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Lighthouse: Week of February 1

by Glen Andresen / Minnesota Wild

February 7, 2010 | 2:03 PM

In an obvious attempt to draw media attention away from today's Super Bowl, the Wild reassigned Wade Dubielewicz to the Houston Aeros today. Nik Backstrom was scheduled to hit the ice today to start taking some shots as he tries to work his way back to play on Wednesday night.

The rest of the Wild had today off and will return to the ice on Monday morning.

February 6, 2010 | 10:08 PM

Following Wild games, Managing Editor Glen Andresen will give the five takeaways that he'll remember from each contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

To borrow a lyric from Uncle Kracker, tonight’s 2-1 Minnesota Wild win over the Philadelphia Flyers was a “flower poking through the sidewalk crack.” The Wild’s top two goaltenders were in street clothes, and the Wild is desperate for every available point on this five-game homestand.

Then, Anton Khudobin comes along and “makes us smile,” in more ways than one. His brilliance, along with goals by Cal Clutterbuck and Owen Nolan, gave the Wild its 19th win in its 32nd one-goal game.

“Our goaltender was great tonight,” said Todd Richards. “He was the difference in the game.”   

While Khudobin may be one of the funniest quotes in the Wild locker room (when asked about his weight today by a reporter, he came back with, “I wish I were taller.), I have to admit I was a little nervous about him getting his first NHL start in an uber-important game against the Philadelphia Flyers.

And if you told me that Khudobin would allow just one goal while tying the Wild’s season-high for saves in a game with 38 (Josh Harding stopped 38 in a loss to Washington in November), I would have taken my leather gloves and slapped you across the face not once, but twice!

Khudobin was fantastic, and he was rightfully named the star of the game, and you know you’re in Minnesota when the crowd recognizes what it just witnessed: a rookie goalie getting an improbable win against a tough team. That raucous standing ovation he received will remain in his medulla oblongata for the rest of his life.

Any chance they get, Richards and General Manager Chuck Fletcher rave about the grit and leadership that Owen Nolan brings to his team. Today, Nolan, along with Kim Johnsson, had the Alternate Captain’s “A” added to his jersey for the remainder of the season and he responded with one of his best all-around performances of the year.

Though he wasn’t credited with an assist, and he technically only got a two-minute roughing minor when he dropped the gloves with the horrendously mulleted Scott Hartnell, Nolan earned a pseudo Gordie Howe hat trick. It was his hustle that caused Philly keeper Michael Leighton to lose the puck behind the net, which led to a loose disc out front that Cal Clutterbuck converted for his 11th of the year. Nolan then picked up the game-winner by driving to the net after dishing off to Eric Belanger, and he muscled in the rebound. Aside from those plays, Nolan was doing it all, and he could have walked away with more points if not for some spectacular saves by Leighton.

How many times did we talk about the “scoring-first” stat in the past? It wasn’t so much of a concern, because the Wild was finding ways to win a lot of games, despite giving up the early lead. But this new trend the Wild has going is a little more enjoyable. After giving up the first goal in 24 of 32 games, the Wild has scored first in six of the last seven, including tonight. Granted, that lead was erased in 16 seconds by Daniel Carcillo, but I do declare that being tied, 1-1 is better than having to come back from down 1-0.

The Wild has now earned at least one point in nine straight games at Xcel Energy Center (8-0-1), its longest such streak since going 6-0-4 to end the 2008-2009 season. The Wild has won four in a row at home for the second time since early January. The club is now 20-6-2 at home this season and 26-6-6 in its last 38 games in St. Paul, dating back to February 19, 2009.

February 5, 2010 | 12:40 PM

I still have a smile on my face after being involved in a media scrum with Anton Khudobin, who will be the Wild's starting goaltender tomorrow night against Philadelphia. The guy has played 9:38 in the NHL, and he's already one of the League's best quotes.

