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Guten Tag State of Hockey legion, and a very Happy Alaska Day to all of the Minnesota Wild supporters in our largest and second youngest state. Just because you live in Alaska and you're probably a rabid Seawolf or Nanook fan, it doesn't mean you can't join us for some friendly live in-game commentary presented by Sun Country, in support of the Wild. After all, I don't know where we'd be without Alaska. When I think of Alaska, I think of your enormous buddy at the bar who is grabbing a drink. When some other dude is causing trouble with you, you can say, "Oh really, have you met my buddy, Alaska? Would you care to repeat what you said to him?" Not only that, but if it weren't for Alaska, we wouldn't have Mike Doyle, who is an Anchorage native, a grizzly bear wrestler and a Wild.com writer who will make his in-game commentary debut on Saturday.
Now then, I'm going to ask you to take a break from your Alaska Day celebration for a few hours because we've got a big one tonight between the Wild and the Crosby-less, Malkin-less, Letang-less, Orpik-less Pittsburgh Penguins. I'm not saying it's going to be easy for the Wild because of their absences. Any team with Richard Park on it has a good chance of winning as we learned in 2003. But I am saying that the Wild will pull a win out of here even if Crosby and Mario Lemieux decide to play.
I may sound confident bordering on cocky, but as I sit here in my perch in the Al Shaver Press Box and watch Nik Backstrom do his thing in warmups, I can't help but feel a sense of security. If he was a Bryant furnace, he'd be turned on at full blast.
As for the others in front of him, you'll be looking at a lineup exactly the same as the one you read about on Saturday night against the Wings. Mike Lundin
(back) remains out of the lineup, and Justin Falk
, Nick Johnson
and Matt Kassian
will be the scratches.
You want to talk about clothing? Thank goodness! The Wild will sport their special green third jerseys for this one. The Penguins will go with the road whites trimmed in black and tan with the flightless bird on the chest.
I'm not in the business of making predictions, but I'm not afraid to make guarantees so here goes: Dany Heatley
puts up a hat trick tonight and thousands of blaze orange Wild hats courtesy of Gander Mountain rain down on the ice. As of now, those hats look pretty sweet on everybody's noggins. Unfortunately, folks will be losing those hats once the Heater puts up number 3.
Performing tonight's "Let's Play Hockey" declaration are Josh Ripley and Mark Paulauskas the cross country runners who will be forever bonded after Ripley came to an injured and bleeding Paulauskas' aid and carried him to help in the midst of a meet. That right there is reason to cheer. Now let's do some more of that for the next douple hours, shall we?Period 1
16:58 - Matt Cullen
is an artist and the toe drag is his masterpiece. He teaches a thing or two to Ivy Leaguer and former Dartmouth Big Green Ben Lovejoy by toe-dragging one through his legs and waltzing right around him. Only a hook from former UMD Bulldog Matt Niskanen prevents Cullen from burying the Wild's first shot of the game.
13:04 - Mikko Koivu
unloads a slapper that gives Brent Johnson some trouble as he makes a waffle glove save. The rebound bounces to Heatley, and his putback floats just high of the net.
11:39 - Marco Scandella
takes Park into the corner and he lowers the boom on the Game Six hero, sending him airborne into the boards. Scandella has a slight height advantage on ol' Parky.
8:58 - Brad Staubitz and Arron Asham have a few words as they bump into each other on the way to their respective benches. That could be a preview of things to come later, although I might think twice before messing with Asham. He destroyed Washington's Jay Beagle in a fight last week, which was not pretty.
8:13 - Kyle Brodziak
has the first Wild scoring chance as he gets room to glide into the slot untouched. He tries to flip a backhand past an off-balance Johnson, but he puts it right off the keeper's facemask.
6:34 - Johnson just about quadruples his save total as the Wild power play goes on a shooting binge from point blank range. The boys should be wearing the blaze orange because they are lighting up Johnson like he's an overweight deer. Unfortunately, he's standing tall and not letting anything by him.
2:48 - Rough night for Reverend Lovejoy so far tonight. He gets crunched in the Wild corner by a heavy hip check from Clayton Stoner
0:00 - That horn you're reading about means the first period of play is finite. Time for the boys to properly rehydrate and rest so they can start filling the net in the second.
19:40 - The Wild comes out slugging in the first 20 seconds as Cal Clutterbuck
feeds down to Guillaume Latendresse
in the slot. He slides a backhand toward the goal and Johnson gets an outstretched toe on it near the post.19:14 - MIN 0 - PIT 1 - The Pens take a punch and then deliver a haymaker. Ol' Pascal Dupuis deflects Greg Zanon's clearing attempt and then coasts up the left wing. He delivers a pass to the slot for former Ferris State Bulldog Chris Kunitz who pounds a one-timer past Backstrom.
