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All aboard the live in-game commentary plane State of Hockey legion! As you know by now, we don't ride bandwagons around here in Minnesota. We fly in planes...Sun Country planes. And if we had a bandwagon around these parts, it would already be filled up because this Minnesota Wild team is tops in the Western Conference and pretty much just owning everybody. Now, you might be saying that you normally don't make a habit of getting on bandwagons in general, because you never know who is driving, or how much they've had to drink. Well, rest assured that Mike Yeo is at the controls and I'm pretty sure he only drinks water, Diet Coke and egg yolks.
Tonight, I'll be coming to you live from the Al Shaver Press Box inside Xcel Energy Center where your Minnesota Wild will take on the hell-bound New Jersey Devils. I've got one more night here before hitting the road with our boys and sitting in five other press boxes. None will compare to my surroundings here, that is for sure. I mean, here I've got the best popcorn in the League. I've got Mike Russo, the most intense beat writer in the NHL running around and waving his arms like he's having a seizure and I've got my unparalleled view of pregame warmups.
Right now I'm watching Nik Backstrom do his thing in pregame warmups. He's getting the start in goal and he looks pretty much unbeatable. I don't mean to rain on your parade if you're a Devils fan, but your guys are in for a long night of frustration and bewilderment.
The only good news for Devils fans and their players is that they won't have to worry about Cal Clutterbuck
(charley horse), Justin Falk
(upper body), Guillaume Latendresse
(concussion) or Marek Zidlicky (concussion). Those guys are all out with injuries. David McIntyre
will be the lone healthy scratch tonight.
The Wild will sport their red jerseys for the last time in a couple weeks tonight. The Devils are in their road whites trimmed in black and red with the sinning "N" on the chest.
The Winter Carnival Royalty is here to get us started with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. As you wish your heinessess..esses.Period 117:06 - MIN 0 - NJ 1 - It doesn't take long for the hometown kid to make his presence felt. Former North Dakota Fighting Sioux Zach Parise gets knocked down in the corner, but then goes right to the net. He's perfectly positioned when former MIami Redhawk Andy Greene fires a slap shot. Parise puts a perfect deflection on it and the puck slips underneath Backstrom.
16:46 - MIN 1 - NJ 1 - That's a pretty quick response from Dany Heatley, who never likes to be upstaged by a North Dakota alum. He takes a few strong strides into the Devils zone and then whips a shot clean past Martin Brodeur. Heatley seems to love that shot from the right circle, and you can see why.
13:05 - MIN 2 - NJ 1 - How good is Kyle Brodziak right now? He takes the puck in the neutral zone after Ilya Kovalchuk trips over the blueline and loses the puck. Brodziak then steams into the New Jersey end and beats Anton Volchenkov to the outside. When he cuts to the front, he's initially stopped on a great toe save by Brodeur. But Brodzy sticks with it and is able to muscle a backhand into the net as he's falling down. A spectacular effort.11:43 - MIN 3 - NJ 1 - And Marty Brodeur's night is over in a hurry. Right off a faceoff in the New Jersey end, the puck is won to Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who flips a pass into the slot. Matt Cullen one-times the shot that glances off Casey Wellman's skate in front of the net and skitters in over the line. I'd have to think this is the first time that the Wild has ever chased Martin Brodeur. Johan Hedberg is now in there.
8:15 - Not sure what the deal is, but we've gone well over three minutes without a goal. Marco Scandella
nearly bags one when he rushes into the Devils zone and curls all the way around before a wraparound attempt that Hedberg snuffs out.6:02 - MIN 3 - NJ 2 - Back and forth we go. Kovalchuk zips around the Wild zone and gets to the high slot before firing off a wrister. The puck appears to glance off Mike Lundin and that's enough to fool Backstrom. We've got a barn burner right now in the first.
1:45 - The Wild power play gets to work and nearly connects as Mikko Koivu
lets a one-timer go from the right side. Hedberg makes the pad save and gives up a delicious rebound, but Devin Setoguchi
is tied up and can't put it away.
0:00 - An entertaining 20 minutes is done, but I think you're going to see the Wild still hungry for goals. Look for another three-spot in the second.Period 2
20:00 - We've got ourselves another goaltending change. Josh Harding
is now manning the crease for the Wild.
19:19 - Harding is tested early as the Parise line comes out firing again. A Kovalchuk shot is knocked down in front, where Parise is standing with his back to the net. He wheels around with a backhand, but Harding has the leg pillow down and covers up any chance for a rebound.
16:48 - Mike Lundin
makes a bid for his first goal in a Wild sweater. He unleashes a howitzer on a loose puck in the slot and misses by inches.
14:32 - Wellman is certainly fitting right in on that line with Cullen and Butch. Already with one goal, he nearly bags another on a tic-tac-toe passing play. Bouchard hits Cullen who quickly throws one into the slot where Wellman one-times it but Hedberg is there for a big save.
13:45 - This is an even bigger save. Kovalchuk fires a shot from the left circle that Harding turns away with his blocker. The puck bounces rigth to Patrik Elias in the left circle. He's got an open net and fires a wrister right at it, but Harding slides over and robs him of a sure goal. Pretty gorgeous right there.
11:18 - Heatley delivers a big check on Eric Boulton in front of the Jersey bench. Boulton doesn't like it and tries to throw a feeble punch as the two separate. Play will continue.
10:18 - The Devils continue to press for that equalizer. Henrik Tallinder lets a point blank shot go that Harding stops. The puck is loose and with all kinds of traffic in the crease, Mattias Tedenby fires the rebound right through the crease and everybody else.
8:10 - Koivu makes a superb no-look pass from behind the New Jersey net and puts it right on the tape of Heatley. He punches it past the blocker of Hedberg but rings it off the far post. The crowd in here can't believe it.
4:28 - Harding definitely prepared like he was starting this one. He has been sharp. He comes up with a big shoulder save off a rising backhand by ol' Petr Sykora from about 10 feet out.
0:01.2 - Koivu makes a steal in his own end and he's off to the races. He's got a lone break but he's got to beat the clock. He does, but he can't beat Hedberg, who turns it aside just before the buzzer.
0:00 - No goals in the second, but plenty of action both ways. This is setting up to be a fun finish. Aren't you glad you're reading along?Period 3
18:33 - At the beginning of every period, the Parise line has come out and controlled play. They pin the Wild in their own zone until Parise fires a long shot on goal. Harding makes that stop, and is just able to hang on with Adam Henrique poking away.
11:40 - The normally calm Pierre-Marc Bouchard
is getting pretty hot under the collar right now as Boulton starts taking some shots at him. Those two continue to skate together and exchange some jabs before finally parting.
5:45 - This the Wild's first shot of the period, but it's a good one. Nick Johnson
fires a great pass to the front where Brodziak lunges for a tip. He puts it right on, but Hedberg again comes up with a save to further an outstanding relief appearance.
5:13 - The Devils come within an inch of tying this thing up. Kovalchuk is left open at the left hash mark. He puts a one-timer right off the post and the puck bounces off the back of Harding's leg, but nestles underneath him. Kovalchuk tries to follow up but Harding is holding his ground.3:36 - MIN 4 - NJ 2 - I've never heard this crowd go from such intense booing to such a loud roar so quickly...ever. After Setoguchi gets whistled for a very questionable interference penalty, the play goes to four-on-four. Right away, Brodziak is sprung on a lone breakaway and he hits his spot with a quick wrister. This crowd is in an absolute frenzy right now.
2:15 - Hedberg is off for an extra attacker.
0:00 - That team at the top of the NHL standings is once again your Minnesota Wild. Enjoy the weekend, folks. Talk to you from Anaheim.