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Boo State of Hockey legion! I hope I didn't frighten you too much just now. You see, around Halloween time, it's customary to say "boo" to others. During any other time of year, that would be considered taboo, and downright rude. Nobody likes to get booed, except for this time period of late October. Now, we just get startled and then laugh it off. No harm, no foul.
However, for the next three hours, I encourage you to stuff those boos deep down in your gizzard until after the Minnesota Wild takes care of the Chicago Blackhawks. We only want full throated screams of delight for the home team, and that includes you there sitting in front of your computer because you cancelled your Halloween party plans due to your best friend stealing your Jersey Shore costume idea. It also includes me, sitting up here in my beloved perch in the Al Shaver Press Box at Xcel Energy Center.
Do you know why I love my perch so much? Of course you do. There's no better place to watch pregame warmups. I look to my left, I see the Stanley Cup champs with a horde of rubes in black and red standing around the glass with their mouths agape. I look to my right, and I see a goaltender named Niklas Backstrom
taking warmup shots as he prepares to send those rubes home huffing and puffing in typical Chicago anger. Don't worry Chi-town. Tomorrow, you won't have to sit through another Jay Cutler performance because the Bears are on a bye.
As for who has a bye tonight, you can give a pass to Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion), Guillaume Latendresse
(groin) and Antti Miettinen (concussion symptoms). Cam Barker, who has recovered from his groin injury, will be the lone scratch.
If I may touch on one of my favorite topics before we get going, I'd like to talk about clothing. The Wild are wearing the home reds for this one. The Hawks will sport the classic road whites trimmed in black and red with the stoic Native American on the chest.
The Blues Brothers, who are tonight's winners of the Wild Costume Contest, get us started with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. It starts...Period 316:34 - MIN 0 - CHI 2 - This time, Backstrom's diving efforts can't stop the wraparound. Much like the Toews attempt in the first, Keith gathers a loose puck behind the Wild net and swoops around to stuff it in. Nick Schultz is there in the crease to try and keep it out, but it just squeezes through his legs and trickles over the goal line.
13:08 - Toews doesn't need to work on much, but he might want to try finishing on wraparounds. Yet again, he gets the puck behind the Wild net, and yet again he tries to jam it inside the near post. Instead, he puts it off the outside of the post, and the Hawks are now 1-for-3 on wraparounds on that post. Toews, 0-for-2.
10:54 - Minnesota looks to get back in the game on the man advantage. Cullen gets the puck at the left point, and smartly fires a shot right on with two Wild players in front of Turco. He makes a pad stop, and neither Nystrom or Havlat can find the rebound to bury it.
8:36 - Just seconds after another Wild power play starts up, Brunette finds Koivu in the left circle for a quick one-timer. He catches Turco off-balance, but the Hawks keeper somehow absorbs it in his body, and right up against the post. After the whistle, Koivu and Turco have some words. Perhaps the captain is trying to get in Marty's mind a bit.5:54 - MIN 1 - CHI 2 - And you can put it on the booooooooooard...YES! Some beautiful passing leads to an easy tap in for Marek Zidlicky, who finally ends the Wild scoreless skid against the Hawks. If you'll recall, the last time these two teams met, the Hawks shut the Wild out. They won't this time. After a Bruno pass ends up in Zid's skates, Koivu alertly pokes the puck into Zidlicky's path and with Turco confuse, Zidlicky slides it into the yawning goal mouth.
4:41 - Nearly had it! Cullen and John Madden pester Kane behind the Chicago net and force a turnover. Cullen gets it in front to Chuck Kobasew, but he can't get it past a sprawling Turco.
1:22 - Time out for the good guys.0:35.3 - MIN 1 - CHI 3 - That's going to be tough to come back from. With Backstrom pulled, and the Wild unable to get the puck in deep. Former Wisconsin Badger Jake Dowell chips the puck from near his own bench and it bounces into the goal.
0:00 - The Hawks surround Turco in a congratulatory mood. The Wild falls to 1-1-1 on the homestand.Period 2
16:30 - Another big save, and this one comes against former Michigan Tech Husky Big John Scott. He's playing at the wing tonight, and he gets a chance from the bottom of the right circle. He wheels that 6-foot-8 frame around and fires a hard low shot on Backy, who probably wouldn't be thrilled to give up a goal to a guy that Jacques Lemaire called "Hey You!"
14:25 - Patrick Kane shows off those amazing moves of his as he jukes Burns and carries into the Wild zone on the left side. With Burns forced to hook him, Kane still gets a wicked shot off that Backy turns away with the waffle glove.
12:22 - We're still tied...barely. On a Hawks power play, former Michigan State Spartan Duncan Keith finds Sharp wide open in the left circle. He one-times a shot at a wide open cage, but rings it off the near post.
5:12 - I'd tell you the Wild is taking the play to the Hawks right now, but then you'd call me a liar, and that would hurt. In fact, it's the guys in white getting the better chances, like right here. Former Wisconsin Badger Jack Skille cruises up the right side with nobody in front of him. He tries to beat Backy down low, but it's just not happening tonight. He quickly kicks out the right leg pillow for another huge save. He's in their minds
2:54 - There's a chance, but no dice. Battling hard in front, Andrew Brunette muscles a no-look backhand pass over to Matt Cullen
. He's wrapped up but still deflects it toward the goal, missing by inches.
2:02 - The crowd as come alive, courtesy of some great chances and a yooooge hit against the glass by Mikko Koivu
on former Boston College Eagle, Ben Smith. Smith looks a little woozy, but he gets bac kup and rejoins the play.0:30.2 - MIN 0 - CHI 1 - It takes a great play to finally solve the riddle that is Backstrom. Keith unloads a slap shot from the slot. Backstrom makes that stop, but Troy Brouwer is the first to get to the rebound. He holds the puck like he's going behind the net but quickly darts to the front and tucks it past a sliding Nystrom in the crease. Period 1
19:28 - Former Vermont Catamount Patrick Sharp, who already has 10 goals this season, blazes up the right side before unloading a slapper. This one is coming in hot, and Backstrom has to be cat quick just to get his glove up in time to deflect it into the corner. As you may know, I like to call out the opposing players who played college hockey, and I'll be doing that a lot tonight. The Hawks have 12 guys in their lineup from the collegiate ranks.
16:55 - After a long shot by Nick Schultz is stopped and held onto by former Michigan Wolverine Marty Turco, Casey Wellman hovers at the crease looking for a rebound. The whistle blows and Wellman stands there not touching him. But Sharp still jolts Casey with a crosscheck that nearly topples him over the Hawks netminder.
10:09 - Eric Nystrom can't believe it. On a Wild power play, he sets up camp directly in front of Turco. He waits there while Brent Burns carries the puck in deep and then fires a perfect centering feed to Eric's tape. He puts one shot on goal, but is robbed by the pad of Turco. He has another chance, but again, Turco denies him and this time is able to cover up the rebound.
5:55 - Backstrom is on another planet these days. After going down to make one stop, the puck goes behind the net where former North Dakota Fighting Sioux Jonathan Toews is back there and he quickly swoops around to try to stuff it in on the other side. Backstrom dives back with his left arm fully extended and gets his glove on it just as its about to cross the goal line. He has had some spectacular saves this week, but I think this one takes the prize as his best.
0:00 - That'll do 'er for the first 20. A pretty even matchup so far, but the Wild just needed to get into this one and then they'll come out and hang five on the board in the next stanza.