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Howdy State of Hockey legion! If you're like me, you love
Fridays. Not many bad things happen on Friday nights, and that's ex
pecially true when you spend it in front of your computer and reading live in-game commentary. And if there's one thing I love doing on a Friday night more than anything else, it's planting my gluteus firmly on a green swivel chair in the Al Shaver Press Box and giving my fingers a workout while watching hockey action below me.
A close second would be honoring the memory of Endre Kabos, the champion Hungarian fencer who was born on this day in 1906. He passed on the day before his birthday in 1944, but he and the memory of his gold medal victories will never be forgotten.
Kabos never got rattled in a fencing match. He was very Nik Backstrom-like. Backstrom, who is looking like a superhuman between the pipes so far this year, will be getting the start tonight against the Calgary Flames. As I was walking to scarf down yet another pregame press meal, I came across Backstrom doing his zombie walk in the bowels of Xcel Energy Center and he was looking as determined as ever. That's horrible news for folks in Calgary, but there's always the Calgary Stampeders football team to root for.
As for other news, Marek Zidlicky is in the lineup tonight, so Clayton Stoner
will be the lone healthy scratch. Chuck Kobasew (lower body), Guillaume Latendresse
(lower body), Antti Miettinen (concussion) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion) are all out. Two youngsters - Cody Almond
and Matt Kassian
- will make their season debuts tonight. For Kassian, it's his NHL debut and the realization of a long, tough battle to get here. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy, I can tell you that.
As for attire, the Wild will go with the vibrant home reds for this one. The Flames will sport the road whites trimmed in red, gold and black with the burning "C" on the chest.
Dick Enrico, the guy on those Second Wind equipment commercials and owner of a killer 'stache, gets us going with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration...or "It's Time To Play Hockey" declaration. I'm ready, so let's do it to it.Period 1
19:19 - An early odd-man rush for the good guys. Playing on the wing tonight, Matt Cullen
carries into the Calgary zone on a two-on-one with Kyle Brodziak
on his left. With the option of pass taken away, Cullen gets in close and tries to beat Miikka Kiprusoff with a wrister. The big Flames keeper comes out high and makes himself even bigger, and turns it aside with the waffle glove.
17:44 - Brad Staubitz is ready to set the physical tone tonight. He absolutely smashes Mark Giordano against the glass behind the Flames net.
14:18 - Kassian is already getting his licks in tonight. After a whistle, he bumps into both Cory Sarich and Stefan Meyer, and all three of them exchange words for a bit. Kassian's first-ever bout will have to wait.
10:37 - Stauby is a man possessed tonight! He absolutely lights up former Minnesota State, Mankato Maverick, Tim Jackman in the corner. That draws the attention of the refs, who are going to call a charging penalty. It also draws the ire of Jackman. He gets up and as soon as the whistle blows, the gloves are off. Jackman swings and misses with his right a couple times. Ater ducking those, Staubitz starts landing some and knocks Jackman to the deck with a massive right hand.9:15 - MIN 0 - CGY 1 - The first strike goes to the Flames on the power play. The puck is worked around until former Wisconsin Badger Rene Bourque is set up at the top of the right circle. Bourque lets loose with a massive one-timer that eludes Backstrom on the blocker side and catches the netting just inside the far post.
8:10 - Marty Havlat looks like he has a jump tonight, which is no surprise considering his past successes against Calgary. He leads a rush into the Calgary zone and then deftly drops a pass back to a rushing Brent Burns. Burnzie quickly snaps a heavy shot off, but again Kipper turns it away with the blocker.
5:30 - Havlat again makes a gorgeous play on a give-and-go with Cullen. Just inside the blueline, Havlat sees Cullen get behind everybody and he puts a pass right on the tape. Cullen has nobody in front of him but Kipper is right on him, and he can't deke him out. Kipper stuffs him with the leg pillow. 4:30 - MIN 1 - CGY - Behold the power of a handlebar moustache! Playing on the top line, Cal Clutterbuck lights the lamp after some dirty work by Andrew Brunette behind the Calgary cage. That's where Bruno makes his living, and he makes a no look backhander to the bottom of the right circle. That's where Clutter is camped out and he one-times a rocket over Kipper's shoulder and into the upper corner. That sparks a tweet by @clutterstache on Twitter. If you're not following Clutter's moustache on Twitter, you should be. But don't waste too much time on Twitter. I would miss you.
