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'Sup State of Hockey legion? If you're not familiar with me, I'm pretty much famous, and live in-game commentary on Wild.com is kind of a big deal. Welcome to it.
Unless you've been living in an underground bunker with no wireless internet this past week, you've no doubt read the interview
I gave to the Blackhawk Up Chicago Blackhawk earlier in the week, and heard the KFAN segment with Kevin Gorg and myself earlier this afternoon on drive time radio. I just want to take this time at the beginning of tonight's commentary to ask that for any further interview requests for me, please direct them to Wild PR lackeys Aaron Sickman or Ryan Stanzel. I'm terribly busy and I just can't keep all of the interviews straight.
Now that we've got that taken care of, we can get on point, specifically this ginormous showdown between the dirty Ducks of Anaheim and your Minnesota Wild. I'll be bringing you the comments from my beloved perch in the Al Shaver Press Box, where I'm currently watching both the Ducks and Wild players skate in pregame warmups. I'll just mention quickly that I see a red jersey down there with a big number 3 on the back, and that means we are close to seeing the return of the mega slapper provided by Marek Zidlicky. More on him later.
There's also a guy down there in red with the 3-2 on his back. He's heavily padded, quite focused and quite simply the best goaltender in all the land. He goes by the name of Niklas Backstrom
, and he's about to make the sour look on Randy Carlyle's face look even more sour. In fact, I'm guessing that by the end of the night, Backstrom is going to make the Anaheim coach look like the Bitter Beer face guy from the old Keystone beer commercials.
Carlyle can't be pleased that Mr. Zidlicky is returning to the lineup in time to unleash his howitzer on vulnerable goaltender, Curtis McEhlhinney. The former Colorado College Tiger has given up 14 goals over three games while Jonas Hiller nurses some lightheadedness. Zidlicky's return means we've got one less guy on the injured list with Guillaume Latendresse
(abdominal) and Marco Scandella
(concussion) still unavailable. His return also means we're going to have a healthy scratch again, and tonight that's going to be Brad Staubitz.
If you'd like to take a peek into the closets of both teams, you're out of luck. But I can tell you that the Wild will wear the home reds for tonight's tilt. The Ducks are going with the road whites trimmed in black, copper and orange with "Ducks" written across the chest.
Jeff McGrath, the MVP at today's Wild Fantasy Hockey game, gets us going with the Let's Play Hockey declaration and we are strapped in for a big ride. Away we go!Period 1
18:53 - Zidlicky tests out his shoulder early by throwing a big check on former Bowling Green Falcon Dan Sexton along the bench area. Unfortunately, Zidlicky is a little too eager to throw a check and he gets called for an early interference penalty.
18:11 - On the Anaheim power play, Corey Perry clearly interferes with Backstrom in the Wild crease, pulling him out of the blue paint and knocking his goalie stick ajar. Backstrom is furious and is angrily barking at referee Dan O'Halloran, who is chirping right back.16:30 - MIN 0 - ANA 1 - We've got one shot and one goal, and it's not for the good guys. Once again Perry is camping out by the crease, and he puts a perfect tip on a low shot by Bobby Ryan that is skidding wide of the net. Perry puts the toe of his stick blade out and deflects it just enough to squeeze it between Backstrom and the post.
16:00 - The Ducks nearly tack on another one as Teemu Selanne carries into the slot and then drops a pass back for former Ferris State Bulldog and North Dakota Fighting Sioux Jason Blake. Blake takes a couple steps and rifles a shot on goal, but Backstrom comes up with a huge pad save to keep this thing close. 14:59 - MIN 1 - ANA 1 - And there's the answer by The Answer. Mikko Koivu gets to the puck in the Anaheim corner and he won't be denied as he forces his way to the net while fighting off Lubomir Visnovsky. Koivu gets to the crease and stuffs it past McEhlhinney who might be feeling like he couldn't stop an inner tube at this point. He's coming off a game in which he gave up seven goals to the Washington Caps and now the Wild has a tally on one shot.
12:50 - I could do without seeing Koivu block a shot in his own zone and then immediately pull off his glove as he heads right to the locker room. Let's hope that one just smarts for a little while.
11:59 - Kyle Brodziak
gets the puck on the right side during a three-on-two break, and he sends a great cross-rink pass over to a wide open Marty Havlat, who moves in alone on the Ducks keeper. Havlat tries to wait McEhlhinney out, but he eventually ends up at the side along the goal line and tries to bank one in from a tough angle. Not happening.
10:18 - After Backy dives headlong to cover up a loose puck, Maxim Lapierre drills Jared Spurgeon
, toppling him over the Wild netminder. Cal Clutterbuck
immediately rushes to his teammate's aid and puts Lapierre in a sleeper hold.