Khudobin actually heard he was starting from the media, because Todd Richards had let them know due to Niklas Backstrom undergoing a "procedure" for his illness, and Harding receiving a cortisone shot in his hip that will shut him down for three days. Backstrom is feeling better and is actually going to go on the ice today at 2:00 PM. It's hoped that he will be ready to return for Wednesday's game against Phoenix.

With his bubbly personality, Khudobin was animated and had some gem quotes for the media, but you almost have to see him to get the full effect.

When he was talking about how he slept, he mentioned that he talked to his excited father, his agent and "lots of guys, like, I don't even know their numbers."

When asked how he felt the day after his first win, he said, "maybe right now, it's kind of like...dream!"

When he talked about his recent struggles in Houston, he let out a large sigh and said, "For two months, it was pretty tough and I couldn't win. It was just stop thinking about bad things. Working, working, working. It's coming for sure. It's coming for sure. You just have to work...After going up and sending down, and playing down there and losing again, it was like 'Oh my God, I'm probably going to lose my job right now.'"

When he talked about his struggles to get noticed and get drafted by a team the 206th overall pick in 2004 joked, "Seventh round. Not bad!"

When asked if he was married, the 23-year-old said, "No. I'm too young for marriage."

But the absolute highlight was when he talked about his parents putting him in dance class. "My parents tried to put me in schools so I would grow up faster, and my father's friend was a professional karate coach, and he put me in there and I said, 'Father, no. I don't like that.' I don't really remember the dancing, it was just kids put in some group or some hole, and they just, like, I don't know."

He then started dancing like a puppet on a string. So, it will be great when Backstrom and Harding get back, but we'll enjoy this time with Khudobin, no matter what happens tomorrow night.

I put in a request to Wild PR stat whiz Ryan Stanzel to find out if today’s Minnesota Wild practice was the first in NHL history to feature two goalies with fairies on their masks. I’m still waiting on confirmation. As mentioned earlier in the week, Dubielewicz is wearing Khudobin's old mask, but both of them have "angels" on the side. 

Prior to the "Who-Dobby Show," it was a very laid-back practice on Friday. 

Nick Schultz, Mikko Koivu, Marty Havlat, Guillaume Latendresse, Andrew Brunette, Cal Clutterbuck and Owen Nolan had the day off. The rest skated around in some very light, non-contact drills, before mashing on some Italian food courtesy of Backstrom.

Finally, as you may have heard, Marco Scandella was suspended indefinitely by the QMJHL for an elbow to the head. As of last night, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher had not seen the hit, so he didn't want to comment.

February 4, 2010 | 10:32 PM

Following Wild games, Managing Editor Glen Andresen will give the five takeaways that he'll remember from each contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers.

The Minnesota Wild’s 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers was a lot tougher than it should have been. The Oilers shouldn’t have even been close, but goaltender Jeff Deslauriers was spectacular and held his team in a game that was tied at 2-2 when Josh Harding left because of a hip injury. In came Anton Khudobin, and nine minutes later, the Wild had two more goals and two huge points to open a five-game homestand before the Olympic break.

Martin Havlat and Guillaume Latendresse combined for three of the goals, while Antti Miettinen bagged the other for his career-high 16th goal. The win pushed the Wild’s home winning streak against Edmonton to 12 games, one shy of the current record held by Nashville’s home dominance over Columbus.   

Havlat was the best player on the ice tonight, but first we have to talk about Khudobin, who became the story of the game after playing just 9:33 of the third. The scenario he entered into was quite the situation. The score was tied at 2-2, but could have easily been 3-2 Edmonton on the play before as Josh Harding’s final play came on a miraculous diving glove save on Jean-Francois Jacques. Unfortunately, that was the final straw for Harding’s hip, which was obviously bugging him in the third period.

In came Khudobin, who made his NHL debut and then faced an Edmonton power play just two minutes later. He was up to the challenge, and stopped all nine shots, and some of them were not easy. But Khudobin, who is quite the personality, showed it the most on a glove save on Shawn Horcoff. After making the save, he held his arm high in the air to the delight of another sellout crowd in Xcel Energy Center.

