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Lighthouse: Week of March 15

by Glen Andresen / Minnesota Wild

March 21, 2010 | 9:16 PM

Just in case you hadn't heard, Robbie Earl was sent down to Houston prior this afternoon's win over Calgary.

March 21, 2010 | 5:40 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 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames.

I’m pretty sure the rink dimensions at Xcel Energy Center are the same as the other 29 arenas, but for whatever reason, the Wild has been dominant at home and dormant on the road. The trend continued this week, as the Wild won two games at home, then lost back-to-back games on the road, and then capped off the week with a 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames.

The Wild is a different team when it’s in front of 18,404 fans cheering for them. They hit harder, shoot harder and seem to compete harder. Some have speculated that the Wild would need to win all 11 of their remaining games to have a shot at the postseason. One down, 10 to go. Oh, and five of them are at home.  

Before I get to any more hockey, I’ll use this space to send best wishes on behalf of the entire Wild organization to Daymond Langkow. In one of the scariest moments seen at Xcel Energy Center, Langkow was wheeled off the ice on a stretcher in the second period.

While battling for position in front of Josh Harding, Langkow fell to the ice right as an Ian White slap shot was whizzing toward the goal. The puck appeared to hit Langkow directly on the back of the neck. He went down, and stayed down for a long time as players from both teams huddled around him while he was being attended to. Langkow got a hearty applause from the crowd and the players, and early indications are good. The word from the Calgary PR staff is that Langkow appears “fine” and “has all movement.” He is undergoing X-rays at a local hospital.

It's on to happier news, including the sudden re-emergence of Chuck Kobasew. On March 12, Kobasew was a healthy scratch for the first time this season after going 19 games without a goal. He never seemed to be the same player after a significant injury.

But on Tuesday, Kobasew lit the lamp. Then, he did it again on Friday. Tonight, he put two including the game-winner, giving him four goals in the last four games. Now, we just need Kobasew to start letting loose after scoring these goals. In this writer’s opinion, he’s too calm after finding the net. I’m dying to see him break out the moonwalk or something.

I’m not sure if Greg Zanon is all there in the head, and I mean that in the most respectful way possible. If this guy was on the Nike And 1 Mix Tape basketball tour, he would be knows as “Half Man, Half Amazing.”

The guy is reportedly playing through a broken ankle. Not a broken fingernail, or a broken pinky. A broken ankle. Yet, he would not come out of the lineup today, and he would not come out of the game despite laboring on several occasions. At one point, Zanon crashed the net and tried to redirect a shot with his skate that held the broken ankle. Again, something isn’t right about that, but it sure resonates with his teammates, as well as his coach.

“He battles,” said Todd Richards. “For what he deals with, he continues to play the same way.”

Finally I’m at the fifth takeaway, and I didn’t know if I would ever get here. This game was looooong. There was a lengthy stoppage for the Langkow injury. Then, there was a problem with the door on the Wild’s penalty box, which took another 10 minutes to fix. Then, Cam Barker went down after smacking his head against the end boards in the third period.

But if everybody is going to be okay health wise, I think we can put up with a few delays.

March 20, 2010 | 1:40 PM

Is it really March 20? My goodness, time is flying by.

I'm coming to you from the bowels of Xcel Energy Center as I'm just about to witness a WCHA third place tilt between Wisconsin and Denver University, the top two seeds in the WCHA. Go figure.

The only news out of Wild camp thus far today is that Wade Dubielewicz has been reassigned to Houston of the AHL. Doobey saw one period of action in his latest NHL stint and allowed one goal on 11 shots.

Also, those of you coming to tomorrow's afternoon matchup against the hated Calgary Flames, be prepared for road closures. The City of Saint Paul is closing Shepard and Warner Road between Eagle Street and Hwy. 61 beginning on Saturday morning. Jackson and Sibley Streets between Kellogg and Shepard will also be closed and Kellogg Boulevard, from Wall Street to Broadway Street, will be restricted to one lane of traffic in each direction due to flood protection work.

For complete details, click here.

