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Bonjour State of Hockey legion! Did you notice I used the word "bonjour," rather than hello? Bonjour means hello in French, which is the first language of the one and only Pierre-Marc Bouchard
, who is returning to the Minnesota Wild lineup tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes for the first time since October 3, 2009. It might be Andrew Brunette Bobblehead Night tonight at Xcel Energy Center, but I'd give up my perch in the Al Shaver Press Box for a Pierre-Marc Bouchard
Bobblehead, which can get hit in the head repeatedly and just keeps on smiling.
Had Bouchard not returned to the lineup tonight, there were rumors that the 12th forward position would be taken by Bobblehead Bruno. Stranger things have happened. Much like Human Bruno uses his large rump to shield the puck from defenders, Bobble Bruno uses his giant melon to protect the puck as he looks for an open teammate. Like many Bobbleheads, size has always been a question when it comes to Bobble Bruno's NHL readiness, but look at Jared Spurgeon
. He's not much bigger than a Bobblehead and he's about to play his second straight NHL contest.
Jose Theodore is also about to play his second straight NHL contest, but this is old hat for him. As much as I love Nik Backstrom who is in my Top 20 favorite current players, Theo has the hot glove and tht spells trouble for the Phoenix Coyotes and their three fans that are pressed up the glass in their end during pregame warmups. I can actually see them down below right now and I haven't seen such nervous eyes since Dunder Mifflin's Michael Scott realized that he had two dates for Casino Night.
For the first time since I started my second stint with the Wild, I will not have to include Bouchard's name in the injury section. The only injured players tonight are Guillaume Latendresse
(hip), Clayton Stoner
(upper body) and Chuck Kobasew (lower body). Justin Falk
is going to be the only healthy scratch.
If you like to talk threads like I do, you'll be happy to know that the Wild is wearing the home reds for this one. The Coyotes have donned their road whites trimmed in brick red with the howling dog on the chest.
Mike Veeck, the creative mind behind the great promotions of the St. Paul Saints will get us going with tonight's Let's Play Hockey declaration. Even though I always was and always will be partial to the now-defunct Duluth-Superior Dukes of the Northern League, I'm going to say we do what Mr. Veeck says just because he's so animated. Let's get down to it.Period 1
17:02 - Vernon Fiddler takes a high-sticking penalty and also gets two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct, and that means we're going to see Butch out there for his first shift. The first time he touches the puck, the crowd recognizes it and gives him a nice ovation.
13:34 - The Wild has had nearly six minutes of power play time in this game, but the first great scoring chance doesn't come until now. The puck rattles around behind the Phoenix net and hits off the glass. As the puck floats back down on the ice, Martin Havlat gets to the side of the net and somehow pulls it down out of the air before trying to stuff it past Jason LaBarbera. The Yotes backup is caught off guard, but somehow keeps it out of the cage.
11:04 - Some more dancing in the offensive zone by Havlat leads to a pretty drop pass to Greg Zanon. Zanon moves to the top of the left circle and cranks a slapper right on. The rebound pops right to Kyle Brodziak
battling in front, but he pushes his attempt inches wide.
9:58 - Out comes Butch for his first even strength shift. He's playing alongside Eric Nystrom and Brad Staubitz to start this one out. Those two have a combined one goal this season, but that's about to change right quick.
8:52 - This time Zanon's shot from the point hits traffic and that leads to a long lead pass for Ray Whitney on a lone breakaway. He makes a couple dekes before trying to tuck one through the legs of Theodore. The Wild netminder somehow stops it underneath his pads, and then as he falls back into his own net, he kicks the puck out just as its about to mosey over the goal line.
5:30 - Not wanting his Bobblehead likeness to get all of the spotlight tonight, Bruno is working overtime behind the Yote cage. He has one centering pass denied, but he quickly gets the disc back, fights off a check and puts a perfect centering feed to Koivu on the doorstep. Koivu punches a quick shot on goal but LaBarbera comes up big again.
4:02 - Marty's a killer! After taking exception to Shane Doan giving him a jolt after LaBarbera covers up a loose puck, Havlat throws a quick jab right at him. That brings Nolan Yonkman into the fray, and Marty isn't going to back away from anyone named Nolan Yonkman. Those two trade glove-covered punches and each will go to the box for roughing, but Marty the Beast is going to get an extra two for some reason.0:53.5 - MIN 0 - PHX 1 - The Coyotes get on the board first thanks to one of my least favorite players in the League, Ed Jovanovski. He puts his big body in front of the Wild cage and gets a piece of a shot from the point from former Boston University Terrier Adrian Aucoin. At least Jovo ends up on his fanny thanks to a shot from Nick Schultz, but I'd prefer Schultzy drill him without him scoring a goal. I don't always get what I want.
