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Good Friday evening, State of Hockey legion! I hesitate to wish you a Happy Georgia Day, which of course you know as the day that the state of Georgia recognizes in honor of its colonial founding as the Province of Georgia. But as I look down at the ice below me, I see the Wild's opponent tonight is the Atlanta Thrashers. And if you didn't know this already, Atlanta is actually in
Georgia. So even though there are all kinds of Wild faithful in the Peach state, I'm not sure I want to wish their state a great day today. And, considering the awful news from the Olympics today of the luger from the country
of Georgia, I almost feel funny using the name.
Anyway, while we are thinking of Nodar Kumaritashvili, and all of his family and followers, we've got a hockey game to play. And it involves your Minnesota Wild and the aforementioned Thrashers. I am coming to you live from my beloved perch in the Al Shaver Press Box where I'm watching these two teams take warmups. If I may be frank, I have to say it's advantage Wild just based on what I'm seeing with my dilated pupils.
Mainly, I'm seeing Niklas Backstrom
turn pucks away with ease, and that does not bode well for the ATL, or HOTlanta as some refer to it. Backstrom is getting his second straight start tonight.
As you may know, the Wild struck a deal today, which sent Kim Johnsson and the rights to Nick Leddy to Chicago for Cam Barker, who has a great hockey name, by the way. The Bark Dog is not here yet, and will be joining his new team at tomorrow's practice. That means Big John Scott is back in the lineup tonight, and Cody Almond
is set to make his NHL debut. James Sheppard will be the lone healthy scratch. Josh Harding
(hip), Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion), Chuck Kobasew (knee) and Clayton Stoner
(sports hernia) are all out.
As for the threads, the Wild will wear their classy home reds for this one. The Thrashers are going with the road whites trimmed in navy, rust and yellow with the stick-wielding, sneering bird on the chest.
Jim Dowd, one of the all-time good guys to wear the Wild uniform, gets us going with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. Even though he's wearing his old number 34 without the permission of Aaron Voros or Shane Hnidy, I say we listen to him. Let's do this thing.Period 1
17:49 - Almond is out there for his first NHL shift. If you don't think I'm praying that Almond has a hat trick tonight so I can use the headline, "Almond Joy," then this is your first rodeo.
16:20 - You can't blow a call like that on Owen Nolan's birthday! Cal Clutterbuck
makes a perfect lead saucer pass to Cowboy, but the play is whistled offside, although replays show that Nolan crosses the line at the same time as the puck. Don't make the Cowboy angry on his birthday if you know what's good for you.
14:49 - And the Academy Award for best actress in a supporting role goes to...Maxim Afinogenov! This is Afinogenov's first Academy Award and third nomination. With Derek Boogaard mixing it up along the sideboards, several Thrashers are being tormented. As Afinogenov skates away, Boogey gives him a quick slash to the padded section of his breezers. Afinogenov goes down in a heap and writhes around like a soccer player until the penalty is called. Then he happily skates to the bench.
11:37 - Antti Miettinen (who was earlier whistled for a bogus penalty) skips out of the box, and the Wild successfully kills a long power play for Atlanta.11:17 - MIN 0 - ATL 1 - I'm guessing one of the reasons that Evander Kane was so highly regarded during last year's draft was his shot. This 18-year-old kid is a sniper, and he buries a snap shot over the glove of Backstrom on a shot from the right faceoff circle. And yes, Evander Kane is another outstanding hockey name.
10:51 - Jimmy Dowd has graced us with his presence in the Al Shaver Press Box. He's currently sitting to my left and shooting the breeze with Bill Robertson, who is hopefully getting over the fact that he did not win Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine's sexiest man alive award, even though I thought he was a lock. I'm sure Dowd is consoling him, and maybe telling him that if you really want to be considered sexy, you need to wear tiny breezers when you play hockey.8:55 - MIN 1 - ATL 1 - The Wild answers quickly. With former Michigan State Spartan Jim Slater, Andrew Brunette draws the Wild even. Bruno puts himself right in the red zone, and Martin Havlat spots him with a perfect pass from the blueline. Bruno catches the pass, and then quickly flips a backhand past Johan Hedberg's waffle glove.
5:31 - MIN 2 - ATL 1 - The whistle go woooooo! A great all around effort by three guys who don't normally play together leads to a Wild goal. First, Koivu makes a great steal in the Atlanta zone and carries the puck to the slot. He's able to get the puck over to Clutter, who, despite getting checked, musters a shot on goal. Hedberg stops that, but Andrew Ebbett is crashing the net hard and the former Michigan Wolverine buries it for his sixth of the season.