March 19, 2010 | 12:10 PM

Today is a new day, but last night was a tough one for all of us in the State of Hockey. Not only did our Wild take it in the chin against Nashville, but our UMD Bulldogs scored the same number of goals as the Flying Wilds and were ousted from the Final Five by North Dakota. Just a bad night all around.

But it was a good night for Nate Prosser. Not only did he meet his new teammates, but he was also named second team All-WCHA at the league's awards banquet last night. Prosser was also a member of the WCHA All-Academic Team. I think he's a good egg.

Prosser is on the ice right now taking part in his first NHL practice. That's about as much NHL action as he's expected to see this year, however.

It does look like Casey Wellman will debut tonight, as will Justin Falk. Greg Zanon will miss his first game of the season tonight. You can bet it's not a bump or bruise that's keeping Zanon out. He wouldn't miss a game unless it was serious.

March 18, 2010 | 12:10 PM

Being a huge college hockey fan, I'm loving all of these free agent signings the Wild are making this week. Of course, Colorado College defenseman Nate Prosser is the newest member of the Wild, and unlike Casey Wellman, I've actually seen a lot of Prosser over his four-year career.

The Elk River native is a big boy and isn't afraid to get nasty. But he's also got some offensive skill as evidenced by his four goals and 24 assists this season, making him the WCHA's second-highest scoring defenseman. I imagine there's a good chance he's named to one of the All-WCHA teams at this afternoon's banquet.

Prosser and his parents were actually at the Wild offices today to sign his contract, which only lasts through the end of this year, but makes him eligible to re-sign with the Wild. He then posed for some photos with a Wild jersey. Then, he took his toughest NHL test: sitting down for an interview with me.

I've never seen a kid (admittedly I haven't met many) so excited about signing a contract. He was absolutely thrilled about joining his hometown team, and you could see it the way he kept shaking his head at the thought of playing a professional game at Xcel Energy Center. He seems like a great young man: extremely polite and giddy about this signing.

In fact, he was so nice, that when he talked about how his season ended on Sunday in a loss to the UMD Bulldogs, I resisted the urge to start high-stepping around the room while banging cymbals over my head and singing, "In heaven there is no beeeeeerrrrr..."

Prosser is now en route to Nashville where he will meet his new team, and watch tonight's game. He'll likely be sitting by Wellman, who is not expected to make his NHL debut tonight. Should Prosser get into a game this year, he will be the fourth player to wear #39 for the Wild, joining Ladislav Benysek, Travis Roche and Krystofer Kolanos.

Josh Harding will get the start, and it sounds as if the lineup will stay the same as it was on Tuesday. I will update if anything changes.

Go Bulldogs!

March 17, 2010 | 1:00 PM

I completely forgot in the first update today to wish you all a Happy St. Patrick's Day! I'm a Grade A moron, so don't feel bad. To make it up to you, my gift is this photo of the Celebrity Grand Marshalls at today's raucous St. Patty's Day parade going on right outside our 317 on Washington St. doors.

Today's practice was rather sparse today, as rest seems to be the common theme for many players as the season grinds toward the finish. Everyone was at the rink today, and there was a lot of banter between players and team employees. Equipment Manager Tony Dacosta appeared to be the ringleader of today's shenanigans.

Shane Hnidy and Clayton Stoner both took part in today's practice, and both left early. Hnidy in particular did not look happy as he left the rink. Hnidy will not make the trip to Nashville today, and Brent Burns will also stay home in Minny. Stoner will travel with the team.

Nik Backstrom will make the trip, but Josh Harding will get the start tomorrow night in yet another huge game against the Predators.

Todd Richards got his first decent look at Casey Wellman (other than seeing him on Kiss Cam) today. He liked what he saw in terms of his offensive talent, but he also said he's not likely to change the lineup for tomorrow's game, so it's unlikely we'll see Wellman in action tomorrow.

Finally, a "Get Well" to Assistant Coach and Lighthouse Superfan, Dave Barr. Barr missed today's practice with an illness, and his status for this trip is in doubt.

March 17, 2010 | 10:45 AM

First off, if you haven't seen it yet, you have to check out Casey Wellman's introduction to the Wild crowd last night, which featured his parents kissing right in front of him.

