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Lighthouse: Week of March 8

by Glen Andresen / Minnesota Wild

March 14, 2010 | 8:29 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 St. Louis Blues.

The Minnesota Wild was down a leader before they even hit the ice tonight with Owen Nolan surprisingly out of the lineup with a lower body injury. Fortunately, every other player considered a “leader” in the Wild dressing room picked up the slack in a huge 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues.

Andrew Brunette, Mikko Koivu, Guillaume Latendresse, Antti Miettinen and Martin Havlat are going to have to be the guys that carry the scoring load for the final 14 games of the season. The first four all lit the lamp tonight, and Havlat was superb in notching two assists.

Speaking of 14 games, that’s how many the Wild has to make up six points on the Detroit Red Wings, currently sitting in eighth place. Scoreboard watching can officially begin.  

The big guns carried the offense tonight, but the defense was once again on the shoulders of number two goaltender, Josh Harding. Or is he number two? Prior to Minnesota’s game against Detroit, Todd Richards said he would need both goalies in order to make a run at the postseason, and if one of them gets hot, that’s the goalie he’ll go with.

Harding appears to be scalding right now. With Backstrom out of the last three games with a lower body injury, the backup started three games in four nights. After a forgettable performance in Detroit on Thursday, Harding followed a 41-save performance in Buffalo with a 36-save performance against the Blues.

And remember when Harding saved the season once by making a diving glove save against Edmonton back on February 4th? He made another potential season saver tonight. With the Wild weathering a late St. Louis charge and holding onto a two-goal lead, the Minnesota keeper came out of nowhere to make a lunging glove save on Brad Boyes off a rebound.

Derek Boogaard played a grand total of 11 seconds today, and that’s not a career-low for ice time. On November 9, 2008, Boogey played three seconds of a game at Nashville.

But he made his presence felt in this one. After a scrum broke out in the first period behind the Wild net, Boogaard and DJ King emerged for a bout. This one was long and it wasn’t close. After a long pose off, Boogey turned King’s helmet into a helicopter and his noggin into a Bobblehead. When the linesmen finally broke up the fight, Boogaard headed straight to the locker room and did not return.

We know the trade of Benoit Pouliot for Guillaume Latendresse has worked out well for Minnesota, but it appears the trade for Cam Barker is panning out just fine as well. Barker was a +2 with an assist on the first Wild goal tonight. The Bark Dog has now totaled a goal and three assists in eight games with the Wild, and he’s also a +4 during that time.

Finally, congratulations to Blaine’s Nick Bjugstad, this year’s Mr. Hockey Award winner. Even though he’s going to be a Gopher next year, Bjugstad is an impressive individual. I got the chance to interview him for Wild TV, and I don’t spend many interviews looking up at interviewees. I’m 6-foot-3, but Bjugstad was towering over me.

And the kid is really only old enough to be a junior in high school. Bjugstad took a slew of online classes in addition to his regular classes at Blaine high school in order to graduate early and start his college career next season. You’ll be hearing his name quite a bit in June as well, as he’s projected to be an early pick in the NHL draft.

March 14, 2010 | 3:08 PM

Blaine's Nick Bjugstad is Minnesota's 2010 Mr. Hockey Winner as announced by the Minnesota Minute Men at the Mr. Hockey banquet on Sunday. Bjugstad is a Minnesota Gopher recruit, making him the third straight Gopher recruit to win the award and the 19th Gopher overall to take home the hardware.

Bjugstad also broke the five year streak of defensemen winning the award. the first forward to win the award since Centennial's Tom Gorowsky won it in 2004.

Wild TV talked to Nick between periods at the Wild game Sunday evening.

Goaltender Zane Gothberg of Thief River Falls was recognized as the Frank Brimsek Award winner for top senior goaltender. Kevin Smalley of Duluth Denfeld and Jerry Hayes of Apple Valley were honored as the John Mariucci Award winners for top coaches in Class A and AA respectively.

March 14, 2010 | 11:21 AM

Congratulations to Breck and Edina, the two teams I was cheering against during yesterday's State championship games. Oh well, it's always fun to watch no matter who wins.

You have to love the month of March in the State of Hockey. A fantastic State Hockey Tournament gives way to the weekend capper of the Wild hosting the Blues, and the announcement of Minnesota's Mr. Hockey today.

