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Question for you all in the State of Hockey legion: Should old acquaintences be forgot and never brought to mind? If you want my opinion, I say no way. The year 2010 may be over, but I met some darn good folks over the past 364 days, and I will not forget them...at least not their faces. I sometimes struggle with names. No matter what your answer to the above question, I want to wish you a Happy New Year, and a thank you for spending the final day of 2010 with me on Wild.com's live in-game commentary. I'm pretty sure it's the "in" place to be for New Year's because A) it's a non-stop party, and B) there is no cover charge. The only downside is that it's BYOB, but if I know in-game commentary fans, they've already got a hefty supply of the "B" at the ready.
I'm spending New Year's Eve from my beloved perch in the Al Shaver Press Box, high atop ice level at Xcel Energy Center. Ain't to party like a Press Box party cuz a Press Box party don't stop. You should see all the normally buttoned-up media members up here just partying like it's 1999. Hopefully I can get some work done amid all the debauchery and provide you with some comments as the Wild take on the Nashville Predators in a biggie. If the Wild can pull out two points in regulation tonight, they'll move ahead of the Preds in the standings and creep up on a couple other squads.
Fortunately, the Wild has Niklas Backstrom
manning the crease tonight, and he picks up points like my fleece jacket picks up shedded Labrador Retriever hair. He was involved in a messy collision with Marco Scandella
at the end of practice yesterday, but I'm watching him right now during pregame warmups and the only collisions I'm seeing are warmup shots colliding with his pads. The pads are winning.
There's a few other injury situations the Wild will have to deal with tonight. Marek Zidlicky is out with a shoulder injury, and of course Guillaume Latendresse
is also out due to his abdominal surgery. Cal Clutterbuck
is also going to miss this one because of a "nagging injury. That's the bad news. The good news is that Patrick O'Sullivan gets back in the lineup and there will only be one healthy scratch: Clayton Stoner
As for the New Year's best these two teams will be wearing, the Wild will go with the home reds. The Predators are in their road whites trimmed in blue, gold and silver with the prehistoric cat on the chest.
Father Time, who I have a beef with because he's making it go by a little too quick these days, gets us started with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. I suppose we can oblige this time, but I say we fight that dude every step of the way from here on out. And we're off like a banana peel.Period 1
16:38 - We've got our first shot on goal of the game, and it's a pretty good one off the stick of O'Sullivan. Chuck Kobasew feathers a nice pass ahead and that springs Patty O on a partial break up the left side. He fires a shot low, but Pekka Rinne is high outside his crease to make the stop. 15:37 - MIN 0 - NSH 1 - The Predators have averaged one goal per game over their last five, so they've reached their quota for the night. On a delayed Wild penalty, Cody Franson gets the puck at the point and snaps a laser through traffic and beats a screened Backstrom high on the glove side.
14:04 - Antti Miettinen tries to get this thing squared up on the power play, and he does so after making a great play to hold the zone by batting the puck out of midair. The puck is then worked around and Mittens gets it in the left circle where he lets loose with a rocket that Rinne snares with the lobster mitt.
9:43 - The Preds turn the puck over at their own blueline and Kyle Brodziak
is there to scoop it up. He deftly gets the puck down to the front of the net where Marty Havlat is stationed. Marty catches it and then tries to reach around Rinne with it, but the Preds keeper goes down in the splits and keeps it out with the right leg pillow.
5:14 - As far as puck luck scale goes, the Wild has had somewhere between zero and negative one. Then again, "a real man makes his own luck" (Billy Zane, Titanic). Pierre-Marc Bouchard
gets the puck at the side of the net and puts it off the post. The puck comes right back to him so he finds a way to get it into the crease where it settles, but is just out of the reach of his teammates and finally gets cleared away.
3:29 - Look at the jets on the old man! When Matt Cullen
steals a Nashville pass while killing a penalty in his own zone, John Madden turns on the afterburners and flies up the rink to give Cullen a two-on-one. Cullen waits for Madden to go the net before zipping one low to the front, where Madden puts a tip on it that just misses wide.
0:00 - There's the horn. The Wild heads to the locker room looking at a miniscule deficit and knowing full well that these chances are going to start resulting in goals.
18:34 - Backstrom has to come up huge early in the second when David Legwand gets the puck behind the Wild net and finds former Boston University Terrier Colin Wilson streaking down the slot. Backstrom goes old school and stacks the pads to deny Tom Hanks' buddy, Wilson on the doorstep.
15:39 - On a delayed Nashville penalty, Andrew Brunette gets the puck behind the Preds goal and waits before finding Miettinen streaking in. Mitts crushes a one-timer from close range, but again Rinne is there for the save. He is looking quite solid tonight.
14:02 - Havlat looks as if he's about ready to take this game over. Nearing the end of a power play, he weaves right up the middle of the ice, stickhandles around three guys and then gives Rinne a fit with a sneaky backhand. The Preds target kicks out a juicy rebound, but nobody can get there to put it home.9:32 - MIN 0 - NSH 2 - Not what we needed at this point in time. The Preds build a cushion as Shea Weber gets the puck at the right point and sends a shot toward the goal. While battling Jared Spurgeon in front, Patric Hornqvist is able to get a perfect tip on the shot and deflect it past Backy.
2:35 - The Wild just can't seem to find it right now. After a power play fizzles, Miettinen throws a pass into the slot where Mikko Koivu
just sticks it toward the goal, but again, Rinne makes the save look easy. Period 3
18:11 - Good Luck Chuck Kobasew might be the guy we need to snap the Wild out of this scoreless muck, considering how well he's played of late. Cullen finds him in front but he can't get good wood on his point blank shot and pushes it just wide.
15:58 - Backstrom has to come up with huge stop on Sergei Kostitsyn on a near-costly turnover right in front of the net.
13:48 - The Wild is playing with desperation right now on a power play, but Rinne continues to hold them off. Cullen is found alone in the slot but his missile wrister is punched out of the air by Rinne's blocker.
8:57 - Yikes! Cal O'Reilly very nearly sends people to their New Year's parties early by stealing a breakout pass and moving right in on Backstrom. He makes a move to the backhand and slides it right through the crease.
4:14 - Time is ticking away on the year, and the game. The Wild needs something to happen right now.1:54 - MIN 1 - NSH 2 - It can be done, and you got the sense it would be one of these guys to do it. Havlat gets the puck and skates all the way around the zone like Jim Dowd used to do in his tiny breezers. But this one leads to something as he pulls up at the blue line, sends a long shot toward the goal where Kobasew and Cullen are camped out. The puck goes in off of one of them (Kobasew will get credit). The crowd explodes and we've got some energy in this building right now.
1:07 - MIN 1 - NSH 3 - Havlat nearly sets up another in the Nashville end, but Koivu is denied. Then, Havlat makes an ill-advised pass that lands on the stick of Joel Ward who has a lone breakaway with Backstrom off the ice. He easily puts it in and that sends the fans to the exits. Havlat is furious at himself and he smashes his stick on the crossbar and breaks it.
0:06.2 - MIN 1 - NSH 4 - Not that it matters, but Kostitsyn adds another into an empty net. Who cares? Not even Kostitsyn.
0:00 - That's all folks. A rough end to the 2010, but here's hoping we've got more to cheer about starting Sunday against Phoenix.