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Ten hut State of Hockey legion! Make sure your slacks are creased and pressed, your boots are smudge free and your fatigues are spotless. It is military night tonight, and your Minnesota Wild are currently dressed for battle with the Edmonton Oilers in camouflage uniforms. Of course, the jerseys they are currently sporting will only be used for pregame warmups before being put up for auction right here on Wild.com, which is also the home for live in-game commentary.
I'm currently checking out the sweet threads from my perch in the Al Shaver Press Box as the Wild and Oilers partake in said pregame warmups. I have to say, the camo sweaters look pretty freaking sweet from up here. If I'm wearing a white Edmonton jersey right now, I'm feeling a little inadequate and more than a little intimidated. Everyone knows that people in fatigues mean business, and that's why I wear my camouflage cargo shorts almost every day in the summer.
Then again, you'd probably feel a little queasy if you're about to face a goaltender that you've never
defeated in 12 chances at Xcel Energy Center. That man is Niklas Backstrom
, and I don't know what the Oilers ever did to him, but whatever it was, he's taking it personal. He simply makes live miserable for those Albertans, and quite frankly, he appears to enjoy it. Does that make him a bad guy? Of course not. It's just his job.
Now then, the Wild will be without Mikko Koivu
(hand) and Guillaume Latendresse
(abdominal) tonight, but we certainly hope we won't have to talk about either one of those guys in this space for long. Gui is nearing a return, and Mikko should be out a few more weeks. That is no thing. By the time he gets back, I'm predicting the Wild will not be in the top eight in the Western Conference. They'll be in the top four
Oh, one more thing. Chuck Kobasew will be the scratch tonight.
I've already touched on the attire the Wild is sporting during warmups, but they'll switch to the home reds in time for puck drop. The Oilers are going with the road whites trimmed in navy and copper with the oil drip on the chest.
Adam Carter, who is not related to Nick or Aaron but still important and just as dreamy, gets us going with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. Let's do it to it.Period 1
18:33 - The Wild has an early power play, but halfway through, it's going nowhere. In fact, the best scoring chance thus far is off the stick of former Wild prospect and Miami-Ohio Redhawk, Ryan Jones. He gets behind the Wild defense on a shorthanded rush and tries to stuff one in, but Backstrom comes up big early.
17:34 - Look out! A scary moment here as Cal Clutterbuck
one-times a shot from the high slot and catches former Wisconsin Badger Tom Gilbert
up near the face. Gilbert goes down immediately and play is stopped. After some time on the ice, Gilbert is thankfully able to get up on his own and he appears to be okay as he slowly heads to the bench. Clutterbuck hangs around a bit to offer some words of encouragement.
14:33 - This power play is already looking a lot better than the first. Minnesota very nearly gets on the board when Brent Burns sends a soft wrister toward the side of the net where Andrew Brunette is camped out. Bruno puts a perfect tip past Nikolai Khabibulin but the rubber hits high on the post and out the other side.
11:58 - More of this from Cody Almond
and he'll earn more ice time. He makes a perfect steal off a clearing attempt by former North Dakota Fighting Sioux Taylor Chorney, and then takes a few steps into the slot before wristing a missile on goal. Khabibulin makes a pretty glove save on this one, but Almond's just finding his rhythym.
9:44 - Brent Burns is looking to regain his fine juju from the first half of the season. He gets a burst of speed into the Edmonton zone and then fires one far side. Khabibulin gets the right leg pillow out there and leaves a juicy rebound, but there's nobody home to clean up.
5:33 - Clutterbuck causes a turnover in the Oiler zone and finds Matt Cullen
just above the hash marks. Cullen's bullet gives Khabibulin trouble as the goalie can only get a piece of it with the glove before it falls behind him in the blue paint. He's able to recover and pounce on it before anybody in a red sweater can get there.
0:57.8 - This time it's Cullen playing set up man, finding Brunette in front. Bruno puts a quick shot from point blank up high, but Khabibulin gets the waffle glove up in time for a huge save.
0:00 - That's going to do it for the first. The Wild has the better of the chances but the same amount of goals as the Oilers. Time for some recuperation, and then some goals in the second period. Period 2
17:53 - Former Maine Black Bear Dustin Penner wins a battle for the puck behind the Wild net and gets a pass to the front for former Michigan State Spartan Shawn Horcoff. Horcoff gets a quick backhand off, but Backstrom is once again in perfect position to make the stop.
15:20 - Away from the puck Edmonton thug Theo Peckham throws Clutterbuck to the ice by the throat. The biggest guy out there for the Wild is Clayton Stoner
, who tries to get at Peckham but gets there too late. Those two jaw at each other for quite a bit, and could be setting the stage for a tussle later on. If you'll recall the last meeting between these two clubs. Peckham was a major culprit in the ugliness at the end of that game.