14:45 - Former Northeastern Husky Joe Vitale is looking rather woozy after taking a high stick from Brad Staubitz. Stauby is going to the box for four minutes, so the Wild will have a test here.12:46 - MIN 0 - PIT 2 - The Wild needs a jolt here, and maybe another Pittsburgh power play goal will provide it. Backstrom fights off a slapper from ol' Zbynek Michalek through a Matt Cooke screen, but the rebound falls to his right. Jordan Staal is there and he spins around and slides it into the open net. What's more is there is 2:02 left in the Staubitz penalty so he's in there for another two.
11:53 - MIN 1 - PIT 2 - There's the answer! Pittsburgh turns the puck over at the Wild blueline and it's a two-on-oh the rest of the way for Mikko Koivu and Clutterbuck. Those two play catch until Clutter gets to the hash marks and just wires a shot under the cross bar. When Clutterbuck gets the puck, he's shooting and he's shooting high. Do what you can to stop it.
7:55 - Ding! The Pens very nearly go up by two again as Cooke gets a pass in the right circle and pings one off the cross bar.
6:22 - We almost get a tie game as a shot off the backboards bounces to Brodziak, who quickly feeds to a breaking Colton Gillies in the slot. He can't quite find the handle to put it past a sprawling Johnson.
1:30 - The Wild is trying to get the power play on track. It takes a good minute, but Latendresse finally has a lane to the net. Once again, he goes to the backhand and tries to put it upstairs, but Johnson again gets his big body in the way and sponges up the shot.
1:02 - Oh my! A Cullen shot catches Deryk Engelland right in the face just a few feet away from the net. He goes down with blood coming from his face, but play goes on and Clutterbuck has a point blank chance from the doorstep. Johnson flashes the glove and makes a huge save to preserve the Pittsburgh lead.
0:00 - The Wild has life in after a much better performance in the last 10 minutes. Look for a little carryover and hopefully the Wild can take advantage of a fatigued and shorthanded Penguins squad.Period 3
18:25 - I would play a guessing game with you but it wouldn't even be fun to try and guess who just took a Stall slap shot right in the midsection. Of course it's Greg Zanon, who is dented up and he's going right to the locker room.
16:45 - Devin Setoguchi
dangles and fights his way from the Pitt blue line to the red zone before getting a quick shot off. Johnson makes that stop, then lunges to his right to smother a rebound chance for Cullen.16:22 - MIN 1 - PIT 3 - James Neal might be the NHL MVP through the first month of the season. Where would the Pens be without his five...now six goals on the year? He steals the puck outside the Wild zone and burns up the left side. He could make a pass, but instead he whistles a low shot past Backstrom and pads the lead once again.
11:40 - Setoguchi is trying to take this game over as he is just buzzing in the offensive zone. He rips another shot from close range that Johnson pops in the air. Everybody crashes the net in search of the rebound, and Johnson gets run over by his own defenseman. He can barely get up as play goes on in front of him, but nobody can get a shot off while he's down.
11:26 - Brett Bulmer
winds and slaps a shot on goal and Johnson kicks out a big rebound. Clutterbuck quickly throws the puck to the front for Brodziak but his redirection from right in front misses just wide.
10:15 - The Wild can't buy one right now. Heatley springs Pierre-Marc Bouchard
down low and he tries to stuff one in and can't. Koivu swoops in and has a lot of net to shoot at, but it's from a tough angle and he puts it off the side. Wild is relentless right now, but guys seem to be strangling their sticks.7:41 - MIN 1 - PIT 4 - The difficulty level for a big comeback has been raised significantly. On the power play, the Wild turns the puck over at the blue line and Dupuis is off to the races. He moves in alone on Backstrom and roofs a backhander against his former team.
6:48 - MIN 2 - PIT 4 - It starts with one. Bulmer lays a huge check behind the PIttsburgh net and gets the puck to the front for Cullen. He pushes a shot to the left where Latendresse punches it in for his first. Gui is fired up. Do not rule out a comeback.
5:02 - Needed it. Setoguchi sets up Latendresse from a one-timer right at the hash marks, but again Johnson comes up big, or gets in the way or something. I'm not certain when Brent Johnson became an All-Star. It might have been tonight.
1:31 - Backstrom is off for the extra attacker.
0:00 - An offensive barrage on Johnson is for naught as the Pens hold on and take two points out of St. Paul.