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Yo, yo yo State of Hockey legion, and a Happy Freedom Day to all of the Wild fans in the hockey mad country of Malta. Of course, today marks the 31st anniversary of the withdrawal of British troops and the Royal Navy from Malta. Of course, we here in the United States of America know there is no better party than celebrating the withdrawal of those pesky Brits from your homeland.
Even though I'm not able to be in Malta for the celebration (maybe next year), I couldn't be happier to be in my perch in the Al Shaver Press Box high atop the ice rink at Xcel Energy Center. Where else can I drink free soda, eat soft pretzels with cheese, watch pregame warmups and sit just a few seats down from Bill Robertson, one of the sexiest men alive according to Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine?
I also have the pleasure of watching Nik Backstrom turn away pucks the way Robertson shrugs off all the ladies clamoring for his digits. Backstrom is getting the start tonight, and that can only mean it's going to be a long night for all of those Chicago rubes sitting along the glass watching pregame warmups in the Blackhawk end.
I just got word that Andrew Ebbett's finger surgery went swimmingly today, and he should begin rehab in about three weeks. But he won't be playing tonight. The same can be said for Clayton Stoner
(hernia), Cam Barker (ankle), Chuck Kobasew (knee), Josh Harding
(hip) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion). Justin Falk
and Nate Prosser
are going to be the healthy scratches.
Now, despite what the Wild's idiotic game preview writer said today, the Wild will not be wearing their road whites tonight. No, no my friends. They are going with the home reds. The Blackhawks, who were apparently too lazy to bring an extra change of clothes, will be going with the classic road whites trimmed in black and red with the stoic Native American on the chest.
Brian Bonin, a former Hobey Baker Award winner for one of the Minnesota colleges, and a former Wild player, gets us started with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. Shall we?Period 1
19:09 - Some early pizzazz is generated by the HAV-LAT tandem. They work the puck loose in the corner and then Guillaume Latendresse
feeds one right to the top of the crease for Kyle Brodziak
. He tries to jam one under Antti Niemi, who holds his ground and makes the stop.
16:25 - We seem to have a serious situation on the Chicago bench right now. Seconds earlier, Shane Hnidy laid a heavy hit on Colin Fraser behind the Wild net. Fraser labored on his way to the Chicago bench, and when he eventually got there, it appeared that he may have collapsed. The Chicago bench immediately yelled at the refs to stop the game, which they do. Fraser is attended to briefly, but he's able to walk back to the locker room to get checked out.
13:20 - Some pretty passing from one end of the rink to the other yields a great chance for the Wild's top line. Antti Miettinen gets the puck down low at the side of the Chicago net. He patiently waits for Andrew Brunette to get loose in front and puts a perfect pass on the tape. Bruno gets good wood on the shot, but Niemi gets the leg pillow down for the save.
9:32 - Look at the offensive savviness of the Boogeyman in the Chicago zone. Niemi tries to play the puck behind his own net, but it's cut off at the pass by Boogey. He then sends a pass to the front, but the puck hops the stick of Casey Wellman with the Hawk net vacated.
6:46 - The Wild has just three shots in the period thus far, but all three have been point blank chances. James Sheppard gets the puck over to Cal Clutterbuck
in front. With the disc on his backhand, Clutter tries to lift one up high, but Niemi goes against the grain and snares it with the lobster mitt.
2:18 - Backstrom's defense has done a great job of keeping most Chicago shots to the outside, but he's been solid when needed. Dustin Byfuglien unloads a howitzer from the point that Backstrom calmly nabs with the glove hand.1:40 - MIN 0 - CHI 1 - This shot comes from the outside, but it has so much velocity, it doesn't matter. Ben Eager gains the Chicago zone and drops a pass back to Tomas Kopecky who cranks a wicked one-timer on goal. Backstrom gets a piece of it with his arm, but only slows it down a bit as it floats into the top corner.
0:00 - That's going to do it for the first 2-. The Wild will head to the locker room for some PowerAde and maybe even some strategizing for periods two and three.Period 2
15:18 - Finally something happens as brand new daddy, Brent Burns, lets loose with a slapper that finds its way through traffic, including Owen Nolan staning right in front of Niemi. The Hawks keeper is able to avoid the screen and make a big pad save.
14:30 - Boogaard catches Eager with a late hit behind the Chicago net, and that angers Eager. Big Ben is a tough guy, but I don't think he'll be willing to tangle with Boogey tonight.
12:41 - On the power play, the Hawks work the puck around until Byfuglien is open in the slot. He has a clear shot, but Backstrom squares up and makes a huge save.
12:20 - Backs gets some help here. This time it's former Vermont Catamount Patrick Sharp wide open. Backstrom scrambles to his right to try and make a stop, but Sharp beats him. Fortunately, he rings it off the crossbar and out of play.
11:01 - Jumpin' Jiminy the Hawks are all over the place in the Wild zone right now. Kris Versteeg fires a shot from close range that Backstrom gets just enough of to deflect it off the crossbar again. 10:09 - MIN 0 - CHI 2 - The damn finally breaks. Eager steals a Big John Scott pass in the neutral zone and carries into the Wild zone. His first shot from the right circle is stopped by Backstrom, but he follows up and bangs in the rebound from a shallow angle.
6:45 - Fraser is back out there, which is good to see, and pretty amazing. The sight of him in pain on the bench was not good.
3:59 - The five-on-three tables have turned in favor of the Wild. Brent Seabrook hooks Mikko Koivu
behind the Chicago net, and Minnesota will have a five-on-three for 1:37.
2:49 - Niemi is unconscious right now. He has robbed Koivu twice on this power play, and this time Nolan hits Miettinen wide open in front of the net, but Niemi slides over and makes an unreal pad save.
1:59 - Seabrook is out of the box and the threat is neutralized by Chicago.Period 3
14:38 - The Wild has turned up the heat here in the third, but Niemi won't budge. Miettinen feeds Brodziak in the left circle, but his one-timer is gloved down by the Hawks keeper.14:07 - MIN 0 - CHI 3 - This is okay. In fact, we need to spot the Hawks one more before we can make another miraculous comeback. The Hawks get a deceiving three-goal cushion as Kopecky lights the lamp again. On a two-on-one, he fakes a slap shot, then lets a low wrist shot go. Backstrom gets some of it, but it squeaks through his legs and crawls over the goal line.
12:23 - Patrick Kane and former North Dakota Fighting Sioux Jonathan Toews have been held in check tonight, but the Wild is getting all it can handle from the other Blackhawks. Dave Bolland has a chance as he takes a centering feed and puts a quick shot on goal. Backstrom has to slide to his right to make a huge stop.
9:15 - Ice is slippery. Linesman David Brisebois finds this out as he glides backwards and tumbles to the ice. It happens right in front of Nolan, and if you think Cowboy is going to help a linesman up, you're new here.5:58 - MIN 0 - CHI 4 - There is Mr. Toews. He converts from right in front on a centering pass from Marian Hossa. The bright side is now that we have a four-goal deficit, the rally can commence. The fans who are exiting the building are going to feel really silly when that happens.
0:00 - Well, the expected rally never happened, and the Wild falls to the Hawks in this one.