0:00 - That will do it for period numero uno. It was a shooting gallery out there by Xcel Energy Center standards. The two teams combine for 31 shots in the first. Time for a bit of a respite before coming out recharged in the second.Period 2
18:30 - Some defensive pressure in the neutral zone by Koivu causes a pass to bounce off his skate and into the Phoenix zone where Havlat picks it up all alone. He's got a clear path to the net, makes a move and gets LaBarbera down, but the puck just rolls off his stick as he tries to reach around the keeper and tuck it in.
14:33 - Well, there's the first true test for Butch. He takes a big hit from Aucoin along the sideboards, but he's quick to get up and rejoin the play. 14:17 - MIN 0 - PHX 2 - Doan races up the left sideboards with Eric Nystrom in hot pursuit. Nystrom is waved off of Doan by Zanon who is back to defend, but that leaves Scottie Upshall open streaking down the slot. Doan lays a perfect pass that Upshall one-times past a sliding Theodore. Not a thing the Wild keeper can do about that one.
11:44 - Patrick O'Sullivan leads an odd-man rush into the Phoenix zone, he opts to drop a pass back to the third man in, Brodziak. He glides in before rifling a wrist shot that LaBarbera stops with the big leg pillow.
6:32 - That Spurgeon knows how to get the puck to the net. Despite his small frame, he seems to have enough zip to get shots through as he does here. Just putting a wrister toward the goal from the high slot, the biscuit clips a Coyotes defender and redirects toward some open net space, but LaBarbera somehow sticks his pad out in a last ditch effort and keeps it out.
4:34 - Looking to try to increase Bouchard's chances to create offense, Todd Richards now has him on a line with Brodziak and Havlat. Period 3
16:49 - Suddenly, the slow play in the third is broken on a rush up the right side by Havlat. He has Bouchard on his left side on a two-on-one, but he's got a clear lane to the net so he fires one high. Once again, LaBarbera is there to come up with a big save and keep the Wild coffers frustrated.
10:19 - Bouchard is getting a lot more ice time that perhaps was anticipated. Needing goals, he's out there with Havlat and he finds Marty with a great pass into the slot. Havlat rips a shot right on, but again he's stopped stone cold by Barbs. I swear, Havlat could have five goals tonight if he could just find that finishing touch.
9:20 - Brent Burns makes a game-saving play as a centering pass gets under Theodore at the side of the Wild net and gets out to Whitney. The veteran has an open net, but Burnsie lays his stick flat and somehow deflects it away.7:47 - MIN 1 - PHX 2 - And that's how it's done! The Wild snaps its scoreless skid with a huge goal thanks to a beautiful drive to the net by O'Sullivan. He churns around the Coyote defenders on the right side and then cuts to the net for a stuff in attempt. LaBarbera goes down to make the save, but Matt Cullen crashes the net and cleans up the garbage by chipping the puck over the sprawled netminder and bring the crowd to life. New ballgame.
6:36 - Once again, it's Havlat maneuvering around everybody with an array of ill moves that work on the Phoenix D, but not on the Phoenix G. Marty's wicked backhand is calmly gloved down to the dismay of everyone in the building.
3:38 - Along with Havlat, Bouchard has become the most dangerous offensive threat out there tonight. He gets free in front of the Phoenix net and Burns finds him with a beautiful feed from the point. LaBarbera gets over quickly to challenge him and after few quick moves, Butch tries to go upstairs and is denied. 2:40 - MIN 1 - PHX 3 - Really? We're going to have solid momentum killed by a goal like this? Former Wild Eric Belanger just throws a pass to Upshall in the high slot. He gets hardly anything on his one-timer that sails high, but hits off the upper body of Zidlicky and deflects past Theodore. Ridiculous.
1:06 - MIN 2 - PHX 3 - Get back in your seats Wild fans. Still some meat left on this bone. With Theodore pulled, Havlat (who else) gets a pass down low behind the net from Burns and without looking, he throws a no-look backhand pass between his legs to the front where Koivu buries it on the far side. The Wild has life once again.
0:29.3 - MIN 2 - PHX 4 - Not tonight. Lauri Korpikoski seals this one for the bad guys by grabbing a loose puck in the neutral zone and firing it into the empty net.
0:00 - And that's going to do it. A furious Wild comeback falls short after a rally-killing bad bounce. What can you do other than come back on Friday and smoke the Flames?