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Hei State of Hockey legion, and a Happy St. Urho's Day to all you Finnish Americans out there, especially in Virginia, Minnesota, where the holiday actually originated in the home of Finnish-American Richard Mattson. Apparently he was jealous of all the Irish and their St. Patrick's Day revelry, so he came up with St. Urho's Day to offset St. Patrick, who got the snakes out of Ireland. St. Urho got the frogs out of Finland with his booming voice, and if you know frogs and their sense of hearing, that is no small feat. So stock up on lutefisk as you read along tonight. Mikko Koivu
, Antti Miettinen and Niklas Backstrom
would be proud.
Now then, the Minnesota Wild will need to channel the power of Urho's voice into a pummeling of the Edmonton Oilers tonight. I will be watching the carnage from my perch in the Al Shaver Press Box, high above the frozen water at Xcel Energy Center.
It's giving me an ideal vantage point of tonight's pregame warmups featuring Josh Harding
, who will get the start in place of Backstrom, who is no doubt observing St. Urho's Day, and thus unavailable. I'm also looking at Big John Scott having some words at the red line with Edmonton tough guy Theo Peckham. I suspect that conversation may be revisited later tonight. I also see two new members of the Wild - Casey Wellman and Justin Falk
- who are taking warmup shots on Harding, but their status at this point is still unbeknownst to me and everybody else up here. Wellman had to spend all afternoon going clothes shopping with his parents because an airline lost his luggage today. That leads me to believe that we may have to wait to see his debut. Stay tuned.
In actuality, Backstrom is still recovering from a lower body injury, so Wade "Doobey" Dubielewicz will be Harding's backup tonight. Derek Boogaard (face), Brent Burns (hip), Shane Hnidy (leg), Clayton Stoner
(hernia) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion) are all out with injuries. Update: Wellman and Falk will not make their NHL debuts tonight.
As for attire, the Wild are breaking out the snappy home reds for this one. The Oilers are going with the road whites trimmed in navy and copper with the oil drop on the chest.
Miss Shamrock, Katie Martin, gets us going with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. Ah, a wee bit of hockey. Why not?Oh, and please note that live in-game commentary will be on a brief two-game hiatus starting Thursday, but will return for Sunday's home game against Calgary.Period 1
19:21 - A close call early as the puck bounces around in front of the crease, and away from Harding. Former Michigan Wolverine Andrew Cogliano is right there, but he's off balance and can't swing the bat well enough to make contact. Finally, the puck is cleared before any harm is done.
15:36 - A close shave the other way as Big John fires a wrister toward the goal from the blue line. The puck hits Miettinen, which fools Oiler netminder Jeff Deslauriers. Miettinen moves the puck to his right and has an open net, but Deslauriers dives headfirst to his left and gets his chest on it.
14:19 - Zack Stortini, who is undoubtedly "that guy" for the Oilers, starts getting rough with Marek Zidlicky along the sideboards. That doesn't sit well with Scott who gets in there to mix it up with Stortini. Cal Clutterbuck
is also in there jawing away as he loves to do. And that leads to...
14:12 - Just seconds after the next faceoff, Scott and Stortini drop the gloves, and both linesmen get in the way, not allowing the duel to take place. Scott is shaking his head, wondering how this can happen a second time this season. There was a game in Anaheim when the refs stopped a Scott fight before it began.
10:31 - Koivu gets completely pulled down to the ice by the stick of former Minnesota Gopher Ryan Potulny, but there is no call.
8:12 - Former Wisconsin Badger Tom Gilbert
crunches his former college teammate, Robbie Earl against the boards in the Edmonton zone.
6:36 - The crowd loves it as Stortini gets a full head of steam going as he tries to drill Scott against the endboards behind the Wild net. Scott remains completely upright while Stortini crumbles to the ice. Scott even waves him down to the ground as if he's brushing off a moth.2:22 - MIN 1 - EDM 0 - Hot diggity dog! The Andrew Ebbett line works a beautiful passing play as they enter the Edmonton zone, and it results in a goal. Ebbett drops a pass between an Oiler's legs and back to Martin Havlat, who quickly dishes to the sideboards for Guillaume Latendresse. G-Lat then fires a shot toward the goal, and Ebbett puts a perfect tip on it, sending it just under the cross bar. He then celebrates with a Latendresse-like fist pump. A thing of beauty from start to finish.
0:00 - The Wild heads to the locker room enjoying a 1-0 lead after one. They'll replenish the fluids and then look to build on that in the second.Period 2
17:35 - Kyle Brodziak
gets some open space as he enters the Edmonton zone. He crushes a long shot on goal that Deslauriers stops with the waffle glove. The puck floats back into the slot, but Chuck Kobasew's Delmon Young swing misses for strike one.
