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How goes the battle, State of Hockey legion? Did you see that I used the word "battle" in the introduction? That was not a coincidence. In fact, it was highly intentional. Our band of merry Wild men are on a mission right now, and they are about to fight four battles in four different cities over the next week. This upcoming stretch of games is not for the faint of heart. This is the time that separates the contenders from the pretenders.
And that goes for you, too. You might be reading this in-game commentary from your home office, or your dorm room or maybe even the library. No matter where you are, you need to be ready to do battle. If someone shushes you for screaming with delight after a goal that Marek Zidlicky is guaranteed to score tonight, you might have to get all up in their face. You might have to poke them in the sternum with your index finger. You might have to remind them that there is exactly one month left in the season, and there is no time to be pussyfooting around. We've got playoff games to get to. So tonight, as I type away in my Como Park palace, I'm going to be wearing a helmet on my head and aluminum foil on my knuckles. My pooch, Ivy, is wearing her spiked collar tonight. We mean business.
I don't have to tell you that Niklas Backstrom
is always handling his business. He's in the business of manufacturing disappointment and frustration among NHL opponents and their fans. He's going to get the nod from Head Coach Todd Richards tonight, and I'm in full agreement. You want Backy on that crease. You need
Backy on that crease.
You may not have heard, but Casey Wellman was reassigned to the Houston Aeros today, so that means Brad Staubitz is staying in the lineup. Mikko Koivu
(hand), Cal Clutterbuck
(upper body), Cam Barker (upper body) and Clayton Stoner
(lower body) are all out of the lineup tonight with maladies. Marco Scandella
, who was called up from Houston last night, is in.
Naturally, the Wild will start off the trip with their road white jerseys. The Predators will sport the home blues trimmed in yellow, white and silver with the prehistoric saber-toothed tiger on the chest.
Take your positions people. Let's do this!Period 1
18:04 - Former Wild farmhand Joel Ward has developed into quite the player at the NHL level. He wreaks some havoc on a Nashville power play by taking a pass down low and bringing the puck right to the net. Backstrom makes that save, and then comes up with a huge stop on Martin Erat's rebound attempt, snapping it out of the air with the lobster mitt.16:47 - MIN 0 - NSH 1 - Just seconds after Backstrom denies Erat again, this time with a reaching paddle save, it's Ward who dents the twine for the bad guys. From behind the cage, David Legwand dishes one to the low slot and Ward shows quick hands to roof a shot past the glove of Backstrom. The goal comes just as the Nashville power play expires, but the Wild will have to limit the penalties tonight.
15:59 - MIN 0 - NSH 2 - The Wild needs a do-over. There's something about those white, green and red jerseys that fire up the Preds, and they've jumped on Minnesota early. Jerred Smithson makes a fantastic play as he's falling to the ice. He's able to slide a pass across the front of the crease where Nick Spaling is crashing the net and he easily cashes in. Looks like it's going to the come-from-behind victory tonight. Those are always plenty delicious.
13:21 - Erat could have a hat trick by this point if not for two gorgeous saves by Backstrom and this shank right here. A loose puck in front pops right to him in the slow slot, but he sends a backhand past an empty net.
11:48 - Jordin Tootoo is back with the Preds after dealing with some personal issues. He apparently didn't forget how to hit. He takes a run at Greg Zanon behind the Wild net and puts his former teammate on the ice. This is very close to a charge, but there won't be a call. I wouldn't mind seeing a Tootoo-Staubitz dance tonight.
9:30 - The Wild finally gets its first legitimate scoring chance on a pretty rush by Brent Burns deep in the Nashville zone. He gets down by the net and then sidesteps Jonathon Blum. As he makes a move, the puck is sticked away and slides over to Antti Miettinen who has an open cage, but he sends his backhand over the net. 7:28 - MIN 0 - NSH 3 - The Predators are looking like St. Thomas Academy at this point. They won't let up, and it's the Ward line that continues to pound Minnesota in the offensive zone. Once again, Legwand finds Ward out front, and when his quick shot from out front is stopped, Erat is able to scoop in the rebound as Backstrom tries to dive over to his left. Backy is not getting much help tonight as the Wild is getting outmuscled in front of their own crease.
1:20 - We need more of this. After Backstrom absorbs a blast from the point, Patric Hornqvist gets right up in Backstrom's personal space. Zidlicky is having none of it and he smokes Hornqvist, putting him inside the goal.
0:00 - I'll admit that I've seen better periods from the Wild, and I'm guaran-dang-teeing that the second and third periods will be better. The comeback starts after this intermission. Period 2
18:41 - The Wild suddenly has the jump that was non-existent in the first. Martin Havlat makes a great play to hold the puck in the Nashville zone and getting it to Kyle Brodziak
. Brodziak takes a few steps to the left face off dot and then beats Pekka Rinne with a quick wrister, but rattles it off the iron.
15:18 - More pressure from the good guys and it's Havlat making another great pass. He feeds rinkwide to Pierre-Marc Bouchard
cutting down the left side. Bouchard patiently waits for Rinne to commit and then fires a low shot that slides across the crease and just misses by inches.
13:02 - Backstrom goes Kerri Strug to make a huge save here. After making a stop from in tight, the puck pops high in the air and lands out front. Backstrom does a somersault to his right in time to rob former Wisconsin Badger, Blake "Boom Boom" Geoffrion.
10:24 - If the staff at Predators games have any sense at all, then they play clips of Spaulding from Caddyshack
every time Spaling is shown on the Jumbotron. "I want a hamburger...no, a cheeseburger..."
6:12 - Now Backstrom is channeling his inner Alicia Sacramone as a puck floats in the air toward the crease, Backstrom dives headlong into the slot to knock it down with his lobster mitt. The puck lays precariously near the crease for a bit, but it is finally sticked away.
1:38 - A great shift by Eric Nystrom, who nearly puts one in on a wraparound, ends with him getting hauled down by Geoffrion and drawing a penalty. This will be the Wild's first power play opportunity of the night. Period 3
14:44 - Matt Halischuk ends some Wild pressure by racing down the other way and blistering a shot that just misses wide. The Wild is working the puck around quite a bit right now, but the Predators are more than content to sit on this lead.
13:44 - After a puck is deflected out of play, John Madden is sending a death stare toward Preds defenseman Shane O'Brien. Staubitz has words with O'Brien as well, but I honestly don't see what they're mad at. It may be a case of the guys getting frustrated.
13:10 - The Wild could use a friendly bounce at this point, but they can't take advantage of this one. A ring around the glass causes the puck to bounce out in front of a vacated net. Matt Cullen
is the first to get there, but the puck is on his backhand at a weird angle. He spins and puts a shot on goal, then dives to whack at the rebound, but Rinne recovers to make a big save.
6:12 - There's some room out on the ice right now with the teams playing four-on-four, but the Preds still are able to keep the Wild coffers to the outside. Havlat makes a bid with a wrister from the left circle, but Rinne easily gloves it.5:01 - MIN 0 - NSH 4 - This is going to make a comeback a challenge. Shea Weber carries the puck deep in the Wild zone and gets Backstrom to go down as he dives out at him. Weber goes below the goal line and throws the puck through the crease and a maze of players. Finally, Spaling settles the puck and punches it into the empty net. I'll admit I'm not super excited about writing up "Five Takeaways" after this one.
0:00 - Thankfully, the buzzer has sounded to end this one. Not the Wild's best performance of the season, let's just say that. But, things can easily be rectified with a win tomorrow night in Dallas. We'll change things up tomorrow and have Carly Peters handle the in-game commentary. She has to be better than I was tonight.