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What's good State of Hockey legion? Welcome to yet another road edition of live in-game commentary presented by the fine folks at Sun Country Airlines. And yes, if you had thought ahead, you could have taken a Sun Country flight out to Arizona so you could be here at Jobing.com Arena like many other Wild fans.
The entire state of Arizona is buzzing today with the Minnesota Wild show coming to town. All anybody can talk about around here is the best team in the NHL invading the desert and putting a six-game winning streak on the line. These Phoenicians love hockey, and they respect a juggernaut like the flying W's. They're also feeling pretty high and mighty with their team leading the Pacific Division. Time to knock them off their high horse.
That's where Niklas Backstrom
comes in. The stud goaltender is getting back in the cage tonight after missing some time with a groin injury. You can be sure the stoic Finn is raring to go once again and judging by what I'm seeing in pregame warmups, these rabid Coyote fans are in for a long night.
The Wild will be going with the same lineup it used in Thursday's win at Los Angeles. Cal Clutterbuck
(lower body) is dealing with an injury and will not play again tonight. Devin Setoguchi
(lower body), Josh Harding
(upper body), Justin Falk
(upper body), Guillaume Latendresse
(concussion) and Marek Zidlicky (concussion) are all out of this one with injuries. I think that's everybody. The only other guy out of the lineup is Nate Prosser
As for the uniforms, the Wild are wearing the road whites, which are probably getting a little yellowish under the armpits after being worn for the fourth time in a row. The Coyotes are sporting their home brick reds with the howling dog on the chest.
Here we go folks. A win here, and then we're heading back to Minny. Let's get this.Period 1
18:45 - The road guys get the better of the play to start things off. Pierre-Marc Bouchard
controls and lets go with a hard slap shot. Former Houston Aero Mike Smith comes up with a nice glove save on this drive.
18:23 - More Wild pressure and a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play leads to another golden scoring chance. Bouchard finds Matt Cullen
cutting right to the net and puts one right on the tape. Cullen makes a quick shot but Smith is able to come up with a big save.
18:01 - Now it's the fourth line getting it done. Cody Almond
drops a pass back to Colton Gillies at the top of the left circle. Gilles smokes a shot that beats Smith but clanks off the far post. 17:52 - MIN 1 - PHX 0 - Now it's the power play unit, and your Wild goal scoring leader Kyle Brodziak who give the many Minnesotans in here something to cheer about. Bouchard, who has been a force in just over two minutes, cranks a blast from the point. Smith makes the initial save, but Brodziak gets a whack at the rebound while being pushed to the ice and he slides it under the five-hole of Smith. Not a bad start for the good guys.
11:57 - Gophers and Badgers have never gotten along so well. Starting from their own end, Dany Heatley
and Jeff Taffe
play catch up the ice with the puck. Taffe drops one for the Heater and then goes to the net, and he gets a pass back right on the tape for a beautiful play that Smith is able to finally stop.
7:18 - Showing some poise at the blueline, Jared Spurgeon
waits a beat with the puck until he gets some teammates crashing the net. Once he sees Casey Wellman get to the front, he blasts one on goal that Smith stops despite the screen.
5:56 - Bouchard is all over the rink tonight. He will score a goal before this night is out. That's my call Bert.
3:47 - The Wild penalty kill unit does a great job of negating a Cullen minor. The Coyotes don't get a sniff of a scoring chance and the Wild actually controlled the puck for much of the two minutes.
0:00 - And there you have it. The first 20 minutes are in the books and they were a very solid 20 for the road team. The boys will replenish their fluids and then tack on a few goals in the second.Period 2
17:45 - Gillies takes Taylor Pyatt for a ride in the neutral zone and drives him hard against the sideboards, nearly spilling him into the Wild bench.16:53 - MIN 2 - PHX 0 - Mikko Koivu's slow offensive start is long gone. He bags another huge goal thanks to yet another assist for Taffe in his second Wild game. The former Gopher speeds up the right side and then floats a pass into the slot. Koivu smartly doesn't even wind up on the shot. He quickly punches it the other direction and beats Smith on the side from whence he came.
16:27 - The Coyotes nearly have a quick answer as Oliver Ekman-Larsson gets open down the slot. He's got a lot of net to shoot at, but Backstrom slides quickly to his right for a spectacular stop with the leg pillow.
11:42 - The Yotes are starting to turn up the heat in the Wild zone. Backstrom comes up big again during a big-time scramble in front. He's able to kick one out and then cover up while falling back into his own net, along with a few other players. Brad Staubitz and Shane Doan are going at it pretty good and exchanging some shoves, but there won't be any penalties coming out of this.8:17 - MIN 3 - PHX 0 - Well Brodziak is just on another planet right now, as is the Wild power play. Again, they kick it into gear as Spurgeon sends a shot toward the net. Koivu pushes it to the side of the net where Brodziak grabs it, wheels around the net and then stuffs it in on the other side. Is there a more underrated player in the League right now?
4:21 - A long shot in on Backstrom hits traffic in front and then rattles around before being knocked just wide of the goal as Backy dives headlong for it.
0:00 - The Wild heads to the locker room with a three-goal cushion and 20 minutes to go before a fourth win on this trip.Period 3
18:37 - Doan tries driving to the net to force the issue a bit, but Backstrom holds his ground during a big collision and the puck stays out despite a mess of bodies surrounding the crease. Doan and Clayton Stoner
are now having words.
16:28 - Lauri Korpikoski speeds around the right corner and flings a shallow angle shot on goal. Backstrom is handcuffed a bit and the puck squirts away, just sliding out the other side with nobody home to bang in the loose puck.
12:56 - The Wild penalty killers are constantly on the puck. They don't give the opposing unit any time to think or create. The white jerseys are just relentless.8:37 - MIN 4 - PHX 0 - Another power play, another goal for the good guys. Spurgeon gets the puck at the point and just sends a low shot toward the goal. Heatley puts a perfect tip on it to deflect it past Smith. Things are looking good people. Things are looking real good.
5:08 - The Yotes get one final chance to try and make a game of this as Kyle Chipchura is found cutting down the slot. Backstrom comes out to play it perfectly and forces Chipchura to make a move before he wants to. He doesn't get good wood on the shot and Backstrom is able to cover it up.3:57 - MIN 4 - PHX 1 - We'll see if this matters for anything other than spoiling a Backstrom shutout, but I doubt it. From behind the net, Pyatt makes a nice feed through a maze of sticks to the front of the net. Korpikoski drives a rocket high on the glove side that sends Backy's water bottle flying into the air. In the words of pop sensation, "It's just too little, too lay-ah-laaate.
0:00 - And there you go, folks. That's seven big ones in a row for the best team in the NHL. Enjoy the rest of the weekend and we'll talk to you about number eight on Tuesday.