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Lighthouse: Week of March 22

by Glen Andresen / Minnesota Wild

March 27, 2010 | 9:59 PM

As I write this, the hopes to put a Minnesota school in the Frozen Four for a second straight year are hanging by a thread. Bemidji State was trounced by Michigan earlier today, and St. Cloud State is currently trailing Wisconsin, 3-1 after two periods.

It certainly has been an entertaining day of collegiate sports. There's another tournament going on in a whole other sport called "basketball." I glanced at a couple of those games and saw some interesting upsets, but I don't think they were any bigger than RIT taking out New Hampshire, or Yale ousting North Dakota. That reminds me that I'll have to think of something very witty and cutting when I see Brad Bombardir in the office on Monday. If he's smart, he'll remind me that he actually played college hockey, pro hockey and he won a Stanley Cup.

But I"m not sure how smart Bombardir is because he repeatedly commits some absent minded mistakes that you just make when your office is located near Wild PR guru, Aaron Sickman.

For example, Bombardir often will leave his office with his keys laying out for all to see. Sickman takes that as a cue to lock him out of his office and hide his keys at least once a week.

Bombardir also left his cell phone on a co-workers desk, and once Sickman was made aware, he promptly hid it in the ceiling tiles and had many of us call the phone. I'd by lying if I didn't say it was hilarious, and also eerily similar to the episode of The Office when Jim hides Andy's phone in the ceiling. Bombardir stopped short of punching a hole in the wall, but he was close.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my tale of office hijinx on this Saturday night. The Wild will be back at practice tomorrow as we're down to seven games left (minimum). Fortunately, I'm horrible at math so to me, the Wild is very much alive in the postseason chase. Colorado is now the team we're trailing by 11 points with seven games to play. Difficult, but not impossible.

Uh oh, St. Cloud State has cut the Wisconsin lead to one goal. This could be interesting...

March 26, 2010 | 9:49 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 loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

Fact: That was much less fun to watch than a 4-3 come-from-two-goals-behind-in-the-third-to-win-in-overtime-in-Philly victory. Or maybe that was an opionion. But has there ever been Minnesota Wild game in Detroit that has been fun to watch? The only Wild win at Joe Louis Arena that I can remember off the top of my head was when Dwayne Roloson stole a game by making somewhere between 275 and 300 saves.

The Wild could have played two Dwayne Roloson’s and a Martin Brodeur and it still might not have helped in this 6-2 drubbing by the Red Wings. The Wild took way too many penalties and the red hot Red Wings pretty much did their thing all night. It was yet another horrific night in Detroit.

How awful has it been for Minnesota at Joe Louis Arena?  The Wild has allowed five goals in four of the last six games at Joe Louis Arena.  

Over the previous four games, the Wild killed 14 straight penalties. Apparently, the boys in white wanted to really test themselves by taking a whopping nine penalties against one of the best offensive teams in the League. Minnesota killed the first three, but the dam broke after that.

Detroit scored twice with the man advantage twice, and that was enough to get the offensive forces in red churning.

The penalty kill streak ended, but another streak continued. The Wild’s rash of injuries continued tonight. Already missing Mikko Koivu (arm) and Cam Barker (ankle), the Wild lost Josh Harding and Chuck Kobasew to lower body injuries in this one. There was no word as to the severity of either, but I think there might be a good chance of a couple calls made to Houston later in the weekend.

Antti Miettinen had a long, clear breakaway tonight that resulted in nothing but a shot that sailed over the net. That followed Andrew Ebbett’s breakaway last night that also resulted in the puck never reaching the goaltender.

This got me thinking about breakaways, or the lack thereof for the Wild this season. In fact, very few come to mind, and the ones that do all seem to involve Miettinen. And while Mittens brings a slew of great qualities to the Wild, breakaway conversions has not been one of them…at least not this year.

If I had to rank my favorite players of all-times, it would look like this:

Tied for 1st – Every player ever to wear a Wild or UMD Bulldog uniform
2nd – Mark Johnson (the 1980 Team USA hero)
3rd – Zach Parise (the almost 2010 Team USA hero)
4th – Nicklas Lidstrom

Lidstrom is just an amazing player. There’s not a lot that can be said that hasn’t already been said about the man. He just does everything, and he seems to do that perfectly.

Lidstrom had two assists tonight, both of which were perfect shots toward the goal that were put where teammates could deflect them.

Even though he routinely torments the Wild, you have to respect the way Lidstrom plays the game. It’s a lot like the case of Jarome Iginla, which we’ll likely get into in this space next week.

March 26, 2010 | 11:25 AM

Today's morning skate in Detroit was an optional one, and the players that exercised that option were Owen Nolan, Nick Schultz, Nik Backstrom, Kyle Brodziak, Guillaume Latendresse, Martin Havlat, Chuck Kobasew, Cam Barker, Marek Zidlicky and Greg Zanon.