12:27 - Now this is a hip check. As Chorney tries to carry along the boards into the Wild zone, he runs right into the rump of Burns who staples him hard against the glass. The crowd loves it, and loves the replay even more.10:37 - MIN 1 - EDM 0 - It's Marty's world right now, and we're just living in it. Number 24 comes up with another huge goal, but only after a spectacular pass through the neutral zone by Greg Zanon. He hits Marty in stride at the Edmonton blue line, and the Wild's leading scorer blows past Gilbert and moves in alone on Khabibulin. As he did last game, he picks his spot and hits it right on the nose, finding some space between the wickets. That's a goal in each of the last three contests for MarHav.
7:33 - Marty is feeling it right now. He break in on a two-on-one with Pierre-Marc Bouchard
on his left. Havlat puts a perfect saucer over to Butch, who crushes his shot toward the far side but just misses wide. It is all Wild right now.
4:49 - Still any Backstrom doubters out there? He comes up with his standard highlight reel save in a big moment. As Liam Reddox comes in from a tight angle, he muscles a shot that Backstrom kicks out to the front. Jones is right there to bang it toward an empty net, but it's not going to happen. Backstrom dives back and gloves it with the lobster mitt before it can go in. The guy is just unreal this year.2:23 - MIN 1 - EDM 1 - Just eight seconds after Antti Miettinen gets completely robbed on the doorstep by Khabibulin, the Oilers race the other way on an odd man rush. Carrying on the left side, Linus Omark drops a pass back to former Wild Kurtis Foster trailing the play. The guy with the howitzer fires a rocket off the post and in for a huge momentum shift. The Wild comes within inches of a two-goal lead, and now we're all knotted up. Period 3
18:32 - MIN 2 - EDM 1 - In the immortal words of DJ Pauly D, "Oh yeah!" This time, it's the Oilers that blow a three-on-two rush the other way as an errant pass is picked up in the neutral zone by Nick Schultz. He leads the rush by carrying up the right side and then putting a pass to the front for Kyle Brodziak. Rather than just punching the puck on net, Brodziak catches the puck, makes a move to the backhand and then roofs one on his former team. Huge goal.
13:27 - It's the Spuuuuuurge! He had his first NHL goal taken away in Chicago, but this one is all his Jared Spurgeon's the power play. From the sideboards, he sees Brodziak setting a screen in front, so he winds and fires one past the glove of Khabibulin and into the upper corner. He lets go with a mighty fist pump that would make Pauly D extremely proud. In fact, everybody's extremely proud right now as Spurgeon gets a huge ovation when his first NHL goal is announced.
10:26 - Jim Vandermeer doesn't like the fact that Havlat whacked his helmet out of the way as it was lying on the ice during play. After a whistle, Vandermeer goes out of his way to confront Marty, who welcomes him into his personal space with a little hook on the inside of the leg.
9:53 - With the Wild starting to pull away, the Oilers are resorting to some more dirty tactics. Jones and Nystrom are jawing at each other down the way.
9:13 - Spurgeon isn't happy with just one. He's looking for more on another power play. He heads right to the net and Havlat hits him down low, but the diminuitive defenseman is stuffed by the pad of Khabibulin.
7:51 - Things could get interesting here as Marek Zidlicky is going off for a hold and the 30th ranked power play in the League will have 1:31 of a two-man advantage.
6:20 - Burns is out of the box...
5:50 - ...Zidlicky is out of the box. And another huge ovation from the crowd. 5:27 - MIN 4 - EDM 1 - PLAY...OF...THE...YEAR! From start to finish, there can't be a play that's been better than this. It starts with Clutterbuck steamrolling Gilbert against the sideboards. Clutter then gathers the puck in the neutral zone and throws a pass ahead to a wide open Bouchard for a breakaway. He comes in all alone and pulls off the spin-o-rama goal again! But this time, it's not in the shootout, and even more impressive, it's against Khabibulin, who he burned with that move the first time when the goalie was with Chicago. Hello ESPN Top Plays. Even you can't deny that this play has to be up for an ESPY.
4:33 - What a night of hockey these fans are seeing. After Staubitz just misses on a hit intended for J-F Jacques, Jacques goes after him in front of the Edmonton bench. Staubitz is not engaging in this one with less than five minutes left. And I don't see why that's not an instigator on Jacques who drops his gloves without giving Staubitz the chance. Both players are getting misconducts. As Jacques leaves the ice, Clutterbuck bangs his stick against the boards and then engages in some conversations with the Oiler bench.
3:10 - This third period has been a rip roaring good time. Cullen brings the crowd to its feet again with a shorthanded breakaway, but Khabibulin slides to his left to make that save. I swear, the Wild has more breakaways in the last five games than the rest of the season combined.
0:00 - Ho hum Wild fans. Just another huge win for your boys, who continue to pick up points in crunch time. Five of a possible six points on the homestand is nothing to sneeze at. Now, it's off to the West Coast for two more biggies against the Kings and the Schmucks.