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Lighthouse: Week of March 29

by Glen Andresen / Minnesota Wild

April 4, 2010 | 12:27 AM

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 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

Where do I even start when I try to describe this game?

It’s interesting, but I often ask that question after the Minnesota Wild plays the Vancouver Canucks. Most of the time, that’s because there were some type of shenanigans by Canuck agitators that cause the game to morph into a pirate bar brawl on the island of Tortuga.

On this Easter Sunday, the chippiness was relatively minimal, yet this one was still memorable. The Wild nearly pulled off yet another amazing comeback, only to be spoiled by a ridiculous penalty call in overtime that had Todd Richards staying on his bench well after his players left.  

First, the good stuff. When Alex Edler fired a long wrist shot from his own end with less than a minute left, he found the net. He seemingly iced the game, giving Vancouver a 3-1 lead.

Perhaps even Todd Richards thought it was over. He put Backstrom back in goal, and he sent rookies Casey Wellman and Cody Almond out on the ice. Within seconds, Wellman zipped a centering pass to Almond who chipped it through Roberto Luongo to cut the lead to one. Hey, so at least we got a first career goal out of the game, if not a point.

But then, the Wild failed to quit again. The next shift, Andrew Brunette got the puck behind the net, passed to the side for Antti Miettinen. If you were sleeping instead of watching, you may have been awakened by a faint gasp from 1,800 miles away as Miettinen punched a shot into the top shelf. In a season of comebacks, this one was about to be the sweetest.

That sweetness turned to an acidic taste thanks to a horrendous call in overtime, made even worse because it was Alex Burrows who drew the call. As he tried to pull off some behind-the-back, through-the-skates move on Greg Zanon, he lost control of the puck. So he lifted Zanon’s stick, hitting himself in the face, and of course embellishing it to the point that he should be embarrassed.

Sure enough, Zanon got called for a high stick. And of course, Sami Salo ended the game shortly thereafter. The two most frustrating parts of this entire sequence were: 1) seeing Burrows giggling on the bench right after Zanon got called, and 2) watching the refs ignore Richards’ request to talk to them after the game, because after all, why should they ever have to explain an awful call?

Back to Wellman and Almond for a bit. Richards said today that he wasn’t just going to throw these guys out on the ice in all different scenarios just to get them experience. He wants to win. But these guys nearly played a big hand in a win thanks to their hustle. Wellman was speeding around all night, and his setup to Almond was a thing of beauty.

Almond showed his toughness on the play as well, going right to the net and fighting off a defender while traveling at full speed. It’s always fun to see a guy get his first NHL goal. Hopefully we get to see it again with Wellman before the year is out.

Last but not least, Nik Backstrom was unbelievable again tonight. He stopped 36 shots, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him make so many of the spectacular, sprawling variety. There were too many to list here, but he was the reason the Wild wasn’t down by seven after two periods.

While his stats may have spiked in the wrong direction this season, Backstrom’s ability to show up with his best for every game has never waned. Yes, I am biased (and paid by the Wild), but we are lucky to have this guy.

April 2, 2010 | 12:42 PM

This will be a quick update as I'm feeling like I just got sandwiched in a hit by Derek Boogaard and John Scott.

The Wild has reassigned Justin Falk to Houston today. Falk was expendable with the likely return of Cam Barker to the lineup tonight. Falk played three games in his stint with the Wild.

All right, time to get some rest so I can hopefully be at the arena tonight for Fan Celebration Night.

April 1, 2010 | 2:02 PM

I wish I could tell you about some great April Fool's Day pranks that took place at the Wild's practice today, but let's just say nobody was in a laughing mood. 

Todd Richards skated the team hard today, but only for about 25 minutes. He admitted afterward that the team would have skated a lot longer if not for tomorrow night's game against the San Jose Sharks. On behalf of the Wild players, "Thank you NHL schedule makers."

On Tuesday, I had talked to Cal Clutterbuck to see if he was thinking about pulling off a prank like last year, when he and Derek Boogaard filled Eric Belanger's car with packing peanuts.

Judging by the mood in the locker room today, I made the decision not to bug him or anybody else in regards to April Fool's Day. Maybe next year.

