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Yo, ho ho State of Hockey legion! Welcome to this post-Christmas, present-Kwanzaa and Boxing Day edition of live in-game commentary presented by Sun Country Airlines. Holiday travel can be a bear, but if it must be done, you're best utilizing a plane from Sun Country. I can attest.
I certainly hope that those of you who celebrate Christmas enjoyed the last two days and got to spend some deserved time with loved ones. I also hope you had to listen to a Dora the Explorer guitar being played for five straight hours so I'm not the only one. Did you know those guitars don't have volume control? Take my word for it.
Take my word on the following as well: that six-game losing streak for the Minnesota Wild that led us into the Christmas break is kaput tonight. Our captain Mikko Koivu
is back in the lineup. The Colorado Dweebs (also known as the Avalanche) had an early wakeup call this morning, a long flight and no morning skate. Plus, they probably ate holiday dinners that were high in fat and tryptophan. That means that despite their four straight wins, they're up against it.
And I haven't even mentioned the fact that they'll be dealing with Niklas Backstrom
, who is All World and has owned Colorado more than Tim Tebow. Backy is getting the start tonight and judging by pregame warmups, we're going to see a stellar performance in this one.
Of course, it's Backstrom's fellow Finn who is going to take this game over. Look for a huge performance from Mikko Koivu
in his return after missing four games with a lower body injury. He comes off injured reserve while Guillaume Latendresse
(concussion), Devin Setoguchi
(lower body) and Casey Wellman (upper body) still have their names on that injured list. Clayton Stoner
(lower body) is also out of tonight's game. Greg Zanon is going to be your healthy scratch.
If you were lucky, Santa brought you a red home Wild sweater that you can wear tonight just like your favorite team is doing. If you were naugh-tay, then you probably got a white jersey trimmed in burgundy and blue with the snow-covered "A" on the chest.
Nick Swardson, the hilarious comedian/movie star/pride of St. Paul Central high school, gets us started with a rousing rendition of Let's Play Hockey. It's not Pretend Time. It's go time. Let's do this.Period 1
19:18 - On an early Wild power play, Jarod Palmer
skates behind the Colorado net and unloads on former Cornell Big Red, Ryan O'Byrne. Some good early jump for the guys in red sweaters.
14:38 - Can we please start seeing suspensions for these kinds of hits? This is getting ridiculous. Jared Spurgeon
takes a vicious hit from behind by the uber-annoying Cody McLeod. Spurgeon goes face-first into the boards where they meet the glass. He stays down while Marco Scandella
wastes no time in coming to his partner's defense and beating up on McLeod. Spurgeon is eventually helped off the ice and McLeod is going to get five and a game misconduct. I don't understand how you can suspend for hits to the head, but you can't for driving a guy face first into the endboards, which don't have a lot of give.
11:51 - The best scoring opportunity thus far on the five-minute penalty goes to the Avs. Former Michigan Wolverine Kevin Porter makes a steal at the blueline and is off to the races. He makes a move to the backhand, but Backstrom stays right with him and stuffs it with the left leg pillow. 10:29 - MIN 1 - COL 0 - Money! The Wild power play strikes in a much-needed way. Dany Heatley circles behind the Avalanche net and then spots Pierre-Marc Bouchard open in the right circle. Butch fires off a one-timer that appears to clip a stick of an Avs player on the way to the net. That's enough to knock it under the arm of Semyon Varlamov and give the Wild the early lead.
5:46 - The Wild nearly bags another on a very similar play to the one that worked the first time. This time it's Bouchard that carries behind the net and he finds Cal Clutterbuck
for a one-timer from the right circle. Clutter gets all of it, but Varlamov isn't fooled by a tip this time and he makes a big stop.
3:07 - The Wild's grinders are doing their thing inside the Colorado zone. Brad Staubitz lets a low shot go from the high slot and Warren Peters
barely misses with a near perfect tip that zips just wide.
0:00 - We'll take that. The Wild was all over the Avs in the first and holds a nice little lead after 20. We'll watch some mite hockey for a bit during intermission here and then start ramping it up in the second.Period 2
18:31 - A long shot from the point hits traffic in front of Varlamov, and Kyle Brodziak
is there to pick up the loose puck. He takes a step across the middle and then flicks a backhander past Varlamov and off the cross bar.
