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Lighthouse: Week of January 25

by Glen Andresen / Minnesota Wild

January 30, 2010 | 1:28 PM

The report out of HP Pavilion is that all players are participating in today's optional morning skate with the exceptions of Eric Belanger, Martin Havlat, Andrew Brunette and Marek Zidlicky. Nik Backstrom is also not there. Not only is his back hurting, but he's also sick. Josh Harding will get the start with Wade "Doobey" Dubielewicz as the backup again. This time, he'll get to see some warmup shots.

Owen Nolan is skating to test out his hand. His status to play against his former team is still to be determined.

Updtate: Nolan will play tonight. The lineup will be the same at Thursday's.

January 29, 2010 | 12:22 PM

Happy "Favorite Hockey Jersey" Day! As mentioned on this page earlier this week, it's Hockey Weekend Across America, and today, you were supposed to wear your favorite hockey jersey to the office or school (but I'm pretty sure there is no school in Minnesota today). Your crack Wild staff donned their hockey sweaters as you can see from the photo above. I got all John Scott on everybody and pulled on the Michigan Tech sweater. Sure, I'd rather be wearing UMD Bulldog colors, but Santa keeps forgetting to bring me a Bulldog jersey, so I decided to wear the sweater that is not a threat to UMD's run at a MacNaughton Cup this year.

Still no word out of San Jose on how the Wild goalie situation is panning out. It was quite a heroic effort on the part of Josh Harding last night. Judging be the way he was moving, it would be a surprise if he's on the ice at HP Pavilion today when the team practices at 2:00 PM Pacific time. I'm sure Ryan Stanzel will have all that and more this afternoon. Speaking of Stanzel, you might remember last week's Lighthouse blog when we mentioned that he was involved in a Buffalo Wild Wings Blazin' hot wings challenge with Cal Clutterbuck. I promised we'd have video, and now we do. Here it is.

I'll close out today's post with some thought's on our favorite beat writer that cheers...I mean...covers the Colorado Avalanche, Adrian Dater of the Denver Pot. You can read his complaining...I story here, but here are a few gems from the story under the headline, "Wild's slow-go strategy pays off": "The Minnesota Wild - the NHL's version of Ambien on ice - puts everybody to sleep with its style of play. And to everybody who doesn't like it? Too bad, a win's a win."

"Minnesota would take 82 games just like Thursday's 1-0 shutout of the Avalanche at Pepsi Center, which stopped Colorado's win streak at six games."

Now, Dater obviously knows more hockey than anyone else on the face of the earth, so I'll refrain from emailing him about how every single team that is playing the second of back-to-back games in high altitude is going to resort to a more defensive style.

And, we won't even mention the fact that the Avs weren't exaclty opening up last night's game by putting five players in the neutral zone and waiting for a turnover.

And, considering that Colorado took five penalties to Minnesota's two, you might think that it was Colorado that was resorting to more clutching, grabbing and hooking than the Wild. But Adrian can tell you that you're flat out wrong.

And, I'm sure when the Avs gave up two total goals in their previous four games, Adrian knew that it was completely due to Colorado's offense, and had nothing to do with the defense and goaltending that they played in the games.

And, you have to love Dater's description of Martin Havlat's goal, which was one of the prettiest plays of the season and made with three defenders draped all over him. Dater pens "It wasn't like the Avalanche made any gross mistakes on the only goal of the game, which came off the stick of Minnesota's Martin Havlat with 4:49 left in the third period. But a couple of fortunate bounces on an even-strength, well-defended rush led to Havlat's shuffle shot past Craig Anderson, who lost a bid for his third shutout of the five-game homestand."

As you can see by watching video of Havlat's goal, Dater really pulled a Dickie Dunn and "captured the spirit of the thing" with that eloquent description.

As we now all know, thanks to Mr. Dater, the Wild is nothing but a sleep-inducing team, albeit a team that beat his favorite...I mean...local team five times out of six, is two points out of a playoff spot and rattled off four third period goals against the Chicago Blackhawks earlier this month.

Since it's Hockey Weekend Across America, please remember to give thanks for great hockey minds like Adrian Dater. If it weren't for him, we wouldn't have anyone to tell us we're idiots for loving such a "sleep-inducing" team.

January 28, 2010 | 11:32 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 1-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche.

Before tonight’s game even started, the proverbial deck was already stacked against the Minnesota Wild. The Wild played last night. The Colorado Avalanche had been off since Sunday. The Wild was playing at high-altitude. The Avs had won six straight. Minnesota had won zero road games in 2010. Colorado had won 15 of 23 at home. The Wild didn’t even have a back-up goaltender in the building until 15 minutes before puck drop. The Avs had a goaltender in net that had given up two goals in his last four starts.

