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What's the haps State of Hockey legion? How was your All-Star break? I hope you got your rest because break time is over slackers. According to the calculations I ran all weekend, the Minnesota Wild has 33 games left on the schedule, starting with tonight's contest against the Los Angeles Kings. I don't know about you, but I've come down with a case of Bruno fever.
It's probably due to all this hype surrounding Bruno's 1,000th NHL game, which is going to happen tonight. I came down with my Bruno fever sometime yesterday as I was writing a Pulitzer-worthy story about the milestone. Suddenly, I noticed myself telling really funny jokes, laughing extremely loud and my posterior began to double in size (but that might have something to do with too much fast food). I started to worry about the changes, but then I went down to the basement to play a little mini-hockey with my 11-month-old daughter, and I found myself making sick passes and burying every chance I had when I was in the net. My daughter was having a dickens of a time knocking me off the puck, too. So of all the afflictions I've dealt with, Bruno fever has been my favorite.
Brunette has been downplaying tonight's game when he talks to the media bottom feeders. But don't let that fool you. You can mark him down for his first-ever Wild hat trick tonight, as well as a helper on the game-winning goal scored by Antti Miettinen.
And that Miettinen game-winner is going to be the first goal of the game, because Niklas Backstrom
is manning the pipes tonight. All signs are pointing to his goals against average plunging downward tonight because he appears locked in during pregame warmups. Mark him down for at least 28 saves.
Despite the break for a week, the Wild will still be without the same players that were missing earlier. Guillaume Latendresse
(abdominal), Marco Scandella
(concussion) and Marek Zidlicky (shoulder) are all out for this one. Fortunately, nobody's feelings will be hurt tonight because the Wild has the minimum number of players and nobody will have to be scratched from the lineup.
I'm sure you've been wondering about uniform ensembles, so let me get that information to you right quick. The Wild will go with the home reds for this one. The Kings are wearing their road whites trimmed in purple, black and silver with King Edward the Longshanks' crown on the chest.
Professional poker player Jason Senti shows us his po-po-po-poker face and and announces "Let's Play Hockey." I don't think we should...That was a bluff. Let's do this.Period 1
19:59 - Brunette is out there to start the game, and that makes number 1,000 official. All the players and trainers were given these T-shirts
in honor of Bruno's milestone. The shirt featured logos of Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Colorado and Minnesota - the five teams he's played for.
12:32 - During the first TV timeout of the game, the announcement of congratulations for Brunette is made, and he gets a nice ovation and stick tap salute from the players for his accomplishment. Bruno acknowledges everybody from the bench where he waves to the crowd.
11:13 - We finally have a scoring chance in this one and it goes to the Wild. A nice passing display ends with Pierre-Marc Bouchard
getting the puck in the right circle and spotting Nick Schultz cutting through the back door. Butch hits him in stride, but Schultz fires his shot just wide.
10:04 - Well behind the play in the neutral zone, Cam Barker and Brad Richardson are having words in front of Niklas Backstrom
. They slowly skate to their respective benches, but the jawing continues for quite awhile.
6:19 - One guy the Wild would like to avoid seeing loose in the slot with the puck on his stick is Anze Kopitar. He has plenty of room in front of him after getting hit with a pass, but he opts to shoot from a good distance away and Backstrom makes a solid stop with the waffle glove.
3:57 - The crowd appreciates a very nice shift by the Wild's checking line of Eric Nystrom, Brad Staubitz and John Madden. Staubitz fires a one-timer right on. Later, the puck is worked back to Brent Burns, who steps around a defender and fires a hard, low shot that is stopped by Jonathan Bernier.
1:56 - The Wild has the man advantage, but it's the Kings that get the best scoring chance. Richardson leads a two-on-one the other way with Jared Spurgeon
the only player back. Richardson saucers a pretty pass over to Dustin Brown, but Backstrom slides across quickly and makes a big stop with the left leg pillow.
0:00 - A first period typical of one coming off a week-long break is in the books. The Wild will replenish their fluids in the locker room and come out swinging in the second.Period 2
19:29 - From out of nowhere, Mikko Koivu
gains the L.A. zone and from a few feet over the blueline, he winds up and blasts a shot that beats Bernier cleanly on the blocker side but caroms off the inside of the post.
14:35 - Kyle Brodziak
and Wayne Simmonds are engaged in some talking and shoving after the whistle in the Los Angeles zone. We need some of that. There hasn't been a ton of emotion on either side so far tonight.
