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Lighthouse: Week of February 8

by Glen Andresen / Minnesota Wild

February 14, 2010 | 5:41 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 6-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks.

It’s always something when the Vancouver Canucks come to town. But on Valentine’s Day 2010, it was mostly all good. The Wild dominated the road-weary Canucks (playing their eighth straight road game), and got a much-needed win before the start of a two-week Olympic break. Six different players scored goals, and the Wild tacked on a season-high four power play goals.

The largest crowd of the season may have been wondering where that killer instinct was in the previous two home games. On this Sunday matinee, the Wild looked like it could have taken down the Canadian Olympic team.  

This game turned in the second period, which was undoubtedly the Wild’s best single period since the comeback against the Blackhawks. Through 13 minutes of the second, the Canucks didn’t register a single shot while the Wild racked up 16 shots and two goals. The final shot tally in the second was 17-2, which ties the season-low for shots against in a period.

It wasn’t as close as the shot count indicated. The Wild thoroughly beat the Canucks into submission and controlled the play. It might have been road fatigue, or it might have been the fact that they wear Canuck jerseys, but the only time they looked inspired was when Alexandre Burrows took on Wild enforcer Antti Miettinen.

Like I said, when the Canucks physically exit the rink, they leave plenty to talk about. I don’t know if it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I can’t name another team that consistently pulls the same kind of stunts that we see every time these two teams faceoff. This afternoon, they were pulling their typical shenanigans. I mentioned Burrows’ toughness display, and then there was Aaron Rome’s reaction to James Sheppard’s clean hit on Christian Ehrhoff. Rome started throwing punches before Shep could even shed a glove. That was at least better than Darcy Hordichuk’s reaction to Derek Boogaard’s clean hit of Ryan Kesler. Kesler clearly had his shoulders facing out as Boogey leveled him. Hordichuk responded by horse collaring Boogey from behind and pulling him down to the ice. He then turtled when Boogey got up, and could then be seen screaming unprintable words at Boogaard after serving his two, five and 10 in the third period.

Roberto Luongo is one of the elite goaltenders in the League, and the Wild has had its share of trouble with elite goaltenders this year (Martin Brodeur, Ilya Bryzgalov, Miikka Kiprusoff to a lesser extent). But the Wild has Luongo’s number. In his career, Bobby Lou has given up five or more goals 45 times. It’s happened five times against the Wild. He was pulled for the second straight time at Xcel Energy Center. The Canucks keeper of the goal is now 11-13-5 with a .896 save percentage and a 2.88 goals against average against Minnesota.

Now, it’s time for two weeks of kicking back and watching the Olympics. Todd Richards was asked if he would like his team to keep playing after a big win like this. He said he would, but he also admitted in his postgame press conference that he was in shutdown mode. “After I get done talking to you, I might go out and fall down in the hallway.”

I think the break will be good, and yes, I’m saying that because I’m looking forward to some time off. But the Wild will probably get Chuck Kobasew back. Both goalies should be healthy. And the always-interesting trade deadline will take place before the next game on March 3. Plus, we’ll get two weeks of watching the best hockey players in the world face off.

February 13, 2010 | 1:34 PM

Cam Barker took part in his first Minnesota Wild practice today, and he'll be in the lineup tomorrow when the Wild plays its last game before the Olympic break. The start time is 2:00 PM, so there will not be a morning skate.

February 12, 2010 | 3:38 PM

Can you believe we actually got a photo of Cam Barker in wear a Wild sweater already? He looks quite happy to be coming to Minnesota, don't you agree?

Okay, much like our first president, I cannot tell a lie. That is actually a Photoshopped photo, but you get the idea.

Barker is actually going to be on a conference call at 4:15 today to share his thoughts on the trade. He's expected to join the team in time for tomorrow's practice, and be in the lineup on Sunday against Vancouver.

I just got out of General Manager Chuck Fletcher's office, where I had to lecture him that Friday afternoons are for dozing at our desks, not work. But Fletcher was working hard today, and he made the biggest trade of his tenure thus far by getting Cam Barker from Chicago in exchange for Kim Johnsson and the rights to Nick Leddy.

I'm sure the blogosphere and message boards are up in arms about the Wild giving up a homegrown kid in a trade. I can assure you that Fletcher and the Wild brass have absolutely nothing against Minnesotans or Americans or Belgians. It's all about talent, and finding the right players for the team to build a winner.

