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Well hello there State of Hockey legion! Come on in, and let me be the first to wish a Happy Makar Sankranti to all the Wild fans in the wonderful country of India. As you undoubtedly are aware, this holiday celebrates the transition of the sun into Capricorn on its celestial path. Those who celebrate mark the occasion by flying kites. Here in the State of Hockey, we like to mark it with a special edition of live in-game commentary.
Tonight, I'm coming to you live from my Como Park palace, where I'll be watching the Fox Sports North broadcast of the Wild and Blues with my sleepy road game sidekick, Ivy the lab. I'm right there with Ivy. These last four games have taken a lot out of me. The emotions. The intensity. The thrill of beating Vancouver (not that I had much to do with it). But we've got work to do friends. The Wild is still on the outside looking in at the playoff picture, but that could change tonight.
That's why we're sending Josh Harding
to man the pipes against the Blues tonight. The crease at Scottrade Center is like a winter home for Hards, who has won both of his starts in that building. Harding is 92 wins shy of Nik Backstrom's franchise record of 114 wins, but he's about to trim that deficit to 91 tonight.
There was some concern that Cal Clutterbuck
might not play tonight, but I heard from one of my sources (okay it was PR guru Aaron Sickman) that Clutter will be in the lineup tonight. That's good news, because this Blues team likes to take the body. And Spring Lake Park alum David Backes loves to fight, apparently. Since Olympic rosters were announces, he's tangled with Jonathan Toews, Corey Perry and Rick Nash.
Sorry, I'm getting sidetracked. Petr Sykora and Robbie Earl are going to be the scratches tonight. Of course, Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion), Brent Burns (concussion), Chuck Kobasew (knee) and Clayton Stoner
(groin) remain on the shelf.
Finally, we can gab about fashion. For the first time since January 5, the Wild are going to wear the road whites. The Blues will wear the home blues trimmed in gold and white with the musical note on the chest.
That does it for the minutiae. Let's get to the meat and potatoes, which is some hockey action.Period 1
19:08 - Harding has to come up big right away, but making two huge saves on former Fighting Sioux, T.J. Oshie. Former Maine Black Bear Paul Kariya leads an odd-man rush and drops the puck to the trailing Oshie. HIs high riser is knocked down by Hards, who then is able to reach over and get an arm on Oshie's follow up attempt from in tight. Kariya also has a whack at it, but the Wild keeper won't budge.
16:11 - Oshie and Kariya look like they have some chemistry out there despite the difference in age. This time Oshie gets it down to an open Kariya about six feet from the net. He tries to snap a wrist shot past Harding, but again the southpaw netminder makes a big stop.
9:27 - The Wild finally gets a scoring chance in this slow-moving opening stanza. Clutterbuck turns on the jets to track down a puck rolling toward the St. Louis zone. He's behind the defense but as he cuts to the net to get in on Chris Mason, he loses control and never gets a shot off.
5:55 - The Blues continue to take the game right at the Wild. David Perron maneuvers down low and gets a great chance out front. Once again, it's Harding coming up big and keeping his sluggish teammates tied up.
0:00 - Well, that was a yawner. The Wild heads to the locker room down 18-4 in the shot column, but tied up at doughnuts in the scoring column. Period 2
18:57 - Minnesota catches a break early in the second. Alexander Steen has some steam behind a snap shot on Harding's glove side. Harding can't stop it, but it catches the upper portion of the crossbar and deflects into the netting above the glass.
16:21 - The Wild looks to get something going on its first power play of the night. Martin Havlat throws a pass to the front where it hits Andrew Brunette up high and bounces right on goal where Mason is forced to make a pad stop.
14:07 - Former Boston University Terrier Keith Tkachuk, one of my favorite players as a kid, is still going strong, although he looks like Cletus the slack-jawed yokel from The Simpson's right now. He's in a bit of a tussle with Sheriff Shane Hnidy right now. FS North shows a replay of him scoring a goal by taking a puck off his face and going in. That has to be the most painful goal ever scored in NHL history.
5:00 - I figure I better write something so you know I'm still awake. I am. Barely. Let's say I'm having visions of Jacques Lemaire barking at Aaron Gavey and Roman Simicek to not go below the other team's blueline.
2:42 - Harding makes his 29th stop of the night, sliding over to snuff out a one-timer off the stick of former MSU Maverick and future U.S. Olympian, Backes.
1:08 - Finally, a great chance for the Wild as Havlat sends a pretty pass to a cutting Latendresse in front. G-Lat tries to stuff it through the legs of Mason, but the Blues tender closes that door.Period 3
19:33 - MIN 0 - STL 1 - Sooner or later, one of these shots was going to go in, and it comes off the stick of Oshie, maybe the best player on the ice tonight. From long range he snaps a shot past Kim Johnsson and it eludes Harding before finding the corner of the cross bar and banking in. Maybe this is the spark the Wild needs, because nothing else has worked tonight.
16:00 - Could have used this one. Latendresse rips a one-timer from the slot that Mason stops but the rebound pops right out to Havlat, who has an open net, but he pushes his attempt just wide.
14:18 - The pace has picked up, and this time it's the Blues getting another great chance. Harding makes a pair of saves, but then a cross crease pass to former Colgate Raider Andy McDonald. He has a bid at an open net but he pushes his shot right back at Harding who dives back toward his goal to cover it up.
12:02 - Oshie and Andrew Ebbett go after a loose puck along the sideboards. Well, Ebbett goes for the puck but Oshie puts an arm across Ebbett's chest and then slides his skate behind him to take him down on a very cheap play. Ebbett is very slow to get up after hitting the back of his head on the ice. You've got John Scott and Derek Boogaard both on the ice and they both start going after Oshie and Backes and anybody else in a blue sweater. After Doc Fuller looks at Ebbett, he walks back to the locker room. Richards has a conversation with one of the refs and Richards is laughing at whatever was said. He's probably laughing at the fact that the Wild won't get a power play out of this.
10:09 - G-Lat, undoubtedly the best player on the ice in a white jersey tonight, speeds around the St. Louis net and tries a wraparound. Mason stops that, but another rebound hops out to Eric Belanger, and he has an open net from the same spot that Havlat did. He's able to get his on goal, but Mason reaches over and makes a tremendous save as the puck makes it inches from the goal line.
9:06 - Greg Zanon blocks another shot and he does it without a stick. He's already broken two sticks in tonight's game. That's a lot of money laying on the ice right there.
1:40 - Good gracious! The Wild looks to have this thing tied up as Brunette tips an Owen Nolan pass off the crossbar and then Brodziak puts in the rebound, but the play is whistled dead a split second earlier as the net was dislodged by just a couple inches.
1:01 - Harding heads to the bench for an extra attacker.
0:00 - One final flurry comes up empty and the Wild's four-game win streak is snapped.