Well hello State of Hockey legion! Gee whiz I've missed your cherubic faces. If you'll indulge me just a bit, please take this time to wrap your arms around the computer monitor, press your cheek against the screen and give a big squeeze. I'm going to the same and we will have properly greeted. What can I say? I'm a hugger. A handshake just won't do after such a long time away, and such a tumultuous summer. Plus it's the Autumnal Equinox today, and nothing makes me want to embrace more than celebrating the earth's access being tiltled neither away from the sun or towards the sun. It only happens twice every year for crying out loud so let's celebrate.
In my mind, there's no better way to celebrate than with a little preseason hockey action. And there's no better place to do so than my beloved perch in the Al Shaver Press Box, high atop the rink surface at Xcel Energy Center (where the UMD Bulldogs became national hockey champions not long ago). But tonight, the ice now belongs to your
Minnesota Wild, who are about to put a preseason beatdown on the Columbus Uglies...or Blue Jackets as they are sometimes referred to as. Just a quick reminder, you can actually watch this game right here on your favorite website, via this live stream
, and it pains me to take you away from commentary, but for some reason watching it live might be better than constantly watching a page with words constantly refresh.
We haven't even started the game, and already there's reason to feel good. Josh Harding
is down to my right, taking warmups at Xcel Energy Center for the first time since March of 2009. What a story Josh is, but he's not about making people feel good. He's about frustrating the dickens out of them so long as they are wearing the wrong colored jersey. Look for a big night from "Hards" in his Xcel Energy Center return, and remember I said that a few hours from now.
Typically, this is where I'd give you the rundown of injured players and scratches, but this is preseason and I haven't got the time for all that. All you really need to know is Devin Setoguchi
, Dany Heatley
and Mikko Koivu
are making their preseason debuts, and I've got all three penciled in for hat tricks. Now, should Heatley score four goals, and Koivu score a measly two, then you can call me an idiot. But let's just see what happens before you do. Deal?
Finally, I got your Wild sporting the home reds for this one. The Blue Jackets are going with the road whites trimmed in red and blue with the O-hi-O flag draped across the chest.
In keeping with tradition, the Utecht family (one of the great Minnesota hockey families) hollers out the Let's Play Hockey declaration shortly after former Peyton Manning target Ben Utecht belts out a stirring rending of the Star Spangled Banner. That means it's go time, y'all. Let's do this.Period 1
16:14 - The Koivu line generates the first decent scoring chance of the game as Heatley gathers the puck at the left side of the net and lets the Columbus defenders slide right by him. He tries to hit Koivu coming around the opposite side of the net, but the captain can't get solid wood on the shot and sends it wide.14:30 - MIN 1 - CBJ 0 - Hey now! There's one for the good guys. Zack Phillips, the 2011 first rounder gathers the puck at the top of the left circle and spins around with a shot on goal. Allen York is able to stop that shot, but Kris Foucault is right on the doorstep and he bangs home the rebound. Foucault was a surprise star at the Wild's Development Camp scrimmages this past summer, and he's looking good this preseason.
11:42 - Just a sick play here by the playmakers. While killing a penalty, Koivu gains the Columbus zone and then softly pulls up to draw a defender. Instinctively, he slides a pass toward the net where Heatley gets behind the defender and in all alone. He makes a quick bid from in tight, but Sergeant York is there for a big save.
9:30 - The Wild very nearly pads the lead early as tryout defenseman and former Colorado College Tiger Kris Fredheim
winds and fires a shot from the point. On it's way, the puck skims off the stick of Setoguchi and off the cross bar. All metal.7:08 - MIN 1 - CBJ 1 - Not cool Derek Mackenzie. Not cool. On the Wild's first power play of the night, he steals the puck in the Wild zone and heads the other way on a two-on-one. Marek Zidlicky goes down to take away the pass, but Mackenzie goes upstairs and roofs one over the glove of Harding.
0:00 - That'll do it for the first period. Some good action. Looks like a little bit of rust still, but nothing a little fine tuning can't take care of it. Mike Yeo will deal with that at intermission. I'll get a cold beverage. And it will be all good in the second.Period 2
19:34 - The Blue Jax cause a turnover in their own zone and it's another two-on-one the other way. Ryan Russell carries up the right side and sends a wide pass over to Mackenzie, bidding for his second of the night. His one-timer is skillfully turned away by Harding.16:50 - MIN 1 - CBJ 2 - The Blue Jacket special teams are showing a thing or two tonight. They've got a shortie. They've killed a lengthy 5-on-3. And here, the light the lamp on the power play as Fedor Tyutin gets the puck at the point and cranks a shot through traffic, beating Harding high on the blocker side.