Fletcher just admitted that he paid an enormous price to get Barker, and the only reason he would give up on a player like Leddy would be to get a young, talented player like Barker. It doesn't matter where Leddy is from.

I see a lot of emails every year about why the Wild don't have more Minnesotans and Americans on the roster. In my personal opinion, I honestly think it is more coincidence than anything else. Let's be honest, the New Jersey Devils aren't exaclty going to send Zach Parise, Paul Martin or Jamie Langenbrunner to us just because we like guys from Minnesota. The Blues aren't going to call up Fletcher and offer up Erik Johnson for a couple of veterans with expiring contracts.

So let's enjoy the Cam Barker era, thank Johnsson for his contributions, and wish Leddy luck. I'm not in the business of predictions, but I guarantee the Wild will have Minnesotans and Americans on its roster in the coming years.

February 12, 2010 | 11:59 AM

Cody Almond is set to make his NHL debut tonight, and he was visibly excited about it. He admitted to being very nervous, but he's looking forward to getting out there. He will have his parents in attendance as well. They actually had a flight booked to Houston so they could watch him there this weekend, but yesterday, they were able to re-route their flight path. I'm sure they won't mind the cold considering their son will be playing his first NHL game.

Today is the Wild's Fantasy Camp, and it was great to see Jim Dowd wandering the hallways today like the old days. He was still in street clothes, so I'm not sure if he was planning on sporting the tiny breezers once he and the weekend warriors take the Xcel Energy Center ice today.

Niklas Backstrom will start in goal tonight, and with the exception of Almond replacing Robbie Earl, there doesn't seem to be any other lineup changes.

February 12, 2010 | 11:04 AM

Defenseman Clayton Stoner underwent successful sports hernia surgery today. The surgery was performed by Dr. Ulrike Muschaweck in Munich, Germany. Stoner is scheduled to return to the Twin Cities tomorrow night, and is expected to make a full recovery in two to four weeks.

Dr. Muschaweck is a world-renowned surgeon, who specializes in athlete injuries. That's her in front of a wall full of photos of athletes she's helped.

February 11, 2010 | 1:45 PM

There was so much going on near the banks of the Mighty Mississip today, that by the time I got over to practice, Todd Richards had left the ice and had begun talking to the media. Apparently, I didn't miss much. As you can see by his appearance on Wild TV today, Richards wasn't pleased with his team's practice today.

Richards did comment briefly on the Almond/Earl news, saying he's "excited" to see Almond perform. He also said he liked what Earl has done with the team, but he felt his game had slipped recently.

Niklas Backstrom was wearing his Finnish goalie pads at today's practice. He is trying to get them broken in before the Olympics, and he thinks he probably will wear them next week in Vancouver.

The locker room was in stitches after practice due to a WCCO News feature on Wild PR guru Ryan Stanzel and his wife, Keri. The two were on the show today, talking about "romantic" couples, and Stanzel took a serious ribbing from the players, causing his face to resemble Tommy Tomato (pictured).

Between the romantic prowess of Stanzel, and the downright sexiness of Bill Robertson (pictured below with Tom Brokaw), I don't know how the ladies in the Wild offices can concentrate on work.

I'll close today's (likely) final entry by providing a link to the latest John Buccigross story on Brendan Burke, the son of Brian Burke, who died in a car accident last week.  

February 11, 2010 | 12:08 PM

It's officially mid-February, and that means the State Hockey tournaments are just beyond the horizon. That also means the Mr. Hockey Award winner will be named the Sunday following the completion of the tournament.

We've got the 10 Mr. Hockey Finalist names as selected by the Minnesota Minutemen, and here they are:

D Mark Alt, Cretin-Derham Hall (Minnesota)
F Joey Benik, Saint Francis (St. Cloud State)
F Nick Bjugstad, Blaine (Minnesota)
F Cal Decowski, Andover (undecided)
F Max Gardiner, Minnetonka (Wisconsin)
F Caleb Herbert, Bloomington Jefferson (Minnesota Duluth)
D Justin Holl, Minnetonka (Minnesota)
F Christian Isackson, St. Thomas Academy (Minnesota)
F Adam Krause, Hermantown (Minnesota Duluth)
F Brock Nelson, Warroad (North Dakota)

Goaltender Zane Gothberg of Thief River Falls, and a North Dakota recruit, has earned the Frank Brimsek Award as the state's top senior goaltender.