13:49 - Oof! Backstrom gets bowled over by prized rookie Gabriel Landeskog, and in four more seconds, the Wild power play will get to work again.
9:57 - Now it's the Avs generating chances on the power play. Stefan Elliott has a chance from the left circle but Backstrom slides across and makes a great pad save.9:26 - MIN 1 - COL 1 - Example number 334 of why I'm a moron. I was just questioning to my colleagues why Matt Duchene would be on the point during a Colorado power play. "Shouldn't he be down by the net?" I say as if I know what I'm talking about. Five seconds later, he gets the puck at the point, fires a perfect pass down to the side of the net where Ryan O'Reilly taps it in and immediately points to Duchene...at the point.
8:00 - MIN 2 - COL 1 - That's what we're talking about! That's Wild hockey! Heatley starts this one by forechecking hard and knocking former Minnesota Gopher Erik Johnson off the puck. Koivu is close behind and he quickly sends a pass to the front where Clutterbuck blasts a one-timer past Varlamov from about five feet out. This one could have ripped a hole in the netting. I think we can say it's nice to have Koivu back in this lineup.
1:02 - MIN 2 - COL 1 - Not a good bounce for the Wild as the Avs tie the game at two. Gabriel Landeskog is the bearer of good fortune as the Avs are on the forecheck. David Van Der Guilk is battling for a loose puck and the puck hops right to Landeskog on the side of the net. Backstrom doesn't know where the puck is and Landeskog shoves it home to tie the game
0:00 - Well, we've got ourselves a little tie game after 40, but like you, I expect the Wild will pull this one out in the third period of play. Fill up your beverage and grab a snack now, because you're not going to want to miss the end of this one.Period 3
17:31 - The Wild power play has looked better than it has in a long time tonight, and some of that has to be due to Koivu's return. The unit works the puck around until Marek Zidlicky unloads a bomb through traffic that Varlamov has to grab with the outstretched glove.
15:52 - Zidlicky makes another nice play to intercept a Colorado clearing attempt at the blueline. In one motion, he sends the puck down to the front of the net where Nick Johnson
is camped. Johnson makes a nifty move, but Varlamov plays it sound and is able to stop repeated whacks until the net is finally dislodged.
13:41 - Perhaps another example of why Duchene plays the point on the power play - he has a bomb of a shot. He rockets one up high through traffic that Backstrom struggles to handle. The puck falls straight down into the crease but he's able to cover up before anyone can knock the puck in.
12:43 - Clutterbuck's hustle nearly leads to a shortie as he causes a turnover at the Wild blueline and then races after the puck all the way at the other end. He gets it and circles the net before finding Matt Cullen
on the other side with a seeing-eye pass. Cullen gets a solid shot off but Varlamov again comes up with the stop.9:40 - MIN 2 - COL 3 - The Avalanche take the lead for the first time, and it's not exactly a good time for it. O'Reilly gets the puck along the near boards and spots Jan Hejda cutting through the slot. The pass is right on the tape and Hejda redirects it past a helpless Backstrom. This raucous crowd is now temporarily silent.
7:22 - The Wild PK unit comes up with a huge kill, especially considering the majority of it was spent with Cullen playing without a stick for at least a minute, giving the Avs what basically amounted to a 5-on-3.6:54 - MIN 2 - COL 4 - You'd hope a big kill like that turns the momentun in the Wild's favor...it doesn't. The Avs strike again as former Dartmouth Big Green TJ Galiardi gains the zone, cuts across the high slot and fires a heavy wrister that eludes bodies in front of a screened Backstrom and finds the upper corner.
4:13 - This deficit could be bigger with the Avs on another late power play. But Backstrom makes a stellar save to steal one from O'Reilly right on the doorstep.
3:10 - That save was routine compared to this one. Another former Wolverine Matt Hunwick gets the puck in the left circle and has a wide open net to shoot at. He fires a shot about three feet off the ground, but Backstrom dives headlong to the far post and knocks it down out of midair with the paddle of the stick. The disc is still trickling toward the goal line but Nick Schultz gets to it and clears it an instant before it can go in.
0:00 - That will do it. The Wild's pointless skid hits four games, and the losing streak is at seven. No point in hanging our heads. The boys are going to get it done in Nashville on Wednesday.