Things didn’t get any better after the puck was dropped. The Wild’s power play, which looked dynamic last night, went from bad to worse, as the players looked lost in five opportunities. Josh Harding, the starter on back-to-back nights, appeared to aggravate a hip injury early, and could barely stand up late in the game. After two scoreless periods, the Wild appeared to have run out of gas.

So, yes, I think the Wild will take the 1-0 win while eschewing the style points.  

The story of this game was Harding. He was already battling a hip injury, but with Niklas Backstrom getting shut down because of a back injury, he had to play on back-to-back nights. After Scott Hannan missed a wide-open net in the first, Harding clearly hurt himself as he scrambled back to his crease. Later in the third, the Avs had a great scoring chance, and again, Harding looked like he was in agony as he could barely stand up.

It was looking like recalled goalie Wade “Doobey” Dubielewicz was going to have to come in after not arriving at Pepsi Center until 15 minutes before game-time and completely missed pre-game warmups. He would have become the first goaltender not named Harding or Backstrom to appear in a Wild game in 233 contests. To put that in perspective, the Los Angeles Kings have had 11 goalies since the beginning of the 2006-2007 season.

It didn’t happen. Harding pulled out one of the gutsiest goaltending performances you’ll see and finished with a 29-save shutout.

When it looked like Minnesota was just trying to find a way to force a 0-0 shootout, I was certain the only goal they were going to score was going to bounce off the scoreboard before going in. I don’t think Brad Childress will be saying that I have a “great hockey mind” anytime soon.

The lone goal came on one of the prettiest rushes we’ve seen this year. Marty Havlat gained the Avs zone on a two-on-three. He dished down to a darting Kyle Brodziak, who hung with the play despite the puck getting deflected. After gaining control, Brodzy flipped a no-look backhand pass back to the slot where Havlat fought off three Colorado defenders and slid a backhand into the empty net. Havlat has seen his share of pretty plays, but even he looked surprised at what had just transpired.

While Harding was easily the number one star of this game, the best player on the ice in this one had to be Colorado’s Paul Stastny. We know this kid is very good, but tonight, he looked like an elite player. While there’s no stat kept for scoring chances generated, Stastny would have had at least five. Twice, his teammates missed wide-open nets after Stastny found them with no-look passes. He set up Chris Stewart with a perfect saucer on a two-on-one, but Harding robbed him. Later, he tried to take matters into his own hands by driving the net with the puck, but Harding put up a wall at the goal line. 

I think my least favorite place on this earth is Negative Town, but every now and then, we have to pass through it. If can avoid looking out the window at the Wild’s power play tonight, you should. It was about as pretty as an X-Ray of Todd Fedoruk’s face. The same unit that looked like it was clicking in going 2-for-6 last night against Detroit, looked like they were trespassing every time they entered the Colorado zone. Had the outcome been different, the power play would have been the biggest hot button issue.

January 28, 2010 | 7:41 PM

Update: Dooby is there! With 14 minutes to spare!

Where's Dooby? We're 20 minutes from puck drop, and apparently, Wade Dubielewicz has yet to arrive at Pepsi Center. His flight didn't get in until after 5:00 PM Mountain time, and for those of you that have flown into Denver, it's quite a jaunt from the airport to downtown where the arena is located. Dooby won't be seeing any warmups, as those are already over and Josh Harding had to face all of the rubber.

January 28, 2010 | 12:09 PM

I have it on high authority (Stanzel) that Josh Harding will get the start tonight in goal. The last time Harding started consecutive games was November 11 and 13 of 2008 when he defeated the Chicago Blackhawks (5-2, 41 saves) and the Phoenix Coyotes (4-1, 26 saves).

This will be the second time that he's started games on back-to-back nights. On December 14 and 15 of 2007, he beat the Ducks (5-2, 28 saves) and the Kings (2-1, 35 saves). So it doesn't look like he has any reason to be worried about tonight.

Nik Backstrom is going to be shut down today and tomorrow. The Wild is expected to call up everybody's favorite former Denver Pioneer, Wade "Doobey Doobey Doo" Dubielewicz.

As for the Sykora situation, he had not been claimed before the 11:00 AM deadline today. The team is now in the midst of working towards granting an outright release of his contract. That would make him a free agent, allowing him to sign with any team.

