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Whaddya hear, Whaddya say State of Hockey legion? It's your old pally checking in with a live in-game commentary, but this time I'm coming to you from the Prudential Center press box, which is located in beautiful Newark, New Jersey. That's right y'all, I somehow finagled my way onto the team flying machine and here I am, watching our boys in white and green warming up in preparation to face the hell-bound New Jersey Devils.
First things first, I have to gab about the Prudential Center, which is one of the newest arenas in the League. It's impressive, I will grant you. It is very high tech, and very clean. There are a couple of cool bar/restaurants at the top of the lower level sides. One is called "Fire" and makes you feel like you're in hell. The other is called "Ice" and makes you feel like you're in Antarctica. I'm not sure where you'd rather bide your time, but I think I'll choose Ice if I'm ever here as a fan. I'll just add a few layers if I get the shivers.
I also thoroughly enjoyed tonight's press meal which featured some manicotti and chicken. I was slightly disappointed that they didn't serve any gabbagoul, but I'm hoping I can talk Head Coach Todd Richards into stopping at Satriales on the way out of town so we can pick up some cold cuts for the flight to The Hub tonight. I'm sure he'll be cool with it.
Time to talk hockey, because tonight's game is a biggie. That's why Richards isn't pussyfooting around with the goaltender situation. With Nik Backstrom still a little dinged up, he's going right for the guy who has won 250 NHL games: Jose Theodore. Theo gets the start tonight, and even though he failed to deliver on my promise that he'd score a goal on Sunday, he can get back in my good graces with a shutout of the Devils tonight. If there's one thing I know about Jose, it's that he doesn't disappoint.
There are a few maladies plaguing the Wild right now. Antti Miettinen (contusion) and Marco Scandella
(illness) are going to sit this one out. Of course, Marek Zidlicky (shoulder) and Guillaume Latendresse
(abdominal) are also out. The good thing is that nobody will have his feelings hurt due to being scratched. All the remaining healthy bodies are in the lineup.
As for clothing, the Wild will sport the road whites for this nationally televised game. The Devils will go with the home reds trimmed in black and white with the devilish "N" on the chest.
This extremely sparse crowd is raring to go, so let's do this thing.Period 1
18:48 - A dump in by Greg Zanon takes a wicked shimmy off a seam in the plexiglass to the side of Johan Hedberg (yes, for the first time ever, Martin Brodeur is not facing the Wild). Hedberg vacates his net to play the puck, which bounces right toward the goal and hits the side of the cage. Unfortunately, the Wild is on a line change and there is nobody to score the easiest goal in Wild history.
17:33 - Colin White plays in the Eastern Conference but he appears to be well aware of Cal Clutterbuck
's reputation. He pinches low to play a puck along the sideboards but then pretty much takes a seat on the ice when he realizes Clutter is about to put him through the glass.
15:38 - At the end of a shift, Andrew Brunette shows off his rocket slapper that had to have been clocked at least at 60 mph. Hedberg makes the save look rather routine, but I bet he's smarting from that howitzer. In all seriousness, that ends two absolutely dominant shifts by the trio of Bruno, Mikko Koivu
and Chuck Kobasew. Both times they've been matched up against Ilya Kovalchuk's line, and both times they've pinned the Devils deep for the entirety of the shift.
12:06 - Well behind the play, David Clarkson drives his shoulder into Eric Nystrom as he's skating in front of the Wild bench. If you're going to pull crap like that, you might want to do it when Brad Staubitz is not on the ice. Stauby is out there and he jumps Clarkson and starts putting knuckles to face with great tenacity. Clarkson just goes down without putting up a fight, but Staubitz will get a double minor and Clarkson just gets a minor.
11:40 - While killing a penalty, Clutterbuck makes a great steal in the neutral zone and is off on a breakaway. Unfortunately, he gets caught from behind by Vladimir Sharkov before he can get a shot off.
8:35 - Theodore slides across his crease to make a nice stop on Cloquet's own Jamie Langenbrunner. The crowd cheers loudly, not because it was a great save, but because that's Jersey's first shot on goal. 8:12 - MIN 1 - NJD 0 - This is what you might call a snipe. Clutterbuck takes advantage of another careless turnover at the Devil blueline. He picks up the loose puck, swoops toward the net from the right side and then roofs a quick shot over the shoulder of Hedberg, off the pipe and in for his 11th of the year. That more than makes up for the missed breakaway opportunity and quiets this already sour fan base.