12:18 - Now it's the Kings with a power play, and it's the Wild with a scoring chance. An errant pass skips out to the neutral zone and Koivu is the first to get there. Possibly encouraged by his blast from earlier in the period, he cranks a slapper from the left side but misses high.
4:19 - There's the emotion! There's the fire! Hoo-ah! Matt Cullen
nearly punches in a rebound from the top of the crease, and then he wheels around the net with the puck, trying to center one for Jared Spurgeon
deep in the zone. Bernier reaches out to cover up, and now we've got a scrum. Everybody on the ice is getting involved, but the two guys going at it the hardest are Cal Clutterbuck
and Wayne Simmonds. Despite quite a few shoves and glove-covered punches, there won't be any penalties called.
2:56 - Backstrom comes up with his biggest save of the night, stonewalling Ryan Smyth on a tip from right in front. He's up to 21 saves right now.
0:54.2 - It's a who's who of sporting celebrities in the Al Shaver Press Box tonight. So far, I've seen Ron Gardenhire, Terry Steinbach, Matt Birk (the original Matty Ice) and gymnast Alicia Sacramone. No offense to the first three, but Sacramone looks the best.Period 3
19:20 - Burns gets a heavy lick on Brown as the U.S. Olympian crosses the blue line. Burns plants him on the ice, and Koivu topples over Brown. Everybody appears to be fine as the play is whistled offside.
16:43 - Almost a fairy tale storyline on the Wild's second power play of the night. From the left point, Burns fires a low shot to the other side of the net where Brunette puts a perfect tip on it. Bernier does a great job of staying with it and slides over to make the pad stop.
12:45 - Former Clarkson Knight Willie Mitchell tries to line up Clutterbuck at the Wild blueline, but Clutter isn't just an expert at hitting. He's stellar at blowing up guys trying to hit him. Mitchell goes flying back first into the sideboards while Clutterbuck keeps his footing and calmly goes off for a change.
10:48 - I'm not going to tell you that this is the best game I've ever seen in this building. That doesn't mean it's not going to end well. I'm still calling a Miettinen game-winner, but I might have to back off my prediction of a Bruno trick. Two goals for Bruno is still a distinct possibility, however.
8:34 - Bouchard wins a race to a puck behind the Los Angeles net and throws a pass to a rushing Brodziak. Brodzy fires a shot, but Bernier makes the save. That chance ignites the Wild, who completely take over in the offensive zone with chance after chance. Burns very nearly finds a wide open Bouchard at the side of the net, but the puck skips by as Butch's stick is lifted by Drew Doughty.
4:59 - Martin Havlat hits Cullen with a home run pass to the L.A. blueline. Cullen shakes off former Michigan Wolverine Jack Johnson with a beautiful spin-o-rama move and then lets a backhand go. Once again, Bernier comes up with the save.
2:53 - A funny moment is shown on the FSN broadcast. When Jack Johnson was in the penalty box, he was involved in a staredown with a kid who couldn't be older than three years old. The kid just stared as Johnson gave him a wave, but no dice. The little tyke is wearing a Wild sweater and he refuses to engage the enemy in pleasantries.
0:00 - There's going to be a goal eventually, but it won't be in regulation. We're headed to overtime with no score for the first time this season. Overtime
1:53 - The Wild keeps missing by inches. Bouchard centers one from behind the net to Havlat in the slot. His one-timer just misses.
1:38 - The red guys keep applying pressure and Burns lets go with a spin-around shot that Bernier makes another huge save on.
0:00 - Plenty of chances on both sides, but we're going to have to decide this one in the shootout. It will be the first shootout win of the season for the Wild. Can't wait!Shootout
Kopitar will lead things off in this one. The Kings All-Star tries to make a move, but Backstrom poke checks it away.
The surprise leadoff shooter for the Wild is Havlat, and his shot to the five hole is denied by Bernier's pads.
Johnson is up next. He makes a move and then tries to lift it up with Backy on his belly. Somehow he kicks his right leg up and makes a miraculous save.Here comes Bouchard to give the Wild the lead...and he does. Tucking a backhand underneath Bernier, the crowd explodes for the first red light of the night.
If Backy can stop Brown, it's over. He tries to go glove side, but it's not happening. Backstrom secures the shutout. Another huge two points for the good guys!