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Good afternoon State of Hockey legion! I certainly hope you're enjoying this Black Friday, which, in my opinion, is the best day of the year. If you're like me, you hit the wrapper yesterday afternoon after consuming a few pounds of turkey and taters. After a power nap, you were ready to hit the shopping marts at 12:01 AM on the nose, and you were equipped with a helmet, elbow pads and foil on your knuckles. I learned years ago that if you want to get your hands on that Tickle Me Elmo, you've got to let your inner Matt Kassian
come to the surface. Those soccer moms can be ruthless.
Now that I've got my holiday shopping done, I can ice my bruises and broken bones before doing my part to set a Guinness World Record for the most moustaches in one place, ever. Guinness...if it's not Guinness, it's not
a world record. As soon as the Wild mops up the ice with the Nashville Predators in the last Movember game at Xcel Energy Center this season, the ice surface is going to be filled with moustachioed men in what I expect will be one of the sexiest photos ever taken. In fact, I think the Hockey Lodge should sell a Wild Moustache Calendar this holiday season. Today's photo will obviously be the November photo.
It's only fitting that one of the best 'staches on the team will be getting the start in goal for the Wild today. Jose Theodore will make his first-ever start as a Wild goaltender at Xcel Energy Center. From my vantage point in the Al Shaver Press Box, I can see Theo taking part in pregame warmups and he's deflecting pucks like Ironman deflects bullets. It could be a long and frustrating day if you're a Nashville Predator fan. Although, that could be true of any day if you're a Predator fan.
As for the players in front of Theodore, you can scratch Chuck Kobasew (lower body), Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion) and Guillaume Latendresse
(lower body) from your rosters. You can also draw a line through the names of Matt Kassian
and Justin Falk
, as they'll be the healthy scratches. Marek Zidlicky is back in the lineup.
The good guys will be wearing their lovely green third jerseys for today's contest. The Predators are going with the road whites trimmed in blue, silver and yellow with the saber-toothed tiger on the chest.
John Shillbreck of Minneapolis, who was picked as having the best Mo in the building, and I'm willing to bet it wasn't even close, gets us started with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. It's go time.Period 1
16:27 - Eric Nystrom makes a great play at the Nashville blueline, causing a turnover. Robbie Earl sees this, and darts to the net where Nystrom finds him with a perfect pass. With his back to the net, Earl catches it and quickly lets a hard backhand go from about five feet out. Pekka Rinne makes the stop, but the puck falls behind him in the crease. Unfortunately, it's out of view of the ref, so he blows the whistle before anybody can punch the loose puck in.
15:23 - Neither of these teams have been blowing up NHL scoreboards lately, but both have good chances early. Shortly after Earl's chance, the Preds gain the Wild zone and Wild killer Steve Sullivan drops a pass back to an incoming Shea Weber. He unloads a one-timer that beats Theodore but ricochets hard off the iron.
11:11 - The Preds are heaping on the pressure, but Theodore is holding the Wild in. He comes up with a huge leg pad save on former Wild forward Joel Ward, who just chops at a loose puck in the slot and puts it right on goal. Theodore reacts quickly, but that's just what he does.
7:54 - Patrick O'Sullivan finds himself on the top line today with Mikko Koivu
and Andrew Brunette. Those three show some solid chemistry on this shift as they work the puck around down low. Bruno finally gets the puck behind the net and darts to the front, but Rinne stuffs him on the doorstep. 7:38 - MIN 1 - NSH 0 - Welcome back Zid! On a delayed Nashville penalty, Zidlicky makes a spectacular play starting in the Nashville corner. He forces his way to the side of the net, and then puts the puck off the side of the net. Still battling a Nashville defender, he picks up the loose puck and from a tough angle, just wills it past Rinne. There is some confusion as to whether or not a Predator touched the puck, but replays show they clearly did not, and this one is going to stand.
4:03 - MIN 2 - NSH 0 - You can try to push Brunette off the puck, but it's got to be like pushing a boulder through a basketball hoop. O'Sullivan fires a shot toward the goal that hits traffic in front, where Brunette is battling a Weber. Bruno takes one whack, another and then one more with a backhand that he's able to float over Rinne for a prototypical Bruno goal. 1:48 - MIN 3 - NSH 0 - What offensive struggles? The Wild is making goals look easy to come by, and I don't think anyone can make what Martin Havlat does here look easy. At the top of the right circle, he makes a ridiculous move to split Francis Bouillon and former Boston University Terrier, Colin Wilson. He then darts to the net and as he's falling, he slides the puck to the far side and just sneaks it under the post as he slams into Rinne. That will be the favorite for Play of the Week, guaranteed.
