
12:10 - Robbie Earl gets Kronwalled. As he tries to enter the zone, Niklas Kronwall steps up and clobbers him against the glass. James Sheppard delivers a couple shots to Kronwall in retaliation, but Kronwall won't be goaded into anything here.
8:40 - Koivu gets robbed again, but this time it's by the goalie and not the post. Koivu makes a great toe drag before firing a wrister through a screen, but Howard uses every inch of his wingspan to snare it with the lobster glove about a foot off the ice.
8:33 - One thing we don't need to see is Latendresse writhing in pain on the ice. As he chases a puck behind the Detroit net, the stick of Olympic hero and former Wisconsin Badger Brian Rafalski comes up and hits G-Lat on the back of the head. It was obviously an unintentional highstick, but Latendresse is rolling on the ice for quite a bit. He finally does get up and heads to the locker room.7:02 - MIN 1 - DET 4 - Ish. On a Wild power play, Cam Barker gets caught in No Man's Land and the Red Wings head the other way on a two-on-oh! This is one of the ugliest two-on-ohs you'll ever see, but after Filppula overskates the net and then puts a shot on Harding. He makes the save, but the puck pops up and then hits the thigh of former Michigan State Spartan, Drew Miller. Ebbett, who was backchecking on a play, is saying Miller kicked the puck in, but after a review, the play is upheld and the goal stands.
2:10 - Harding has been a busy man tonight. On a Detroit power play, he gets a glove on a Zetterberg missile. As the puck pops straight up in the air, he fights off the stick of Dan Cleary to hang on for a whistle.Period 3
20:00 - Some naysayers also have some not-so-nice things to say about "The Joe." But there are some pretty sweet features here, including "The Legend's Club" which is an exclusive bar area in the top level. I just got a tour of it from budding Red Wing executive and former Wild intern, Casey Gmerek.
17:14 - I'm fully confident that the Wild will come back this period, but the boys are going to have to do it without Latendresse. He is out for the rest of the game after taking the stick hit to the head.
13:30 - On yet another Detroit power play, Harding comes up big on several blasts from the point and subsequent rebound hacks from Holmstrom. Let's just say the Wild is not applying enough pressure right now to erase a three-goal deficit.
11:49 - This is the kind of pressure we need, but a better result would be nice. Chuck Kobasew, playing his 400th NHL game, as well as Sheppard and Earl crash the net and pepper a flopping Howard. Earl's bid trickles inches from the goal line, but is kept out by a Detroit defender. Then a quick whistle stops play as Shep whacks at the loose puck.
6:28 - As he retrieves a puck behind his net, Zidlicky takes a wicked slash in the arm from EAves, right in front of referree Wes McCauley. Zidlicky looks like he can't even grip his stick, but the play goes uncalled.5:17 - MIN 1 - DET 5 - This is going to be difficult to come back from. Franzen takes advantage of a frantic Wild line change and brings the puck one-on-one with Sifers defending. Franzen dangles before putting a low shot through Sifers and under Harding. Unfortunately, the Wild may have to play for overtime rather than trying to pull this one out in regulation.
0:00 - That was about as much fun as a trip to the DMV. It should make for a quiet plane ride to beautiful Buffalo, New York tonight. Now go cheer on the Duluth East Greyhounds!