Owen Nolan, Marek Zidlicky and Martin Havlat avoided today's skate due to some maintenance issues. I wouldn't expect any of them to miss tomorrow's game.

That's about all I've got.

March 31, 2010 | 10:13 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 4-0 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Hmm...Five things. I have to think of five things. Can I talk about how nice the weather was today? Maybe I could use one of my takeaways to let you know that if you are missing a husky puppy, my wife spotted it walking through the yard of our Como Park house. Email me if you want more details.

But for now, we have to stick to hockey, and I’m reminded of a quote my friend Ben always says, “Sometimes the dragon wins.” On this night, I’m not sure if the Wild put Team Canada out on the ice, it just seemed like the Blackhawks were going to snap their three-game skid no matter what. There would be no rally from four goals down in this one. The fifth-largest crowd of the season (18.933) sent down some boos in frustration, but let’s not forget that there was another team playing tonight, and a very good one at that.  

A lot of those boos came after the Wild was kept off the scoreboard despite a 5-on-3 power play for 1:37 in the second period. But this wasn’t a case of the power play coming unglued and just aimlessly passing the puck around. Hawks goaltender Antti Niemi was the only reason the Wild couldn’t score. Twice, he made sliding pad saves on Mikko Koivu, and then he make a spectacular stop on a point blank try from Antti Miettinen.

Niemi only made 21 saves, but a large amount of the saves were on golden scoring chances. Many experts are saying goaltending will be the weakness of this Hawks team in the playoffs. That won’t be the case if Niemi, who has seven shutouts in just 33 contests, is on his game like he was tonight.

A very scary moment happened early in the game after Shane Hnidy, who returned after missing 11 games with a leg injury, belted Colin Fraser against the end boards. Fraser hobbled back to his bench, which is something we see Greg Zanon do every game. But suddenly, the entire bench started yelling at the refs to stop the game. Fraser looked like he may have collapsed on the bench.

Trainers rushed to his attention, and a stretcher was wheeled onto the ice. Fortunately, Fraser walked to the locker room under his own power and eventually returned in the second period. The official word from the Blackhawks was that “he got the wind knocked out of him.”

The much-anticipated showdown between the two defenseman that were traded for each other on February 12th never came to pass. Cam Barker and Kim Johnsson were both sidelined with injuries, and didn’t play in tonight’s game. In case you’re wondering, Johnsson has one goal and two assists in eight games, but has missed the last nine games. Barker has a goal and four assists in 14 games and has missed the last three games.

And you’re not allowed to give up hope yet. Yes, the Wild is done if the Colorado Avalanche wins one more game. But it doesn’t look like they will tonight. As I write this, the Avs trail the Anaheim Ducks by a 4-1 score in the third.

Okay, is that five yet?

March 31, 2010 | 2:24 PM

A couple of corrections to make you aware of. First, the Wild will NOT be wearing their white jerseys tonight. Originally, it was planned that they would, but apparently the Blackhawks didn't want to bring two sets of jerseys with them on their travels. So now the Wild has even more incentive to pound them into smithereens. 

Also, Burns' daughter, Peyton, was born this morning, and not last night.

March 31, 2010 | 12:15 PM

First off, a congratulations to Brent Burns, who welcomed his first child, a daughter, Peyton, last night. Burns was not at the morning skate today for obvious reasons, but Todd Richards said he expects Burns to play tonight.

Shane Hnidy is expected to return to the lineup tonight, and assuming Marek Zidlicky will gut it out again, Justin Falk will come out of the lineup.

Richards said he wants to keep Owen Nolan and Cal Clutterbuck on a line tonight because of some chemistry they had on Monday. It looks like James Sheppard will play center in between those two.

With Andrew Ebbett out for the year, Casey Wellman moves back to center. It's quite possible that we'll see him on a line with another rookie, Cody Almond, and a bruiser, Derek Boogaard. That will be a fun line to watch.

Also, the Wild will be wearing their white jerseys at tonight's game. I don't know if the Hawks will wear their reds or their throwback blacks, but I'm hoping it will be the blacks.