Cody Almond also was not out there because he was reassigned to Houston today.

Barker is going to miss tonight's game due to an ankle injury. It's unknown how serious the injury is at this point. But Justin Falk will play his second NHL game tonight.

The rest of the skaters are going to be the same as last night. There will be a goaltending change as Josh Harding will get the start tonight.

On a non-Wild related note, I've seen some people in St. Cloud State jerseys meandering about the office in a daze. I can't decide if they are just nervous for today's regional game against Northern Michigan, or if it's just that all St. Cloud State graduates are usually in a daze. Oh snap!

March 25, 2010 | 9:35 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 overtime win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

Count the Minnesota Wild’s 4-3 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Flyers as one of the weirdest games of the season. There was an abysmal start for the Wild, some crazy goals and of course, some ridiculous non-calls from the zebras. But when all was said and done, the Wild scored an improbable two points by rallying from a 3-1 third period deficit. It was the first time that Minnesota came from two goals down to win a road game since trailing the Colorado Avalanche 2-0 back on November 28. The Wild won that one in a shootout, 3-2.

Tonight’s win was the Wild’s fifth after trailing by two goals, and it now has seven wins when trailing after two periods.  

“A lateral back-pressure or blind-side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact.”

That is the exact wording of the new rule that was implemented today by the NHL and the NHLPA in an effort to curb headshots. So, on a night that was tabbed as “Brain Injury Awareness Night” at Wachovia Center and that started with the Jumbotron showing a pregame video that led off with Mike Richards’ hit on Florida’s David Booth (which would now be considered illegal), it had to happen that there would be a hit that would match the new rule, word for word.

That hit was delivered in the third period by Ian Laperriere on Kyle Brodziak, well after the Wild center had flipped the puck out of his own zone. Laperriere hit Brodzy at full speed drilling Brodziak from the blindside and making direct contact with the side of his head. It should go without saying that there was no call on the play. It was the same story two minutes later when Daniel Carcillo blatantly drilled Guillaume Latendresse from behind sending him headfirst into the boards.

The only bright side to Carcillo’s hit was seeing the reaction of Casey Wellman. The brand new rookie wasted no time and went after Carcillo without hesitation. It was the latest impressive showing by Wellman, who was the most noticeable Wild player for the first two periods.

Part of it may be the energy of a youngster looking to impress, but Wellman is utilizes his speed all over the rink, and he never backs down from contact. One play that really sticks out was at the end of a second period shift. The Wild turned the puck over in the Philly zone. Wellman was somewhat close to his bench, but rather than go off for a change, he put his head down and sprinted back to the defensive zone. When Niklas Backstrom gloved a shot, Wellman could be seen looking up at the ceiling in exhaustion. The look on his face was priceless when he saw Backstrom play the puck, but Wellman did have enough time to get to the bench for a change.

For the first time this season, Minnesota was without the services of Mikko Koivu, who is dealing with an arm injury and won’t play tomorrow in Detroit. Despite the win, Koivu’s absence was noticeable. All of the things he does – win faceoffs, kill penalties, control the power play – were noticeably absent. But the Wild was able to overcome that with a concerted effort from everybody in the third period.

I’m not sure if Laperriere is the biggest villain in Wild history, but he has to be up there in the top five, correct? You’ve got Matt Cooke, Jarkko Ruutu, Brad May, Todd Bertuzzi, Sheldon Souray, Tyson Nash and a few others that are in contention. But I’m not sure any of those players tried to drag Marian Gaborik into a fight in the final game of the regular season, and I’m fairly certain none of them drilled anyone in the head from the blind-side the day the new rule against such actions was enacted. I think that needs to be an upcoming feature on - top five villains.

March 25, 2010 | 11:40 AM

The Wild could be dealing with a couple key injuries tonight. Not only is Koivu out for tonight's game as well as tomorrow's, it's possible Guillaume Latendresse may not play tonight. According to Todd Richards, he is "banged up."

If Latendresse can't go, then look for Almond to get his second NHL appearance under his belt. Derek Boogaard will play no matter what.

Niklas Backstrom will get the start in goal.

March 25, 2010 | 9:50 AM

The Wild did in fact make a call to Houston today. Cody Almond has joined the team in Philadelphia, and is awaiting word on if he'll play. Again, it appears that Mikko Koivu will not be in the lineup due to an upper body injury, but we don't have official word just yet.

March 24, 2010 | 9:38 PM

Mikko Koivu did travel with the team to Philadelphia today, but there is some question as to whether or not he will be able to play tomorrow night against the Flyers. Koivu was injured at the beginning of the second period last night against San Jose.

Expect the Wild to make a call up from Houston tomorrow morning.