2:46 - If Dustin Brown gets a game misconduct for his hit to the head on Antti Miettinen, I don't know why Sarich doesn't get one here. He lays his shoulder right into the melon of Kassian at the Wild blueline. Kassian gets up and comes together with Meyer again. He wants to go with either Sarich or Meyer, but neither is taking the bait. What's worse, is Kassian somehow is getting a roughing penalty out of this.
0:41.8 - There are a lot of bodies in front of the Wild net, but a loose puck is dangerously gliding out in the slot where Wild killer Jarome Iginla is all alone. He reaches it in a couple steps and fires a quick shot, but Backstrom makes a huge stop deep in his crease, and he sponges up the rebound.
0:00 - That'll do for an entertaining first period. The teams will retreat after a physical first and try to replenish some fluids.Period 2
16:22 - One shift, Staubitz lays three hits on Giordano - one in the Wild zone, and two in the Calgary zone. The problem is there has been very little play in the Calgary zone this period. The Wild doesn't have shot in the period yet and the Flames are pinning them in deep.
14:54 - There's a shot, and it's a good one by Havlat. He gets the puck along the boards in the Flames zone. Seeing Cullen in front, he fires a wrister on goal. Kiprusoff makes the save but gives up a juicy rebound. Cullen just can't quite corral it and put it back on goal.
12:14 - Bruno again makes some magic behind the net, sending a perfect pass out into the slot for Koivu cutting in all alone. Mikko one-times a beauty, but his countryman is up to the task, getting just enough and popping it high into the air.
11:11 - Egads! Brent Burns skates backwards with the puck in the neutral zone. He tries to make a pass, but fans on it. Mikael Backlund is the beneficiary, and he heads the other way. Burns recovers and keeps him to the outside, and Backlund has to put a shallow angle shot on that Backstrom stops.
9:47 - Backstrom can't stop this one, but his best friend in the whole wide world, the left post, gets enough of an Alex Tanguay shot to keep this game tied.
7:39 - When was the last time you saw Bruno step into a massive one-timer? And I'm willing to bet he's never had one set up by Casey Wellman before. The youngster races up the right side and then makes a beautiful backhand centering feed into the slot. Bruno is "flying" into the offensive zone and crushes his shot, but Kiprusoff gets his arm up just in time for a big save. I have a feeling there will be some entertaining quotes about Bruno's slapper in the locker room. He's not noted for getting clocked anywhere near 100 mph, let's just put it that way.
1:36 - The Wild power play takes awhile to get on track late in the second, but suddenly the boys break out on a rush the other way. Koivu gains the zone and hits Wellman cutting down the slot. He lets a howitzer go on goal, and it nearly rings Kippers bell. He has to be quick just to get his glove up and defend himself.Period 3
16:14 - Nobody can say my job isn't dangerous. I'm currently typing while trying to wipe my ink off my face from an exploding pen that I absent-mindedly was chewing on while watching former Michigan Wolverine David Moss make a great move and then fire a dangerous shot on goal. 15:40 - MIN 1 - CGY 0 - Glory Hallelujah! There it is, at long last. Cullen gets the puck on the left side and sends a cross rink pass over to Havlat, who has been very good all game long. Havlat fires a missile right on, and Kiprusoff gets a piece, but not enough. The puck floats behind him and lands in the net. Looking like someone just lifted King Kong off his back, Havlat looks to the heavens with both arms raised before punching the glass in jubilation. had he not scored tonight, Havlat had a great night. But I'm really glad he did.
13:01 - Since the Wild scored, the Flames have gone back to dominating. They nearly knot this thing back up on the power play. Once again, Iginla gets loose in the slot and lets a one-timer go from about 12 feet out. Like a spider monkey, Backstrom bounds to his right and makes a fabulous blocker save. Remember that one.
5:56 - Pow! This is the biggest hit of the year thus far. Sarich is looking to the sky, hoping to catch a floating puck. Instead, he's looking at nothing but the ceiling as Clutterbuck destroys him with a clean check. After a whistle, the replay is shown again and again, and the Clutter is shown standing at the bench and sipping some water. The crowd loves it and gives him an ovation.
1:17 - This is huge! With just over a minute left, Tanguay collides with Backstrom, and he's slow to get out of the crease. That earns him two minutes for goaltender interference and the Flames will be shorthanded for the duration of this one.
59.8 - Kipper is off.
0:00 - Hello second place in the Northwest! The Wild caps a vicious homestand with a win, and a seven out of 10 points. Hot diggity dog!