January 28, 2010 | 9:53 AM

Despite tonight's game being the second of back-to-backs for the Wild, Todd Richards isn't easing up on the gas pedal. Often, the morning skate on the second day (especially after a win) is optional, but not today. The entire team is going to be at today's skate in preparation for tonight's important tilt against the Colorado Avalanche.

I will not be on this last road trip before the Olympic break, but PR guru Ryan Stanzel will keep me updated on everything that goes on in Denver today, including the status of our goalies, and Petr Sykora, who could be given his outright release today enabling him to become a free agent.

January 27, 2010 | 11:12 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 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings.

Comeback wins are a lot of fun, but I’m rather enjoying this mini-trend of the Minnesota Wild comfortably running away with games in the third period.  After the Wild and Red Wings started off the game by Antti Miettinen and Pavel Datsyuk trading goals like they were on the stock market floor, the Wild made this one look easy. Andrew Ebbett’s game-winner at the end of the first held up as the Wild played a solid defensive game in the second, and then put things away with goals by Guillaume Latendresse and Martin Havlat.

If you’re keeping track, that’s two comfortable wins in a row after the Wild pounded the Columbus Blue Jackets with four goals before giving up two meaningless markers at the end of the game. More importantly, Minnesota came away with five out of a possible six points in this three-game homestand. It could have finished the night seven points behind Detroit in the standings. Instead, the Wild has moved within three of the Wings.  

It was a big night for Miettinen, who recorded his third two-goal game in his last seven contests. Miettinen now has 15 on the season, which ties his career-highs that he hit in each of the last two seasons. You have to wonder how many Mittens would have were it not for a stretch of about two weeks in December when he rang about 40 shots off the post, or was robbed by goalies making saves with loose skate laces.

Miettinen owes Andrew Brunette a pillow on tonight’s flight to Denver after the team comedian set him up beautifully on both goals. In keeping with his humor, it was almost comical in the third as Bruno tried repeatedly to get number 20 his first career hat trick.

The Wild could use a few more three-day breaks if that’s the reason for its power play success tonight. Most of Tuesday’s practice was spent on special teams, and it seemed to show tonight. The passes were tape-to-tape, and both of the goals power play goals scored by Miettinen and Havlat were shot into gaping nets after beautiful set-up passes. Minnesota finished the night 2-for-6, making it the second time since December 5 that it notched two power play markers.

When you get into the middle of January, sometimes those of us who cover the team look for any kind of breaking news, when really, there isn’t much. That’s what made today’s “Who’s starting in goal controversy” so amusing. Between myself and PR gurus Ryan Stanzel, Aaron Sickman and Carly Peters, there must have been 30 emails going back and forth about hints regarding tonight’s starter. Harding didn’t talk to the media, which is his policy on game-days. He must be starting. But Backstrom took shots from the defensemen at today’s morning skate, so he must be starting. But Harding left the morning skate first, so he must be starting. But Todd Richards said he didn’t now, so maybe it’s Backstrom.

When all was said and done, it was Harding who made 26 saves and won a home start for the first time since January 13, 2008. Each of Harding’s last three Xcel Energy Center starts have come against the Wings. 

Because I’m an animal lover, I’m going to close out tonight’s “Five Takeaways” talking about TC the Bull, who greeted fans inside Gate One at Xcel Energy Center tonight. The gentle giant, who weighs more than 1,000 pounds, was letting people pet him, and he even tried to snatch an apple out of a kid’s hand, gently of course. He is the Goodwill Ambassador for the World’s Toughest Rodeo, which is coming to the arena starting Friday.

Apparently, both of TC the Bull’s parents are ferocious competitors, and he is so docile, that other bulls pick on him, so he prefers the company of people. That’s fine by me. I got to pet the friendly giant on the head, and I’m sure he appreciated it. And we appreciate the good luck he brought our boys in red.

January 27, 2010 | 11:12 PM

I'm sure you're well aware, but this weekend is second annual "Hockey Weekend Across America." What I'm wondering is if you've picked out the jersey you're going to wear to school or work on Friday for "Favorite Hockey Jersey" day. For me, it's a toss-up between my Don Beaupre Washington Capitals jersey, or my Grant Fuhr Buffalo Sabres ensemble. If I want to score some much-needed brownie points with a certain 6-foot-8 defenseman, I could always throw a curveball and don a Michigan Tech Huskies jersey that's been hanging doormant in the basement for awhile now.

All NHL, minor professional, NCAA Division I and III men's and women's, United States Hockey League and North American Hockey League teams playing at home over the weekend will receive special commemorative pucks for their ceremonial puck drops.

For more information on "Hockey Weekend Across America," click here.