If Koivu can't play, it would be the first game he has missed this season, and would leave three players - Nick Schultz, Andrew Brunette and Kyle Brodziak - who have played every game thus far.

March 24, 2010 | 10:37 AM

The San Jose Sharks, who beat our boys last night, were one of the teams going after Casey Wellman last week when he was still a college free agent. Of course, Wellman signed with the Wild over his hometown team, but the Sharks nabbed two of his University of Massachusetts teammates. Wellman's linemate and two-time Hobey Baker finalist, James Marcou, signed with San Jose on Tuesday.

Marcou's signing followed up the addition of free agent UMass defenseman, Matt Irwin. Like Wellman, Irwin leaves after two college seasons, including a seven goal, 17 assist sophomore campaign.

March 23, 2010 | 10:12 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 4-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks.

The common theme when your team is facing a very good team that is struggling is to say, “Team X (in this case the Wild) is catching Team Y (in this case the San Jose Sharks) at the perfect time.”

Of course, catching a team with eight Olympians and four gold medalists after six straight losses is probably the worst time to “catch” them. On Tuesday, the Sharks looked like the Sharks of October through mid-February, and the Wild did not have an answer in a 4-1 loss. Undoubtedly, the biggest blow was struck by Torrey Mitchell 17 seconds into the third period. With the Wild having cut San Jose’s lead to 2-1 after two, the Sharks immediately established their leverage with Mitchell’s goal. For the rest of the period it was an uphill struggle that never got past the midway point.  

That struggle had a lot to do with San Jose’s stifling defense. In fact, some may call the Sharks’ defensive scheme a “trapping” style, which of course is ridiculous. Any media outlet outside of the Midwest can tell you that the Wild and New Jersey Devils are the only teams ever to play the trap in the NHL. But whatever the Sharks did seemed to work. The Wild could not get any sustained attack going, and finished the third period with only five shots, none of which came on a power play with 3:31 remaining.

There was a bright spot, other than the fact that the weather was beautiful today. Guillaume Latendresse continues to impress notched his 27th goal of the season in the same way he picked up most of the first 26, by finishing around the front of the net. After smacking home a loose puck, Latendresse is not tied for the ninth-highest goal total in a season for a Wild player (25). Since being acquired from Montreal on November 23, Latendresse is tied for eighth in the NHL in goals with Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom.

And all though he could care less, we have to congratulate Nick Schultz on 600 career games played, all in a Wild uniform. The 27-year-old Schultz, who is under contract with the Wild until 2014, could hold the franchise mark in games played for a long time. The closest active member of the Wild is Pierre-Marc Bouchard at 426. Considering Schultz has never played less than 75 games in a season since 2002-2003, it’s safe to say he’s going to have a hefty total when all is said and done.

Brent Burns has been another bright spot, as he seems to be gaining steam as the season chugs to the end. After a spectacular assist on Sunday, he added another on Latendresse’s goal. In his last four games, Burns has an assist in each (he missed six in the middle with a hip injury).

March 23, 2010 | 12:02 PM

Niklas Backstrom will be getting the start in goal tonight when the Wild hosts the skidding San Jose Sharks on a national broadcast. Other than that, the lineup is expected to remain the same as Sunday.

The only wrench in those plans will be if Owen Nolan can't go. Nolan wasn't feeling well and missed today's skate, but Todd Richards did not expect him to miss the game.

Richards also said that Clayton Stoner is likely done for the year. Stoner just has not been able to recover from issues in his midsection, and hopefully he can right those issues in the offseason.

In better news, Justin Falk is skating at full speed with the team, and appears to be fine after taking a hit to the head on Friday. Despite his clean bill of health, Falk is not expected to play unless a defenseman goes down.

March 22, 2010 | 11:30 AM

The day has finally arrived when you can go meet rapper Ludacris at Tom Reid's Hockey Puuuuuuub, prior to tonight's Black Eyed Peas concert. I don't know about you, but I have got this feeling that tonight is going to be a good night. But not just any good night, mind you. It is going to be a good, good night. 

Due to the concert, the Wild is holding a very small off-site practice, with only four players and a goalie on the ice. Those four skaters were Casey Wellman, Nate Prosser, Derek Boogaard and Justin Falk. Nik Backstrom was also out there. 

Jaime Sifers has been reassigned to the Houston Aeros, which could mean the Wild's defensive corps is getting healthier. There are still a glut of defensemen up here if you add Shane Hnidy, Prosser, Falk and Stoner to the six that played yesterday. Of course, Prosser isn't expected to play this year, and the health of the other three is still in question. 

Big game on Versus tonight as the eighth place Red Wings play the Pittsburgh Penguins at 6:00 PM. You gotta believe, because as Kevin Garnett might say, "Anything is Possibaaaaaaallll!"

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