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Wassup State of Hockey legion? It is I, your live in-game commentary writer coming to you live from Cantina, which of course is a Mexican-themed bar and restaurant in the Mall of America, better known to some as the "Mega Mall" or "MOA." Why am I coming to you from Cantina? I'm glad you asked. Tonight is the Wild Marketing/Sales and Service Holiday Party, which just wrapped up after a big scavenger hunt and a White Elephant present exchange. Since my team won the scavenger hunt, I got a set of Ping Pong balls that say things like "sink it, drink it" and "beer pong." I don't know what that means. I also got some paper mache rabbit with a floral theme. Somehow, I'll figure out how to incorporate the photo of the rabbit into tonight's commentary.
Now, I'm sitting amongst a slew of inebriated Wild employees as I sip on soda and shake my head in disgust at their revelry. But, we are all pulling for the Wild tonight as they battle the Colorado Avalanche for the fourth time this season. The Wild has already beaten the Avs four times this season, but just because we're celebrating the holidays tonight, we're not about to feel sorry for the Coloradans. It's a business, not a charity. Sorry Avs fans, but that's the way the holiday cookie crumbles.Niklas Backstrom
? He's in the business of breaking hearts. He'll be getting the start in goal for the Wild tonight. I have it on high authority that he brought his "A" game to the Mile High City. Sorry Colorado.
The Wild is dealing with the flu bug right now, which is keeping Derek Boogaard out of the lineup tonight. They're also dealing with concussions as Andrew Ebbett joined Pierre-Marc Bouchard
, Brent Burns and Petr Sykora in the head injury department. Thanks Ed Jovanovski. Jaime Sifers is the lone healthy scratch.
Now, we'll touch on threads. The Wild will go with the road whites for tonight's contest. The Avs will wear the home burgundies trimmed in blue, black and white with the snowy "A" on the chest.
All right, the VERSUS broadcast is on the big screen, but tonight will be challenge trying to figure out who's who without any help from Dan Terhaar and Mike Greenlay. Let's get down to brass tacks and drop the puck. This should be interesting.Period 1
19:13 - Recently recalled Nathan Smith wastes no time in getting noticed. Racing up the left wing and unloading a slapper right on that is stopped by Peter Budaj.
17:56 - Ooh, nifty play by James Sheppard, who fights off a check as he skates behind the Avalanche goal. He then throws a pass back to the side of the net whence he came where Eric Belanger is right there to try and poke it home. Big save by Budaj.
15:45 - Backstrom is tested for the first time as Cody McLeod pops out of the corner and goes right to the front of the net with a backhand. Backstrom has to go into a partial split to make a save with the paddle of his stick.14:03 - MIN 1 - COL 0 - And the Cantina goes wild! The Wild actually scores the first goal of the game, and it comes courtesy of that potent top line. Kim Johnsson wrists a long shot in on goal, and Andrew Brunette is right there to provide a screen. Budaj makes the first save, and then another on Brunette, but then Antti "Mittens" Miettinen swooops in and pops home the third rebound. When Antti gets back I may give him a paper mache rabbit, but I may hold off to see if someone scores two goals to win the bunny.
13:58 - Jim Vanek, a Wild marketing guru and former star goaltender at Cretin Derham Hall, promised that he would break out the Dhalsim Street Fighter dance after every Wild goal. He does not disappoint. If you're not familiar with the Dhalsim dance, it involves a clap above the head followed by some shoulder shaking and head bobbing from side to side. Again, I'll see what we can do about getting video of it on Wild.com. In fact, I think we should start playing it on the Jumbotron at Wild games after every goal.
9:37 - Look at Shep! He has already been a part of two scoring chances. This time, he ends up with the puck on his stick right on the crease. He's stuffed on the doorstep by Budaj, who can't hang onto it, but he falls flat to cover the puck about 12 inches from the goal line.