Will this be the first year since 1987 when Greenway's Kris Miller earned the prize that a UMD Bulldog will take home the coveted award? There's a 20% chance, but then again, the Gophers have a 40% chance of having one of their recruits chosen for the 19th time in 26 years.

For more information on the banquet, and the Minutemen, head to their website here.

Now, let's have a little trivia fun. I've got two questions for you, and the answers will be at the very bottom of this page.

Quick trivia question #1: Can you name the player that broke the 13-year streak of Gopher recruits winning the award?

Quick trivia question #2: Besides Miller, can you name the other six winners that won the award and did not attend the University of Minnesota?

February 11, 2010 | 11:20 AM

The Wild has recalled center Cody Almond from the Houston Aeros today. The club has also reassigned Robbie Earl to Houston. In his rookie season, Almond has 15 points (6-9=15) in 33 games, and he's racked up four goals and six assists in his last nine games. At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, Almond brings some size and grittiness, which is always a trait that is valued by Wild management.

I'll have more on this after practice.

February 10, 2010 | 10:14 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 3-2 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes.

Before the Minnesota Wild’s five-game homestand began, Head Coach Todd Richards said his team would need to gain eight points to realistically have a chance at making the postseason. Following the 3-2 regulation loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday, the margin for error in the final two games has dipped to zero.  The Wild will need wins over Atlanta and Vancouver – two teams that would be in the playoffs if they started today – to reach those eight points. At least Minnesota won’t have to get those four points against the Coyotes, who took all eight points in the season series for the first time ever.   

Five minutes into this game, it appeared like Minnesota was on its way to a rout. All four lines came out gangbusters on their first shifts. Cal Clutterbuck nearly scored 16 seconds in, and then Guillaume Latendresse did score less than five minutes in. Then, Phoenix showed why they are not a Cinderella team, but a force to be reckoned with this spring. With balanced scoring, airtight defense and above all, stellar goaltending, Phoenix broke the Wild’s will bit by bit.

Now, if the Wild was playing like Phoenix did, many “experts” would say they are playing a “trap system” which was “ingrained” in them from so many years under Jacques Lemaire. While the Yotes are very defensive minded, they do it by skating hard on every shift and pestering players carrying the puck. I’m pretty sure that’s the way you’re supposed to be playing defense, and that’s exactly what the Wild has always done.

Ilya Bryzgalov was the central figure in frustrating the Wild players. The surefire Vezina trophy candidate (and possible Hart trophy candidate) seemed to be in the Wild’s collective heads, especially in the second period. Time and time again, the Wild tried to make fancy passes, rather than shoot the puck. The most glaring case was when Latendresse had a clear lane to the net, but tried to dish off to his left and the puck caromed out of harm’s way. Bryzgalov finished with 29 saves, but he didn’t get credit for the missed shots and passes that he helped create with his dominance in goal.

Niklas Backstrom returned from a back injury/illness after sitting out since January 23. For the most part, the Wild’s top goaltender was excellent, including two highlight reel saves on Vernon Fiddler and Robert Lang in the second period. But he’ll likely be haunted by a bizarre goal in the third period that proved to be the game-winner. Radim Vrbata fired a shallow angle shot that hit the side of the goal and somehow bounced up and off of Backstrom before landing about three inches over the line and spinning back out.

Marek Zidlicky was a bright spot for the Wild tonight, and it showed in his team-leading 26:21 of ice time. Zidlicky tied the Wild record for assists in a season with 30 (which he established last year) after taking the initial shot that let to G-Lat’s goal. The assist was his 200th helper of his career, and his 16th point in the last 23 games.

February 10, 2010 | 11:38 AM

Due to me being at practice so I can report that Niklas Backstrom is starting tonight, I missed the chance to meet one of my all-time favorite celebrities, Tom Brokaw. Brokaw was at Wild headquarters at 317 on Washington Street this morning to tape an interview with Herb Brooks' son, Dan Brooks. Brokaw headed right from the interview to a plane bound for Vancouver, where he'll work during the Olympics.

It was fitting that the man with the silky smooth voice was presented with a Wild jersey by none other than Minnesota's sexiest man alive, according to Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine, Bill Robertson.

Not much else to report from practice today. With the exception of Backstrom, tonight's lineup will be the same as Saturday's. Chuck Kobasew skated with the team today, but he's still not expected to play until after the Olympics.