5:53 - You've just got to love what Eric Nystrom brings. While killing a penalty, he blows past Francois Beauchemin to get to a loose puck in the neutral zone. He skates in alone on McEhlhinney, trying to slip one in on the backhand but missing wide by inches. 4:53 - MIN 2 - ANA 1 - Players dream about this scenario when they're in the penalty box, but it almost never happens. The Wild is down two men, but Brodziak intercepts an Anaheim pass at the same instant that Matt Cullen escapes from the penalty box. Brodzy puts the puck right on Cullen's tape and he is all alone on a clear breakaway. As he glides in, Cullen gives a little juke and then hits his spot up high for a huge shorthanded goal, especially with Brent Burns still serving more than three minutes for a high stick.
0:00 - Fans are getting their money's worth after just 20 minutes. A very entertaining period ends with the Wild getting the better of the Ducks most of the way. Now it's time for some sports drinks and maybe some team bonding before coming out for the final 40. Period 2
16:06 - After some early pressure by the Ducks, the Wild races the other way with Havlat gaining the zone and then dancing into the slot as Duck defenders shy away. Havlat patiently waits to allow Burns to cut to the front of the net and he then fires a low shot that Burns tips, but McEhlhinney stops.
10:08 - Lapierre is riling some Wild players up tonight. I say bring it on. Nothing wrong with making our boys a little angry. After a whistle, he starts shoving Chuck Kobasew, which brings in big Clayton Stoner
to accost the Ducks agitator.
8:22 - Now Lapierre highsticks Spurgeon and the Wild is going to have a two man advantage for 13 seconds.6:28 - MIN 3 - ANA 1 - Buh bye monkey! Looking like a 30-goal scorer rather than a one-goal scorer, Eric Nystrom takes a pass from John Madden and from the slot he snipes a wrist shot top shelf for a huge goal. The rush follows an Anaheim break the other way in which Perry was tripped up and was screaming for a penalty. I can't say I'm upset to see Perry get mad and then watch the Wild go down the rink and score. It makes me all warm and tingly.
6:01 - MIN 4 - ANA 1 - Bang bang! Not too shabby for a team that lost two in a row and was all of a sudden labeled as offensively challenged. Just 27 seconds after Nystrom's goal, Clutterbuck charges up the left side, and sure enough, he gets down low before letting a tough angle shot go. He actually doesn't score this time, but he does force McEhlhinney into giving up a rebound that pops into the air. Battling in front, Brodziak does his best Jason Repko imitation and slams it out of the air and into the cage. I should also mention that the Wild is doing this all with just 10 forwards as Koivu doesn't seem likely to return.
4:33 - As the Ducks flock (get it?) into the Wild zone, Zidlicky and former Princeton Tiger George Parros slide hard into the net, knocking it off the pegs. Parros gets up and then starts giving Zidlicky the business, which isn't exactly keeping with the code. The Wild doesn't have Staubitz out there tonight, but there are plenty of guys that come to Zid's defense before anything can escalate.
2:14 - Madden is having himself quite a game on this fun Friday night. He churns up the left side and then blasts a rocket shot that McEhlhinney gets a piece of with the lobster mitt.
0:27.4 - A long shot by Luca Sbisa (great hockey name, or Godfather character name) finds its way through traffic in front of the net and surprises Backstrom, who squeezes his pads together at the last instant. The disc still wriggles through but Backy is able to lunge back and fall on the puck before it can inch over the goal line. Period 3
16:40 - Now Clutterbuck is walking toward the locker room. That means, for the time being, the Wild has nine forwards available. Right now, the Wild bench looks like the bench of Hickory High in Hoosiers
15:25 - Clutterbuck is back on the bench.
13:05 - On an offside call, Nick Schultz and Saku Koivu come together and Schultz takes exception to Koivu getting a little aggresive with the stick. They exchange some chops and shoves.
10:17 - By the way, the official word on Koivu is an upper body injury and he will not return tonight.
3:19 - With a late power play that's going to pretty much seal this W, the Wild looks to heap on. Pierre-Marc Bouchard
holds the puck in the right circle before slamming a slap shot that Dan Clout...I mean...McEhlhinney snares that one. 3:11 - MIN 5 - ANA 1 - This will seal it. The Wild power play converts again, this time with Havlat punching one in from the side of the net. If you're looking for a team prime for surpassing in the standings, look no further than these Ducks, who are in serious trouble of their goaltending situation isn't resolved.
0:00 - The two-game skid is history, and will be looked back at as a minor hiccup when we're playing some meaningful games in April. Bet on that.