Now, we can get to Havlat, who was brilliant tonight. Not only did he show off his offensive flair by burying two goals, setting up another and generating numerous scoring chances. But he showed off his defensive awareness as well. I can’t even count how many turnovers he generated in the neutral zone that led to odd-man rushes the other way.

Havlat was even more noticeable due to the fact that Todd Richards dressed seven defensemen, and Havlat saw time on his usual line, and the fourth line with Andrew Ebbett and Robbie Earl. Make no mistake, he looked good on both lines, but he and Latendresse have something special going right now. With the outcome still in doubt in the third, the two worked a two-on-one to perfection with Havlat putting home a perfect G-Lat pass through two defenders.

For the better part of 60 minutes, the Wild completely dominated play, but were repeatedly denied by Jeff Deslauriers. The guy was making saves that shouldn’t be made, and the Wild did him a few favors by shanking some open net opportunities and putting some shots right into him when he was out of position.

Midway through the second period, it seemed like Deslauriers had single-handedly sucked all of the energy out of the building despite the score tied at 1-1 and the Wild dominating. Eventually, the dam finally broke, but Deslauriers’ effort deserves mention.

The only downer of tonight was seeing Harding get helped off the ice. He kept trying to stay in the game, but there was no way he was going to stay in the game after his final save. Harding had to be helped off the ice and it appeared he could barely put any weight down on one side.

That puts the Wild’s goaltending position into an even more precarious spot. Hopefully, Nik Backstrom can return for tomorrow’s practice, but it sounds like his flu has leveled him to the point where he’s dropped quite a few pounds. The positive is that it’s his turn to buy the team lunch tomorrow, so maybe that will encourage him to return so he at least gets to enjoy the fruits of his hard-earned cash.

February 4, 2010 | 3:34 PM

Let's Play Hockey announced the 10 finalists for the 2010 Ms. Hockey Award and they are:

D Rose Alleva - Red Wing (Princeton)
F Lauren Barnes - Burnsville (Mercyhurst)
F Bethany Brausen - Roseville Area (Minnesota)
D Corinne Buie - Edina (Providence)
F Amanda Colin - Burnsville (Quinnipiac)
R Dana Gallop - Grand Rapids/Greenway (Minnesota-Duluth)
F Julia Gilbert - Proctor/Hermantown/Marshall (TBD)
F Cara Johnson- Hopkins (Syracuse)
F Gina McDonald - Irondale (Harvard)
F Amy Olson - Roseau (St. Cloud State)

February 4, 2010 | 1:54 PM

After taking part in today's morning skate, Josh Harding appears ready to go. He was out there along with Wade Dubielewicz and Anton Khudobin, who is quite the character and fun to talk to. He was in a lengthy discussion with a number of people in the Wild locker room today in regards to his homeland. While he was born in Kazakhstan, he grew up in Russia and considers himself Russian.

Anyway, Harding did not talk to the media today, which is now his custom on gamedays. It has nothing to do with him shunning the media, but midway through the year, Harding decided to change his gameday media availability, and it appears to have worked. With goalies, you don't mess with something that's working.

As for other news, Richards hinted that he may try to get John Scott on the blueline tonight, but he didn't say who would come out. I'll believe it when I see it.

Cal Clutterbuck promised another blog for soon, but he's been saying that since Christmas so I'm not going to hold my breath.

February 4, 2010 | 10:00 AM

The Wild's goaltender situation now includes two Houston Aeros as Anton Khudobin has been recalled this morning. To make room for him, Niklas Backstrom has been placed on injured reserve. Obviously, this means it will likely be Wade Dubielewicz making a second straight start and Khudobin serving as his backup.

Backstrom's status on injured reserve doesn't mean he'll miss an extended period of time. The morning skate kicks off in half an hour, and I will update again with any news coming out of there.