16:53 - Ebbett again shows off his speed by driving to the side of the net and then flipping a quick pass to the top of the crease for Latendresse. He puts a point blank shot right on, but Deslauriers flips his right leg pillow out to stuff him right along the goal line.
16:14 - Miettinen gets behind the defense and has a clean breakaway on Deslauriers. He makes a quick deke move, and then tries to go upstairs but puts it over the net and off the clear plastic.
13:42 - It's Ebbett once again hitting Latendresse with a perfect centering feed, this time on the power play. G-Lat has some room, but his rocket wrist shot clanks off the post.11:24 - MIN 1 - EDM 1 - Someone needs to remind the Oilers that they stink, because they are not rolling over in this one. They won't go away right now, and they score on a pretty play here. Jason Strudwick holds the zone and then sends a long pass toward the goal where Marc Pouliot makes a perfect deflection past Harding.
7:04 - I would hope so. Clutterbuck is on his knees behind the Edmonton net, and Ethan Moreau decides it's a good idea to cross check Clutter in the back of the head repeatedly. Believe it or not, Moreau doesn't agree with the penalty that's called on him.
5:29 - Now this is funny! During the Kiss Cam, a woman is shown next to a guy she is not with. So she leans the other way, over her son, and kisses her husband two chairs over. And guess who the son was...Casey Wellman!!!!! The brand new Wild player has to watch his parents kiss right in front of him. Poor Casey might never live that one down until he breaks all of Wayne Gretzky's records.2:04 - MIN 2 - EDM 1 - There it is! Mittens finally breaks through, but it takes a fantastic effort from Koivu to win a fierce battle for the puck in the corner. He is able to get the puck to Brunette, who then sends the puck across the high slot for a Miettinen one-timer. Deslauriers gets a piece of it, but not enough, and Miettinen finally ends his frustration against the Oiler keeper.
0:10.1 - The start of the third is going to be a bear. Clutterbuck and Zidlicky are both in the box, and the Oilers will have a full two-minute two-man advantage. Although, they'll only have 1:50 left when the period starts.Period 3
20:00 - Here we go! Almost two full minutes of a five-on-three for Edmonton. This is always fun. Greg Zanon, Nick Schultz and Koivu are out there to start.
19:28 - Harding makes a huge save on Potulny and hangs on for a much-needed whistle.
19:15 - Brodziak steals a pass and sends it all the way down.18:46 - MIN 2 - EDM 2 - Worst case scenario. Potulny converts on a cross-crease feed from Sam Gagner, and the Wild will only get one player out of the box. Harding can do nothing on this one as the puck was worked around well by the Oilers power play unit.
15:23 - MIN 3 - EDM 2 - Best case scenario. The Wild gets the lead right back. Brodziak wins a battle for the puck behind the Oiler net, and then sends a pass to the front. The puck appears to hit Deslauriers or another Oiler and it bounces right to Kobasew who flips a backhand into the net for his first goal since registering a hat trick back on November 27. That's a span of 20 games because he obviously missed a lot of time with a knee injury.
11:45 - MIN 4 - EDM 2 - There we go! The Wild gets some much-needed breathing room as the Ebbett line connects once again. A Zanon shot from the point hits traffic and bounces to Ebbett in the high slot. He makes a nifty pass over to a wide open Havlat in the right circle, and he does not miss the open net with his wrist shot. This place is loud right now.
9:57 - James Sheppard nearly makes this one 5-2 as he intercepts a Deslauriers clear along the sideboards. With the Oiler keeper scrambling to get back in the net, Shep fires a wrister toward the empty goal, but Deslauriers just does get back at the last split second to make the save.
5:41 - Harding stays hot, as he comes up huge on former Maine Black Bear Dustin Penner's quick tip on goal from the front of the net.
5:10 - This time, Hards shows off the glove, snaring a hard wrister off the stick of former Michigan Wolverine Andrew Cogliano.
3:33 - Clutterbuck hammers Peckham into the sideboards, but the only problem is the puck is about 75 feet away. Clutter will go for interference, but it's still fun to see him clobber Peckham.
1:26 - Edmonton has Deslauriers off for the extra attacker. Koivu gets the puck out of the Wild zone, and as he skates after it, he's knocked to the ice by Gilbert, Gilbert continuously hammers Koivu in the back of the head, and the captain finally has enough and gets up to throw a gloved punch in Gilbert's face. With head shots such an issue in the NHL right now, you'd think they might address the repeated punches to the back of a player's head. It doesn't seem safe to me, but then again, I am also against running with scissors.
0:00 - That's three in a row, and I believe we can call that a win streak. Where are you Detroit?