March 31, 2010 | 9:25 AM

The Wild has recalled Cody Almond today due to recent injuries to Andrew Ebbett and Chuck Kobasew. This will be Almond's third call up this season, and he will likely make his second appearance in a game tonight.

Almond has seven goals and 11 assists through 48 games with the Houston Aeros this season. Is only other Wild game was February 12 against Atlanta.

March 30, 2010 | 1:05 PM

We're about to have some fun here in the Lighthouse, but first let's get to some injury news. Andrew Ebbett, Clayton Stoner and Josh Harding are all done for the year due to injury. Ebbett blocked a shot last night in the third period and broke his finger, and that will require surgery.

Stoner is going to have more abdominal surgery tomorrow, and it will be more extensive than the procedure he underwent in February.

Harding has a labrum tear and is likely going to require surgery in the offseason.

Cam Barker skated on his own today, and Chuck Kobasew has a knee sprain but is hopeful of returning by the end of the season.

Now, the fun stuff. Today, the Wild held a Twitter contest for people to submit the best Greg Zanon-isms. Here are some of the best, with the winner at the bottom:

Greg Zanon doesn't use razors to shave his head, he uses the skates of vanquished opponents

 Greg Zanon made Gretzky retire from coaching by just looking at "The Great One.

Even Hockey Hair is scared of Greg Zanon

Greg Zanon was what Willis was talking about

Greg Zanon easily finds Carmen Sandiego, and blocks her shots!

greg zanon doesn't need a Zamboni, he uses his wet beard

Zanon isn't growing a beard. Apparently when throwing your body in front of and blocking several 90mph pucks, your face sweats hair.

D-man Greg Zanon can make a turkey sub in exactly 5 seconds and still have time to hip check you into the boards

Greg Zanon's aura is so strong that he can get an assist without setting foot in the building

Greg Zanon had a deep thought once. Its result was the tilting of the Earth on its axis.

There is no 'ctrl' button on greg zanon's computer because Greg Zanon is always in control!

Once, Greg Zanon took a Burnsie slapshot off the shinguard in practice, the ricochet made the tower of Pisa lean.

The Matrix movies were based on the real events of Zanon's life

When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Greg Zanon.
Greg Zanon doesn't mow his lawn, he dares his grass to grow.
greg zanon built the hospital he was born in.


If Greg Zanon tells Owen Nolan to smile, he smiles

March 30, 2010 | 10:25 AM

If you didn't get a chance to see the Wild's full two-minute kill of the five-on-three last night, here it is in its entirety. As I mentioned last night in the Five Takeaways, I was flabbergasted when I saw Zanon block a shot from Jarret Stoll, get hurt, yet still try to get in the way of the return fire despite facing completely the wrong way.

What I did not see was the end when the final whistle blew, and Zanon basically collapses in the crease. I get the dry heaves just watching that.

The Wild will be taking their second team photo of the year prior to practice today. The team takes one at the beginning of the year, and one at the end, because obviously some of the faces and the names have changed.

Also, Cal Clutterbuck will be on NHL live today, which begins at 11:00 AM CST. The team starts practice at 11:00, but I'm sure Clutterbuck will be on sometime around the noon hour. You can watch the entire broadcast live right here on beginning at 11:00 AM. 

March 29, 2010 | 11:35 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 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings.

Monday night’s 3-2 Minnesota Wild win over the Los Angeles Kings was the perfect example of how a fantastic hockey game can come out of nowhere. A late Monday night start against a West Coast team with the playoffs close to being out of reach seemed like a recipe for a snoozer. Instead, after an uneventful first period, Wild fans got 40 minutes of one of one of the most entertaining team efforts of the season – and there have been plenty at Xcel Energy Center this year.

This one had it all: great offensive plays, amazing saves, some chippiness, standout performances and one of those penalty kills that you will never forget if you witnessed it in person.  

And here’s where we talk about it.

One of my all-time favorite moments in Wild history occurred during the 2005-2006 season, when the Wild killed off a full two-minute 5-on-3 against the Nashville Predators. Watching three guys and a goaltender take on five guys with all the time and space in the world just revs a crowd up, and when those penalties expired, I had never heard the crowd get as loud for a non-goal in all my eight years here. I named it one of the Top Ten Wild moments of the first decade of the team’s existence.