February 9, 2010 | 12:48 PM

Hei! That means "hello" in Finnish. I am trying to learn one Finnish word per day until October 7, when the Wild takes on the Carolina Hurricanes in Helsinki, Finland. That was the big news that came out of the Wild's practice today. Believe it or not, nobody was shocked by the news. It was almost as if people knew that this day would come.

Everyone was excited about the trip, but obviously the three Finns were beaming. Mikko Koivu is expected to be the team's designated tour guide, but he made it very clear he would not be cooking a team meal for his teammates.

More information about the Finnish trip will be made available in the coming weeks, including the potential for Wild Season ticket holders to win a trip to see the games.

Obviously, this means that there will be one less home game at Xcel Energy Center next year, but this provides a great opportunity for the Wild to reach a global audience.

As for this season, the Wild still has three more games before the Olympic break, starting tomorrow night with Phoenix. Niklas Backstrom practiced again, and Todd Richards said he believes his is "very close" to returning. Josh Harding also practiced for awhile before heading off early.

Andrew Brunette took another day off today to rest his lower body, but he will play tomorrow night. Shane Hnidy was the only other regular to miss practice today, and that was due to illness.

February 8, 2010 | 7:45 PM

That Minnesota Wild team of ours is starting to take over the Plays of the Week Video player. We're starting to resemble the 2001 Minnesota Twins team that dominated ESPN Baseball Tonight's Web Gems.

Last week, Cal Clutterbuck delivered the week's top hit by sending San Jose's Jed Ortmeyer over the boards and into his own bench.

This week, Josh Harding walked (or limped) away with easily the top save of the week by stealing a sure goal from Jean-Francois Jacques in the Wild's 4-2 win over Edmonton. Of course, right after he made this save, Harding had to leave with an injured hip, and that set the stage for Anton Khudobin to earn his first NHL win in his first NHL appearance.

Not to be outdone, Clutterbuck nearly retained his top hit title with his destruction of Brad Richards on Tuesday night in Dallas. He finished second behind Calgary's Mark Giordano who put Joni Pitkanen into his own bench with a big hit. loves hits that put guys in their own benches.

February 8, 2010 | 2:14 PM

Do our friends in Vancouver a favor. Do your best to save all of that snow that you end up shoveling tonight and then donate it to the "Get some snow to Vancouver for the Winter Olympics, which start in five days" Fund. Perhaps our Wild Olympians would be willing to haul some over with them when they depart on Sunday? I hear the half pipe could really use some of the white stuff.

Anyway, the blizzard to end all blizzards didn't keep any of your Minnesota Wild players away from Xcel Energy Center today. All the healthy players, with the exception of Andrew Brunette were on the ice today, including Niklas Backstrom, who looked to be doing just fine as he was taking shots in the hour-long practice. Josh Harding was at the rink, but he was on his way out just after practice began as he continues to be shut down in order to let his hip heal.

Todd Richards said that Brunette has been dealing with a tweaked knee and ankle, and probably would have skated if it was a gameday. But since the Wild doesn't host the Phoenix Coyotes until Wednesday, Bruno gets some rest. He picked a good day to miss.

I don't know if I've seen Richards so pointed and vocal as he was when shouting at his team through many of the drills. It looked to be a case of a coach using a practice after the day off to remind his team to not get complacent after two home wins. At one point, I heard him say something to the effect of "do a drill right and have a 45 minute practice, or don't and we'll be out here for an hour and a half." Needless to say, the legs were churning like pistons after that.

That about does it for a slow news day on the shores of the Mighty Mississip. I have a sneaking suspicion that there will be some much bigger "off-ice" news coming out of Wild Land tomorrow. Sometimes, I just have a sixth sense about these things and the words  "Finland" and "Europe" and "lutefisk" keep floating through my head. Does that make me a visionary? It's really tough to say...but yes, I am.

Mr. Hockey Trivia Answers

Answer #1: Roseville's Marty Sertich won the award in 2001 and eventually played at Colorado College

Answer #2: 1986 - George Pelawa, Bemidji (North Dakota, but died in a car accident before ever playing for the Fighting Sioux), 2001 - Sertich, Roseville (Colorado College), 2003 - Nate Dey, North St. Paul (St. Cloud State), 2004 - Tom Gorowsky, Centennial (Wisconsin), 2005 - Brian Lee, Moorhead (North Dakota) and 2007 - Ryan McDonagh, Cretin-Derham Hall (Wisconsin).
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