February 3, 2010 | 2:32 PM

Practice wrapped up fairly early today, as the team was really on the ice for about 30-40 minutes. Spirits appeared to be pretty high, as a couple of fake fights broke out, including one involving Nick Schultz and Mikko Koivu.

Todd Richards said his team should feel good about how it played, despite dropping two of three games on its most recent road trip. But he said he understands that "we have to figure out how not to lose games."

When asked if his team needed to win every game of its upcoming homestand, Richards didn't agree, but he did say realistically his team needs to pull at least eight of a possible 10 points out of this upcoming homestand.

Obviously, the goaltender situation was a big talking point today. There was no word on the status of either Backstrom or Harding. Richards is hopeful that one of them will be able to play tomorrow, but if not, it looks like it will be Wade Dubielewicz again.

Richards made a point of saying that Dubielewicz played well last night, and the goals that were allowed were "quick plays."

In off-ice news, the 317 on Washington offices are buzzing from the news that Vice President of Communications/Broadcast, Bill Robertson, is one of five male finalists for Mpls.St.Paul Magazine's online search for the "sexiest male." To cast your vote for "Billy Rob," click here.

February 3, 2010 | 1:09 PM

The Wild held a late practice today, and the team in on the ice as I type. Neither Nik Backstrom nor Josh Harding on the ice. Instead, today's goaltenders are Wade Dubielewicz and strength and conditioning coach, Chris Pietrzak-Wegner. I'm sure we'll learn more about the situation after practice.

Only half of Greg Zanon is on the ice. He's shaved off that red forest that was growing on his his face. He looks like a 20-year-old.

Derek Boogaard is not on the ice, so it appears his hamstring has yet to heal fully. Chuck Kobasew and Clayton Stoner were both on the ice prior to the team's practice.

February 2, 2010 | 11:06 PM

Following Wild games, Managing Editor Glen Andresen will give the five takeaways that he'll remember from each contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars.

The Minnesota Wild needed these two points. The Wild didn’t get them. Despite a huge shot advantage and possessing the puck for about 75% of the game, the Wild left Dallas with a familiar feeling after a 4-2 loss. That’s 12 straight losses at the American Airlines Center. Not since March of 2003 when Willie Mitchell set up Wes Walz in overtime has the Wild known what it’s like to congratulate a goalie in Texas.   

And speaking of goalies, there’s Wade Dubielewicz, the surprise starter tonight. With Nik Backstrom dealing with the flu, and Josh Harding aggravating his hip injury, the Wild started a goalie not named Backstrom or Harding for the first time in 234 games. The last time was March 6, 2007 when Manny Fernandez made his final start in a Wild uniform.

As for Doobey’s performance…well, it wasn’t his best night in a Wild uniform. He gave up four goals on 18 shots, although it’s tough to fault him on any of the Dallas goals, one of which was a tip and three of which were snipes by snipers. Brad Richards, Mike Modano and Jamie Benn know how to finish, and they did.

If you thought you’d seen Cal Clutterbuck’s best NHL hit, you didn’t unless you were able to get tonight’s VERSUS broadcast (sorry DirecTV subscribers). Clutter had a nice hit on Jamie Benn, but the one that will go on his highlight reel for the rest of his career was the one he laid on Richards in the second period. In his own zone, Richards was flat-footed and reaching for the puck when Clutter nailed him with a hit that made Scott Stevens’ mashing of Paul Kariya in the Cup Finals look like a tickle fight. Of course, when you lay out a team’s best player, you’re going to have to face the consequences, otherwise known in Dallas as Steve Ott. Ott took exception to both of Clutter’s big hits and they fought twice. We’ll be kind and say that Clutterbuck didn’t exactly win either bout.