The Wild is about to take the ice for practice before jetting off for Nashville. I will update after that, but first wanted to let you know that Justin Falk will be reassigned to Houston today, meaning his NHL debut will have to wait.

Falk was called up in case Greg Zanon was unable to go due to some lower body issues. But we've seen Zanon play every game this season, and it's pretty clear it's going to take a removed extremity to keep him out of a game.

Speaking of which, there are five players who have appeared in all 69 Wild games this season, and none should be a big surprise: Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette, Kyle Brodziak, Nick Schultz and Zanon. 

If Schultz plays 10 of the last 13 games, he'll have played at least 79 games in each of the last six seasons.

Brunette had his streak of six consecutive seasons of playing every game snapped last year when he missed just two games in February due to an injured knee that required reconstructive surgery in the offseason.

Koivu hasn't missed significant time since having his fibula cracked by Mattias Ohlund in November of 2007.

This is Brodziak's third full season in the NHL. In the last two, he played 82 games and 79 games, respectively.

Zanon played all 82 games last year, and 78 the season before.

March 16, 2010 | 10:21 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. Five Takeaways will be on a brief hiatus over the next two games, but will return after Sunday's home game against Calgary.

The Minnesota Wild players and coaches probably won’t admit to watching the out-of-town scoreboard, but nothing is stopping us from doing so. That’s especially true after a 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers that puts Minnesota into 10th place thanks to a St. Louis loss in Colorado. There was a bit of bad news as the seventh place Nashville Predators lost a two-goal lead in the third period, but used a shootout to pull two points out their game with Philadelphia. And, the Dallas Stars remained one point behind the Wild after thumping the Western Conference-leading San Jose Sharks.

But this continues to get interesting. The Wild refuses to go away, and now sights are set squarely on Detroit, sitting six points ahead in the eighth and final playoff spot. There is still a climb, but Minnesota has one more matchup with Detroit next week, and a handful of winnable games prior to that. That starts with a matchup with the Preds in Nashville on Thursday night.  

I said after Sunday’s game that if the Wild is going to continue to make noise, Mikko Koivu, Guilluame Latendresse, Andrew Brunette, Antti Miettinen will have to lead the charge. Like Sunday, all five of those players registered at least one point, including goals by Havlat and Miettinen.

Contributions from others certainly can’t hurt, and Andrew Ebbett was huge tonight in scoring a goal and an assist, and generally being all over the place with his speed. His line was a force, especially on a beautiful passing play that led to his goal that broke a scoreless tie in the first. If Chuck Kobasew can build off his first goal scored since posting a hat trick back on November 27, that would be chunky gravy.

After a whirlwind 48 hours that included playing his final college game, listening to 22 NHL suitors, signing with the Wild, flying to Minnesota early this morning and shopping for clothes after the airline lost his luggage, it was probably a good thing that Casey Wellman’s NHL debut will wait at least one more game.

But Tuesday night will definitely be a memorable night for Wellman and not because he participated in pregame warmups. During the second period Kiss Cam, a woman was shown on the big screen, next to a man she was not at the game with. So she leaned over the opposite way and leaned across a young man in a suit to kiss a man two seats down. That young man in the suit was Wellman, and the kissing culprits were his parents, Brad and Jodi. Click here to see the classic moment.

For right now, that has to be his most memorable NHL moment. Let’s hope he scores that first goal right quick.

The Oilers took down the Wild in a shootout just two weeks back, and their roster includes Zack Stortini and Theo Peckham. That means we don’t have to feel bad that they wallow in last place. And we certainly don’t have to enjoy the fact that they are now tied for the longest active losing streak in a road building after a 13th straight defeat at Xcel Energy Center. It’s especially comforting considering that the Wild has dropped 12 straight at American Airlines Center.

And while you’re enjoying that nugget of information, digest this as well: Minnesota has trailed in just two of those 13 games and has outscored Edmonton 42-14 during the streak.

Last but not least, there’s Josh Harding, who once again delivered a sterling performance. Harding stopped 34 shots, which is the fewest during his three-game win streak. He will most likely make his fifth straight start against Nashville, and he’ll be looking for his second-ever four-game win streak.