Tonight, the Wild penalty killers matched it, and perhaps most remarkably, they did it with two penalty-killing defensemen – Nick Schultz and Marek Zidlicky – in the box for two minutes with the score tied at 2-2 in the third period.

I was a little surprised that L.A. took a timeout in the middle of the power play, giving the likes of Greg Zanon, Mikko Koivu and Brent Burns a break. But still, this was incredible to watch. The Kings seemed to have a sure goal on multiple plays, but there was always a Wild stick, or shin pad or goalie pad taking the shot away at the last moment.

And just like against Nashville, the Wild capitalized on the momentum and the crowd noise shortly after. Martin Havlat blew the roof off the barn 3:38 after the penalties expired.

Undoubtedly, the most remarkable and scariest moment came on that penalty kill. Zanon proved that he is either the one of the most courageous and slightly insane players ever to pull on the Iron Range Red sweater. The guy was a Dikembe Mutombo on skates tonight, blocking everything that the Kings, in particular Jarret Stoll, sent toward the net.

During the two-man advantage, Stoll ripped a shot from the point that the already-hobbled Zanon (who has an injured ankle, was hit earlier in the game with a shot that knocked him down and was also upended by a Jack Johnson hip check) slid and blocked the blast. The puck bounced right back to Stoll, who fired again. This time, Zanon was off balance, but still tried to block the shot by diving toward it with his back facing it!!!!!

Stoll should feel lucky that Zanon wasn't with him the night he met Rachel Hunter, or the red-bearded warrior would have blocked him that night as well.

Burns also stood out in this one, and not just from the penalty kill and a season high 27:45 of ice time. He scored a highlight reel goal that showcased the offense he can bring to this team from the backend. During a four-on-four in the second, Burns caught a point-to-point pass from Mikko Koivu and looked to give it back. But at the last instant he made a toe-drag move to step around Brad Richardson. Within about two strides, Burns was in alone on Jonathan Quick and roofing a quick wrist shot. It was a beautiful goal and hopefully a sign of many more to come.

As happy as I am to see the Wild win, I am pulling for the Los Angeles Kings to right the ship. With a fourth straight loss, the Kings apparent lock on the playoffs is loosening by the day. I like the Kings, and I think their appearance in the postseason would be great for hockey (but not at the expense of the Wild). They’ve got both likable and entertaining guys on the team, but it just feels like something bad happens to them at this time every year. Certainly not being able to convert on a 5-on-3 in the third period of a tie game on March 29 with the playoffs depending on it would qualify as “something bad.”

March 29, 2010 | 4:35 PM

A couple Wild players earned top play mention on this week. Guillaume Latendresse's hit on Calgary's Jamal Mayers that broke the penalty box door came in at sixth on the week. You can see that video here.

And Josh Harding's ridiculous glove save on St. Louis' Brad Boyes came in as the third best save of the week, although I'm not sure why. That save took place two weeks ago, but who am I to complain? You can see the entire list here.

March 29, 2010 | 12:30 PM

Nate Prosser could hardly sit still today as he was asked questions about potentially playing his first NHL game tonight. Still soaked from his morning skate, Prosser couldn't wait to get to his phone to let his parents know that he'd be playing. 

Said Prosser, "They're going to be so excited. My dad will be ecstatic. It's something that I've always dreamed about. He knows that, and he's been there throughout my career. He'll be as excited as I am."

By my quick count, Prosser would join Mark Parrish, Sean Hill, Erik Westrum, Darby Hendrickson, Jeff Nielsen, Wyatt Smith and Brian Bonin as the only Minnesota natives to suit up for their home state team.

It's not 100% certain that Prosser will play, as he will have to wait to hear the status of Marek Zidlicky, who was at the hospital this morning to have his arm evaluated. There is no word on his status yet, but it sounds as though he won't be able to go.

Mikko Koivu and Guillaume Latendresse both skated today, and Todd Richards said he would double check to make sure they're both available.

Josh Harding is definitely out, and Anton Khudobin will back up Nik Backstrom tonight.
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