7:39 - Yikes! Just seconds into their first power play, Wojtek Wolski gets the puck at the point and he just skates right into the slot and snaps a heavy shot on goal, but Backstrom does a great job of making a blocker save and still hanging onto the rebound.
0:00 - That's going to do it for the first 20. The Wild plays a solid period of road hockey, grabbing the early lead, and taking the crowd out of it. Time for a fourth basket of chips and salsa. Not for the players. For me.Period 2
20:00 - Sure sign of a great party...thumb wars start breaking out among the guests.
20:00 - Before the puck is even dropped to start the second, Clutterbuck and McLeod are lined up across from each other. McLeod actually takes a swing and hits Clutter in the back of the head. No penalty. The two of them continue to trade verbal barbs but no more punches are thrown.
18:19 - My "source" on Backstrom seems to be correct. He brought his A++ game tonight. Here, he beautifully slides to his left to take away a finishing chance by Chris Stewart, who took a pass on a two-on-one.
17:15 - There is no party like a Cantina party, because a Cantina party will not stop. And that's especially true when Madonna's "Justify My Love" starts banging over the sound system. Some Wild employees appear to have some moves. Some don't.
14:37 - There's no sight as beautiful as seeing a zebra waving off a goal against the Wild. Matt Duchene pokes the puck over the goal line, but it comes after Martin Havlat and T.J. Gagliardi collide with the net and knock it off its pegs. They go upstairs for a review, but again, we get the big wave off.
14:37 - Vice President of Ticket Sales and former Wisconsin Badger, Jamie Spencer is putting on a dancing clinic to Montell Jordan's "This is How We Dooooo Iiiiiiaaaatttt!!" Does the V.P. at your company sing to 90's R&B? I didn't think so. My guess is he perfected those moves at Madison's Kollege Klub back in the day.
4:30 - Not a lot going on in the game right now, so let's throw this out there. Any proprietors out there that are reading this that want a live in-game commentary done from their bar or restaurant? I could get used to this. All I require is Internet, a TV with the Wild game playing, and a free meal. Submit your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to my inbox flooding with requests.
1:27 - Leave it to Paul Stastny to cause a dangerous situation in front of the Wild net. The former Denver Pioneer is a player. He tries a wraparound that looks like it may work, but Backstrom zips over to his left to deny him, and he then handles the rebound and covers up for a faceoff. Period 3
18:59 - Eric Belanger seems to be the new Wes Walz in terms of taking shots to the face. Here, he takes a puck right to the face off the stick of Adam Foote who is trying to clear his own zone.
16:30 - Whether or not you're a fan of hip hop, I think we can all agree that Ice Cube's "Today Was a Good Day" is a great tune. Tough not to move your head to that beat.
12:32 - This could have been dangerous as Backstrom is down on the ice while the Avs control the puck at the side of the net. In fact, the puck is actually sitting behind Backstrom in the crease for a spell. Several Avs players are waiting for a pass, but Nick Schultz makes a very smart play by shoving an Avs forward into the net to get a whistle and avoid a delay of game penalty.
8:03 - Where is the glove? It's on Backstrom's hand, and it's got a puck in it after a superb save on a quick shot from the low slot. Backstrom is just dialed in tonight. He looks relaxed and poised, which he always does, but he's just solid as a rock right now.
6:40 - John Scott escapes from the Sin Bin after an outstanding penalty kill by the Wild.
5:35 - The Sheppard line again comes alive, and Owen Nolan makes a great spin shot from the slot that nearly catches Budaj by surprise.
3:23 - Big opportunity for the Wild as Wolski takes a holding penalty, giving Minnesota the chance to add some insurance.
2:09 - Bella cracks a shot from the slot, but Budaj gets a shoulder on the high-riser to keep this a one-goal game.
1:23 - We're at even strength, and things will get interesting now.
0:00 - Chalk up another "W." The Wild continues to own the Avs with a fourth straight win over Colorado. What a night for Niklas Backstrom
, who earns his first shutout of the season.