2:36 - A bizarre call goes the Wild's way this time. Scott steps up and drills Eric Boulton as he enters the Minnesota zone with the puck. As he's falling, Boulton's stick comes up and inadvertenly clips Scott in the mouth. I'm not sure how you can fault the guy for his stick coming up as he's falling, but he's going to the box for four minutes.0:13.9 - MIN 2 - ATL 2 - We are even once again. With the Thrashers enjoying another power play, Pavel Kubina takes a cross-zone pass at the point and cranks a wicked slapper through traffic and over the outstretched leg pillow of Backstrom. Could have done without that.
0:00 - A penalty riddled first period comes to a close with the game knotted at twosies. Time for a quick intermission break and a Mighty Mites game, and then it's back to action.Period 2
17:01 - Backstrom comes up big in the second period's early going as Kane gets loose on a three-on-two. The prized rookie gets in on Backstrom and tries to put one in on the blocker side, but Backs plays it perfectly and sponges up the point blank shot.
15:54 - Nuts! Almond has his best shift of the night, battling in front of the net and making a great tip on a shot from the point. Hedberg has to change directions quickly to get a skate on the tip, and he's also able to keep Almond's follow up whack out of the cage.
13:10 - For the second time tonight, the Thrashers are going to have a 5-on-3 power play. Granted, it will be for 24 seconds, but there better be some heavy make up calling later in this game.
11:30 - A backchecking Marek Zidlicky loses an edge and is involved in a vicious collision with the post of Backstrom's net. He is down for a bit and appears to be clutching at his hand or wrist. He soon gets up and heads off.
11:09 - Nolan is freed from the box and the Wild is back to even strength.
10:12 - Nick Schultz unleashes a howitzer toward the goal that Guillaume Latendresse
tips on the way. The puck does down and squeezes through the legs of Hedberg, but nobody can get to it as it lays in the crease about two feet from the goal line. The Thrashers are able to clear it out of harm's way.
6:28 - Zidlicky loses an edge again, and he heads right to the bench and leaves the bench area with Equipment Manager Tony Dacosta. Something is wrong with that boot.
1:35 - After Zidlicky gets stopped on a nice glove save by Hedberg, Havlat offers up a little love tap to the back of the head of Arturs Kulda (who I bet is the first Arturs in the NHL since Arturs Irbe). Kulda doesn't like that and gives Havlat a shot. Then, G-Lat smokes Kulda in the back. No penalties will be called. Period 3
18:31 - With the Wild killing yet another penalty, Eric Belanger starts a rush the other way, and feeds Kyle Brodziak
as he splits the Atlanta D. Brodzy makes a move to the forehand and tries to stuff one in while falling, but Hedberg is right there with him and keeps it out with the left leg pillow.
15:54 - Other than diving, Afinogenov has some other skills too, and he shows those off by making a great pull up move in the right circle and then firing a low shot on Backstrom. The Wild keeper makes the pad save, but Zidlicky has to make a great play in clearing the rebound before former St. Lawrence Saint Rich Peverley can bang in the rebound.
12:12 - The Thrashers have a three-on-one break ther other way with Scott as the only defenseman back. Peverley dishes off to Niclas Bergfors, who has trouble in kicking the puck over to his stick, and that allows Backstrom to make a relatively easy pad stop.
11:01 - I have no idea how this one stays out, but it's not for lack of effort from Clutterbuck. Off a rebound, he gets the puck at the side of the net and tries to wrap the puck around on the other side. Hedberg throws his pad over there, and with the puck teetering on the goal line, Clutter keeps jamming away, but still can't force it in.8:55 - MIN 2 - ATL 3 - And just like that, the Wild is looking at a very dangerous deficit. Bergors gets behind the defense, and Bryan Little hits him in stride. Rather than carry the puck in, Bergfors gets to the circle and then rifles a wicked shot past the blocker of Backstrom and in.
8:11 - Schultz nearly gets this thing tied right back up. From the left point, he sends a shot toward the goal, where I believe Ebbett puts a tip on it and rings it right off the post.
5:44 - Right off a draw in the Atlanta zone, the puck slides harmlessly to Hedberg, who muffs it right back into the danger zone. Havlat is there, but the puck is rolling and he misses the wide open net.
3:50 - Zidlicky has been all over the place tonight, and here he carries the puck all the way in tight on Hedberg and tries to put one upstairs, and again, clanks it off the post.
2:00 - Wow! This officiating is mind-numbing tonight. The refs, who were calling everything in sight in the first two periods, completely blow an obvious holding-the-stick call on Atlanta. Wild players are furious as the puck enters the Wild zone, where Backstrom gets steamrolled behind the net and the Thrashers fire one into the empty net. As an obvious make up call, the Thrashers are called for interference, but I doubt they'd make this call if the puck stays out of the net.
1:36 - And Havlat gets called for a crosscheck to negate the power play. I can't even find the words right now to describe the officiating tonight.
0:00 - That will do it. The Wild suffers a crushing loss at the hands of the Thrashers.