What kind of Groundhog Day present do you get for the team that has everything, except for success on the road? How about a month-long homestand? The Wild’s upcoming five-game homestand is really only going to last a little over a week, but it will be immediately followed by a two week Olympic break. Hopefully that’s enough time for the Wild to forget the fact that it struggles away from Xcel Energy Center.

What has gotten into Mike Modano? This guy is supposed to be on his last legs and more of a face of the franchise than an on-ice contributor. Apparently, the former North Star still has some gel in that hockey hair and some mustard on that howitzer. Modano buried the game-winner tonight, and now has seven goals in his last 10 games. If a Team USA forward goes down in the next two weeks, is Modano going to be the first to get the call?

February 2, 2010 | 6:42 PM

The breaking news is that Wade Dubielewicz is going to start in goal tonight for the Wild. Josh Harding will be his backup, but apparently, he is looking quite hobbled. This snaps the string of 234 straight games that have been started by Harding or Niklas Backstrom (who was sent back to the Twin Cities today because of illness). 

Doobey is awaiting a new helmet, so he's wearing Anton Khudobin's "fairy" helmet tonight. The funny part about that is that Khudobin's nickname is "Doby," which is written across the bottom of the mask. It's not quite "Doobey," but it's pretty close. I'm not sure how he feels about the Russian flag on there though, or the fact that he's got two fairies on his mask.

But apparently he doesn't mind. Ryan Stanzel said that during warmups, Dubielewicz winked at him, meaning "it's in the bag."

February 1, 2010 | 8:24 PM

Thanks to Bradlee Arendt for spotting Cal Clutterbuck delivering the NHL's top hit of the week on this week. Clutter's big hit came in the third period of Saturday's loss in San Jose when he belted former Michigan Wolverine Jed Ortmeyer into the San Jose bench.

To watch the entire Top Ten Hits of the Week, click here.

February 1, 2010 | 3:20 PM

Tomorrow night, the Minnesota Wild will play its last road game for an entire month. After tomorrow, the Wild won't play in a foreign arena until March 3 in Calgary after the Olympic break.

All signs are pointing to Josh Harding getting his fourth straight start and trying to pull out the first Minnesota win in Dallas since 2003. Niklas Backstrom arrived in Dallas today, but he did not take part in today's morning skate. Josh Harding was the only goalie on the ice today, and it sounds like there will be a needed call-up of a goaltender tomorrow morning.

Derek Boogaard did not skate today.

February 1, 2010 | 12:01 AM

I just couldn't wait to start the month of Febuary with a blog post, so here's one in the first minute of the shortest month of the year.

First, the Minnesota Wild reassigned Wade Dubielewicz to the Houston Aeros today, but that doesn't mean everything is A-OK with Nik Backstrom, who is ill. According to PR guru Ryan Stanzel, Backstrom did not fly with the team to Dallas on Sunday, and will join them today (Monday) only if he's feeling better. With Houston just down the road, it wouldn't be difficult to recall Doobey again if Backstrom's health doesn't improve by Tuesday.

The big news around the League was the blockbuster trades involving the Toronto Maple Leafs that were consummated on Sunday. Despite a month remaining before the trade deadline, the Maple Leafs swung deals with the Flames and Ducks, and when all was said and done, 10 players were bound for other teams. The attention grabber is Dion Phaneuf leaving the team that drafted him and joining Toronto.

Phaneuf has struggled this year, but that didn't mean it was fun watching him go against the Wild (except when Cal Clutterbuck drilled him and sent him about four feet backwards). He is an ornery fellow out on the ice and he's been known to score a few big goals against our boys in Iron Range Red.

Though Phaneuf is gone and the Flames have been fading, this trade might not be great for the Wild.

Calgary is going to get Niklas Hagman, who already has scored 20 goals this season, and Ian White is a solid two-way defenseman that should fit in well with Robyn Regehr and Jay Bouwmeester.

There was a Minnesotan involved as well. Moorhead's Jason Blake is now bound for Anaheim, but we won't see him this regular season as the season series with Anaheim is wrapped up.
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