2:43 - Martin Havlat leads a two-on-one with Pierre-Marc Bouchard
on his right. White takes away the pass so Marty offers up a little head fake before trying to zip one through the legs of Hedberg, who shuts the door quickly for a big save.
0:00 - We will take that first period considering the Wild held the Devils to just one shot in the period. It's almost a shame to only be up a goal. In the words of the Neon Trees, "I want some more. What are you waiting for?" Well, intermission for one. But after that, the goals for the good guys will start piling up.Period 2
18:39 - Two shots now for the Devils and both have come off the stick of Langenbrunner. This one is a little more dangerous than the first as he puts a nice tip on a centering pass, but Theodore is quick to react and make a save.
18:11 - Here's a third shot from the Devils, and yes, it's off the stick of the former Lumberjack. After Zharkov fans on Langenbrunner's centering pass from behind the net, the puck slides right back to the Devils captain and he looks to have an easy one, but Theodore flicks out the right leg pillow for his best stop of the night. 16:53 - MIN 1 - NJD 1 - Just like that, the Devils get this thing tied up. They just needed someone to shoot that wasn't named Langenbrunner. Kovalchuk gets the puck in the left faceoff circle and this guy has a shot if you weren't aware. He puts a perfect wrister on goal to beat Theodore for the first time tonight. The Devils look like a different team than they did in the first.
11:06 - Maybe a big hit is what the Wild need because the Devils have taken over here in the second. Zanon steps up and delivers a bone rattler to Kovalchuk as he gains the Wild zone. Let's hope that's the needed spark.
9:59 - Now the Wild is coming alive again. Again, the Koivu line is forcing the action in the Jersey zone, and the puck is worked back to the point for Burns. He fires off a heavy shot that Hedberg just gets a piece of with the lobster mitt. The puck pops high in the air and then lands just a few feet away from the crease. Nobody home.
0:00 - Is it me or is this game flying by? The second period ends at 8:30 local time. We're going to be on that plane before I know it. Hopefully it's with two points in hand. Period 3
18:46 - MIN 2 - NJD 1 - What a way for Clayton Stoner to score his first-ever NHL goal. From outside the zone, he tries to dump the puck into the corner. Once again, Hedberg ventures out of his net to play it, but the puck caroms hard off the edge of the glass where it meets the bench and starts bounding toward the empty net. Hedberg tries to scramble back to the crease but the puck bounces over his stick and in. Nobody on the Wild can hide their smiles, especially Stoner, who I'm not even sure was watching it go in. Get the puck for him. You never forget your first!
14:16 - Theodore just looks as cool as the other side of the pillow back there tonight. He easily sponges up a shot from former North Dakota Fighting Sioux Travis Zajac on a hard shot from the right circle.
12:10 - Time for a rant. Followers of in-game commentary know how I feel about this. So, Greg Zanon tries to skate out of his own zone with the puck and gets pulled to the ice by the stick Clarkson. Of course, Zanon falls face down on the ice. Sure enough, the refs call Clarkson for a hook and Zanon for a dive. Are you kidding me? It's one or the freaking other!
He either got hooked or he didn't! It can't be both! It makes absolutely no sense. No sense whatsoever.
9:36 - We know from his days with the Wild that former Lake Superior State Laker Brian Rolston has one heavy slap shot. So Jared Spurgeon
cannot feel good right now after taking one of Rolston's patented howitzers in the leg. The youngster is in obvious pain as he glides to the bench on one leg and immediately heads to the locker room.
6:20 - Spurgeon is back out there.
5:30 - Good gracious! An attempted breakout pass by former Miami University Redhawk Andy Greene ricochets hard off the skate of Kovalchuk and bounces right on goal. Hedber has to be alert once again to make the save on this and prevent another bizarre Wild goal.
0:23.0 - Matt Cullen
has a chance to seal it with an empty netter, but a Jersey defender gets a stick on the shot and deflects it into the netting above the glass.
0:00 - It wasn't pretty, especially the winning goal, but the Wild grabs two huge points in the standings and continues its climb up the standings, at least temporarily moving into a tie for 11th place and just two points behind sixth place St. Louis.