January 27, 2010 | 12:18 PM

Now I'm all discombobulated. First, it looked like Josh Harding would get tonight's start. Then, in the morning skate, Nik Backstrom was taking shots from the defensemen, which usually means that goalie is starting. Then, Harding left the ice first, which usually means that goalie is starting.

Then, Todd Richards was skating back and forth between both goalies and goalie coach, Bob Mason, and appeared to be asking a lot of questions. In his media scrum, Richards said it would be a game-time decision.

I still think it's going to be Harding, but if it's not, don't pin your fantasy hockey loss on me tonight because you didn't start Backstrom.

January 27, 2010 | 10:44 AM

It looks like it will be Josh Harding getting the start in goal tonight against the Red Wings. Both he and Backstrom are on the ice today, and both are dealing with minor injuries.

It also looks like Derek Boogaard will be out tonight. He is not on the rink for today's morning skate.

January 27, 2010 | 9:35 AM

The Wild is sending Petr Sykora down to the Houston Aeros today. It was reported last week that General Manager Chuck Fletcher was trying to swing a deal for the veteran, but apparently, there are no takers at this point. We will learn more later in the day, but this was likely a mutual decision as Sykora is hopeful of landing with another NHL team, but that is less likely to happen if he's not playing anywhere.

January 26, 2010 | 10:45 AM

Wild GameDay

Wild TV: Andrew Ebbett
Andrew talks about Sunday's skills competition, the upcoming Red Wings and his first appearance on 'Hockey Unplugged' tonight

Wild TV: Todd Richards
Todd talks about resting players and the upcoming schedule
Todd Richards said that Backstrom sat out today because he's dealing with a slight back injury. He said he doesn't expect him to miss his scheduled start against Detroit tomorrow.

Boogaard is dealing with a hamstring injury. It doesn't sound serious, but there was no word on if he'll be in the lineup tomorrow. Boogaard sat out as a healthy scratch when the Wild hosted the Red Wings five days ago.

It was high school media day at Xcel Energy Center. A group of aspiring journalists, camera operators and photographers were on hand. They got to watch practice, tour the arena and interview Richards. I'm sure the highlight of their day, however, was listening to me tell them about being a Managing Editor for

The highlight of my day was meeting Cole, a young patient at Children's Hospital, who was getting ready to interview Kyle Brodziak. I asked Cole if he had any good questions for Kyle, and he said he was going to ask him, "Why do you call breezers 'hockey pants?'"

January 26, 2010 | 10:45 AM

I'm sitting at Wild practice right now, but figured I'd update on a couple early news items. Chuck Kobasew was seen skating "gingerly" today with strength and conditioning coach, Chris Pietrzak-Wegner. That doesn't mean much for the immediate future, but it does signal that he's taken one more step closer to getting back on the ice.

Also, every player is on the ice for this one except for Niklas Backstrom and Derek Boogaard. We'll try to find out what the status is of those two guys, but they are likely both dealing with "maintenance days."

Chris P-W is Backstrom's fill-in today.

January 25, 2010 | 3:31 PM

Well, State of Hockey, that pigskin game last night was a tough one to swallow. Amazingly, the sun did rise today (somewhere, but not here), and life will go on, but still it hurts. It's days like this that remind me of a day I spent in an awful traffic jam. It was just one of those bad days. But there was this car nearby filled with four guys and the guy in the driver's seat was singing a beautiful song. He was singing, "Don't let yourself goooooo, cause everybody cries, and everybody hurts...sometimes."

He then got out of his car, stood on the roof and continued, "When your day is night alone, and you feel like letting go. When you think you've had too much of this life, well hang on. 'Cause everybody huuuurts. Take comfort in your friends. Everybody hurts. Don't throw your hand. Don't throw-ow-ow your hand!"

Now, I don't know what "don't throw your hand" was supposed to mean, but the rest of it really resonated with me. In fact, I was so touched, I just got out of my running car and just started walking to God knows where. I was just walking, and so was everybody else around me.

The local news even covered the traffic jam and those media types were just baffled. Here's the footage.

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that after that day, I realized that we just have to hold on. And if we feel like letting go, we just hold on that much tighter.

It's time to move on, and the best way to do that is by laughing. And from now on, whenever you want to laugh, watch this video of Andrew Brunette interviewing his teammates during yesterday's Skills Competition. Your co-workers may wonder why you're laughing so loudly at your desk, but after the Vikes loss, you need this. Tell your boss I said it's cool.

Once you've been able to laugh a bit, get ready for some hockey starting tomorrow. The Wild players had the day off (probably due to sadness), and they'll start gearing up for the stretch run tomorrow at practice.
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