13:34 - Darroll Powe
makes a slick move to get around a Columbus defenseman with a one-handed poke shot that seems to fool York, but he's able to fight it off and keep the rebound away from a net crashing Kyle Brodziak
.12:30 - MIN 2 - CBJ 2 - Hot diggity it's the Heater! The Wild power play gets things going and it's the big dogs that make it work. Koivu surveys the action from behind the net and then makes the perfect pass to the front where Heatley slams one off the post and in. Heatley then points at a fan in the crowd, meaning there's a bond there that can't be broken. We're all tied up, folks.
9:52 - Nothing wrong with a little luck every now and then, although it is Harding so it was most likely all skill. On a Columbus power play, Antoine Vermette sends the puck to the top of the crease where Cam Atkinson pokes it past Harding. But the Wild keeper falls to his rump and just scrapes the puck enough to send it wide. We'll take it.9:06 - MIN 2 - CBJ 3 - The Jackets get the bounce this time. A shot from the point hits traffic and pops high in the air. With a battle in front, the puck rolls right to Russell who is able to chip it high from in tight, and that gets past Harding. Advantage to the Jax once again.
6:05 - Russell nearly bags another one as the puck slides from behind the net to his tape at the side of the net. He tries to stuff it in, but Harding is quick to get his pad over for a big stop.
2:18 - Gotta say the Koivu line is progressing nicely early in the preseason. Heatley causes a turnover and centers a pass into the slot for Setoguchi. He unloads on a one-time attempt but snaps his composite, sending it spinning into the corner.
0:00 - Period 2 is in the books along with period 1. That one will have Columbus as the team that had the better of the play, but games last 60 minutes, not 40. We'll talk again after intermission.Period 3
19:29 - MIN 3 - CBJ 3 - New guy! Setoguchi keeps the pace with the other new hotness by burying his first of the preseason. Heatley causes a turnover in the left faceoff circle, getting the puck right to the front where Seto is waiting. He lets York slide out of position and then easily tucks a backhand into the yawning cage. This line should be fine this season.
17:26 - Seto is feeling it. He makes another pretty move down low, getting by two defenders and then making a bid from in tight on York. This time, the Jax netminder is able to stay with him and swallow up the bid.
15:36 - You don't like to see this. Brad Staubitz crunches Cody Bass from behind into the corner boards, leaving him crumpled to the ground. Bass is very slow to get up, but he eventually does. Staubitz knows what he did was not within the rules, and he immediately skates to the bench and walks to the locker room. He draws a five minute major, and a game misconduct.
13:03 - Columbus takes a timeout, so Mike Yeo is going to take advantage. He's working the whiteboard right now. When he's on the whiteboard, you pay attention, ya heard?
10:36 - Five minute major killed. The fans appreciate the effort. Columbus was limited to very few chances throughout.
4:05 - The pace has slowed a bit but Columbus has had the puck more than the good guys. Radek Martinek fires a long shot from the point but it's no issue for Harding as he sponges it up in his chest protector for the faceoff.
3:18 - The Wild very nearly gets the go ahead goal on what would have been the ugliest goal in preseason history. A dump in bounces off the backboards, into the crease where York gets his stick on it. The puck pops in the air, drops onto the cross bar and falls into the crease before finally getting cleared.
1:40 - Vinny Prospal takes a hooking penalty, and the Wild will close out regulation with the man advantage.
0:00 - We've got some mayhem to close out regulation. After Cal Clutterbuck
rocks Tyutin with a monstrous (clean) hit behind the net, James Wisniewski goes after Clutterbuck twice, including a vicious cheap shot to the head at the buzzer. Chay Genoway
quickly jumps into the fray as he and Bass start tangling. Other guys pair off, but no punches are thrown. The Wild may get a two-man advantage out of this.Overtime
5:00 - The Wild will indeed have a two-man advantage for the next 20 seconds, followed by 4-on-3 whenever the next whistle happens after 20 seconds. Make sense?
4:41 - Gotta be kidding me. Clutterbuck finds an open Koivu, who patiently wrists a shot headed for the top shelf. York makes the always sexy deck pad glove save, bu the puck bounces right toward Clutterbuck in the slot. He fans on it and the puck skips away.3:38 - MIN 4 - CBJ 3 - It's over! How about that for a debut? Heatley puts a perfect tip on a shot from Koivu from the high slot. If you think these guys don't care about preseason, you should see the celebration from Heatley and his mates. Your Minnesota Wild are now 3-0 in the preseason.