0:00 - The sound of the buzzer is quickly followed by a rousing ovation from the appreciative home crowd. That's only going to make the Wild players feel proud of themselves during this short break, and that's just a good feeling for the boys.Period 2
19:12 - MIN 4 - NSH 0 - Wednesday was not our night, but this Friday is our afternoon. The first period juju continues early in the second as Havlat steals the puck at the blueline and races the other way on a two-on-one with Matt Cullen on his left. Havlat elects to fire a shot right on that new goaltender Anders Lindback kicks to the right. The rebound is just out of the reach of Cullen, but Nick Schultz is burning up the left side and from a tough angle, he rips a shot that zips over Lindback's shoulder and into the top shelf where daddy hides the Propecia. That's the second of the year and a fitting way to close out Movember for the guy who started this initiative.
15:10 - Cal Clutterbuck
is heading to the locker room for some reason. Let's hope it's just a maintenance issue.
13:41 - Havlat is unstoppable right now. He steals yet another puck at the Wild blueline, and again he's racing up the ice. He makes Shane O'Brien look like a Mini-Mite as he steps around him before whistling a wrist shot that Lindback snares with a pretty glove save.
12:29 - Wouldn't you know it's Havlat again getting a great scoring chance. He works a give-and-go with Brunette and finds himself coming in at Lindback all alone from the left side. He tries to go upstairs with a quick chip shot, but Lindback is cutting off most everything and makes the stop with his chest protector.
7:17 - Theodore nearly makes an awful gaffe, but turns it into an unbelievable play. He catches a Predator dump in at the left side of his net and he tries to ring it off the boards to the other side. Unfortunately, he puts it off the backboards at a bad angle and the puck pops right to Ward on the other side. Wardo tries to stuff it in, but Theodore races back and dives into the post to make a huge save. The rebound goes right back to Ward, who feeds Martin Erat in the slot, but Theodore scrambles to make that save as well, and then holds the puck under his rump for a whistle and a deep breath.
1:03 - The crowd is loving the effort of Cam Barker who steps up and hammers Ward in front of the Nashville bench and sending him into linesman Ryan Galloway, who finishes the job and puts Ward down on the ice.Period 3
17:57 - Wilson gets loose in the slot and unloads a heavy wrister that clanks right off the crossbar and out of play. Like I said, this appears to be the opposite of Wednesday night in that everything seems to be going the way of the good guys.16:05 - MIN 4 - NSH 1 - Well, not everything is going our way. The Preds get on the board on the power play. After Theodore stops a rocket from the point, the puck rattles around in the slot before popping over to Sullivan on the right side. He pokes the puck on net and just gets it past Schultz who slides over and tries to make a glove save, but can't quite come up with it.
10:17 - Typical Jordin Tootoo right here. Shortly after laying a clean check on Nystrom, Tootoo lines him up again and appears to stick his leg out to get Ny. This incenses Ny, so he goes after Tootoo and gives him a jolt from behind. Tootoo turns around as if to fight, so Nystrom drops the gloves. Of course, Tootoo looks like he is, but keeps them on. I can imagine Nystrom has to things to say about that as he grabs the Nashville agitator by the collar and shoves him into the boards. Tootoo is going to get the Preds a man advantage here, so it's actually a pretty smart move. But man, he is annoying.
9:34 - Zidlicky is called for a trip, and the Preds are going to have a two-man advantage for over a minute.
8:31 - The fortuitous bounces continue for the Wild. Theodore makes a waffle glove save on a shot from in tight, but he can't see the puck pop straigh up in the air and land behind him. The rubber is inching its way toward the goal line, but as Theodore is falling down, John Madden reaches his stick in there and clears if off the line.
7:30 - Zidlicky is out of the box and the crowd roars its approval yet again.
7:07 - And here we go! Tootoo ducked Nystrom, but he's a willing participant with Clayton Stoner
in front of the Wild bench. This is what you call a brawl, as Stoner starts wailing on Tootoo as his teammates start pounding their sticks on the boards and shouting encouragement. Stoner looks to have the upper hand for most of it, but Tootoo ends it with a vicious right that catches Stoney in the chin. He's fine, and because I'm a homer, I'm still giving him the win. Hockeyfights.com might dispute my decision, but I stand by it.5:58 - MIN 5 - NSH 1 - Wow! What a night for Havlat, and what a pass by Cullen. The former Moorhead Spud gets the puck at the top of the left circle and holds off a check from Alexander Sulzer. He then flings a pass to the opposite side of the goal where Havlat is cutting to the net and lunges to poke the dish past Lindback. This game has been filled with offensive highlights for the good guys, and plenty of Top Plays of the Week nominees.
0:08.5 - MIN 5 - NSH 2 - Guess the Preds couldn't just let it be. Martin Erat snaps a shot from the top of the circle over the stick of Jose Theodore to give the Preds one last point on the scoreboard.
0:00 - Now that's how you celebrate the final Xcel Energy Center appearance of the Minnesota Mo Bros. I'm headed down to the ice level to be among more than 1,000 happy fans and players after a 5-2 beating of the Preds.