March 16, 2010 | 12:10 PM

Well, I promised to know more about tonight's lineup after Todd Richards met with the media, but I'm also an idiot. So I don't know much.

Richards didn't shed too much light on the lineup tonight. He hadn't decided on if Casey Wellman would play tonight or not. Wellman stepped onto the ice about 30 minutes after today's morning skate began. He was introduced to the team by Richards, and shook the hands of his new teammates. He then went through a number of skating drills before being the last guy off the ice.

Wellman seems like a very nice guy. He was extremely polite and well-spoken when talking with the media. He was obviously very excited about this opportunity. Among other things, he admitted that he wasn't thinking about playing in the NHL a couple years ago, but was more concerned with a Division I college coming after him. Once things started falling into place during two great years at UMass, he got an adviser to help him prepare for NHL teams that would come calling.

Wellman also said he grew up near San Jose and was a huge Owen Nolan fan.

Justin Falk, who was called up from Houston today, did not participate in the skate, just because his flight landed as the morning skate began. It would seem unlikely that he would play tonight, but again, Richards didn't commit to saying yes or no. Greg Zanon has been battling some major bumps and bruises, so if he can't go, it's possible Falk could get in.

Zanon skated briefly today before leaving the rink. Richards was surprised to see him at all, but thought he looked fine.

Nolan was on the ice and participated fully in the skate, so I would expect to see him in the lineup tonight.

Nik Backstrom and Clayton Stoner were both on the ice, but neither will dress tonight. Shane Hnidy skated on his own, but also is out. Neither Brent Burns or Derek Boogaard skated, and both are out tonight. Richards didn't think either one would be out much longer.

March 16, 2010 | 10:45 AM

I am currently watching the Wild's morning skate, and so far, I haven't seen Justin Falk or Casey Wellman. Wellman is in the locker room right now, apparently getting the low down on equipment from Tony Dacosta. Owen Nolan is on the ice, as well as Clayton Stoner.

Nik Backstrom is also out there sharing time at one end with Wade Dubielewicz. We should have lineup ideas, as well as the status updates of Wellman and Falk from Todd Richards shortly, and they will be posted in today's game preview.

March 15, 2010 | 3:04 PM

Today will be the quietest day at Minnesota Wild headquarters on the banks of the Mighty Mississip for a long time. The Wild had an off day today as about 95% of the team is dealing with bumps, nicks, stitches and sutures. To see one of those banged up players in action, click here.

Tomorrow, the Edmonton Oilers roll into town. On Wednesday, St. Patrick's Day, the streets of St. Paul will be covered in green hats, green jackets and maybe even a little green vomit if we're lucky.

Then, it's my favorite time of year with the WCHA Final Five kicking off on Thursday with a play-in game between the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux, and YOUR Minnn-aaaaahhhhh-soooohhhhtaaahhhh BULL Dooogggs.

I know, I know. Some of you are mildly peeved that the Minnesota Gophers will not be at the Final Five for the first time since the tournament moved to Xcel Energy Center. But hey, the Final Five is fun no matter who plays, unless it's Alaska Anchorage and Michigan Tech, but do not tell Big John Scott I said that.

But if you'll recall last year, the Bulldogs became the darlings of the Final Five by becoming the first-ever team to win three games on the way to the Broadmoor Trophy. Alex Stalock was ridiculous and MacGregor Sharp (great hockey name)! (It took me a half hour to think of that witty comment).

It was a magical time for a Bulldog fan, and Bulldog bandwagon jumpers. To relive those magical moments, click here, and pardon the Creed song playing at the end. Don't let that detract from highlights of the greatest comeback in UMD history.

Finally, the Wild caps off the week of shenanigans and revelry with a monster home game against the Calgary Flames. That could have some serious playoff implications.

So get your rest today, because it's going to be a big week. Consider taking the rest of the week off from work, and just tell your boss I gave you the go ahead. Oh, and get your brackets filled out, and of course I'm talking about your Final Five brackets. Here's a hint as you do so: repeat.

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