The Wild did not hold a morning skate today due to the early 5:00 PM start. That means the lineup is full of question marks. We likely won't know the status of Niklas Backstrom and Brent Burns until pregame warmups.

March 13, 2010 | 1:21 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 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres.

It’s amazing what two points can do for a team. The bus ride to the airport is filled with laughs. The flight home is relaxed and filled with barbs directed at Wild PR guru, Ryan Stanzel. And most importantly, there is new life, and a new outlook.

The Wild locker room at HSBC was awfully quiet at today’s morning skate, just 12 hours after the team succumbed to the Detroit Red Wings. But after a solid 3-2 road victory over the Buffalo Sabres, the Wild has two games upcoming at Xcel Energy Center against St. Louis and Edmonton. The fore-check was there all night, bodies were flying everywhere, and the guys got nasty. Owen Nolan was involved in a ferocious brawl, and Wild players looked like the aggressors most of the night, taking a few extra shots at Sabre players in the corners and after whistles.

The bottom line is this season is far from over, and tonight’s win is a potential catalyst.  

Several Wild players stepped up in this one, but nobody more than Josh Harding. Harding was spectacular in this game, and his performance is even more impressive coming off a rough night 24 hours before against the Wings. Harding finished the game with 43 saves, and he was at his best in the third when the Sabres were relentlessly trying to come back. He did give up both goals in the third, but he held the Sabres off long enough to make their second goal but a glimmer of hope.

Then there was the goaltender on the other end: Patrick Lalime. I know I felt a bit cheated when I heard that he would get the start in place of Ryan Miller. But my feelings were nothing in comparison to how the raucous Sabre fans felt. Lalime didn’t help his cause by giving up a weak first goal to Andrew Ebbett, and then turning the puck over to lead to Guillaume Latendresse scoring the second.

But mercy! Those fans were letting him have it all game long. Anytime a dump-in went on net, the crowd roared in mock approval. It wasn’t a one-time thing either. It kept up all game, even though Lalime found his game and made some brilliant saves to keep Buffalo in the game during the second period. I guess when you’ve got an overnight folk hero like Miller at your disposal, it doesn’t matter if it’s Patrick Lalime or Patrick Roy; neither is going to cut the mustard.

Here’s an impressive tidbit for you stat heads and Latendresse lovers out there.  With his goal tonight, G-Lat snapped a two-game goal-less skid. I thought this was a misprint when I read it, but Latendresse has gone more than two games without a goal just once since New Year’s.

I enjoyed the overall game experience at HSBC Arena, but one thing is sticking in my craw, and I talked at length about this in tonight’s in-game commentary. But I’ll rehash my thoughts here. The Sabres’ mascot is a tiger named “Sabretooth.” I mean, I get the clever play on words (sabre toothed tiger), but your team name actually has two potential mascots: a buffalo or some kind of sword. Even a chicken wing would be better than a tiger!

Better yet, I see no reason why the Buffalo Sabres mascot is not a winged buffalo named “Wingy” or “Wingnut” carrying swords around. To the Sabres marketing department, who I know will be reading “Five Takeaways,” that idea is free of charge.

March 12, 2010 | 12:20 PM

About half the team took the ice today for today's optional morning skate. One of those skaters was Guillaume Latendresse. He will play tonight.

Nik Backstrom was in the building and his stuff was being packed up by Equipment Manager Tony Dacosta. Then, his nameplate was replaced by one that said, "Dubielewicz." I took that to mean that Doobey will officially be the back up keeper tonight.

Brent Burns will miss another game tonight. Derek Boogaard will be in the lineup, but the lone healthy scratch is unknown at this point.

March 12, 2010 | 9:09 AM

It was a quiet night of travel last night on the way from Detroit to Buffalo, where I now sit in a hotel room looking out the window at my view of a large satellite dish. It's breathtaking.

The night did get somewhat interesting last night when the coaching and management staff decided late that they should bring a goalie in today in case Nik Backstrom's lower body injury isn't any better today than it was when it forced him to sit out yesterday's loss in Detroit.

Wade "Doobey" Dubielewicz will join the team today in Buffalo, but it won't be an easy trip. Doobey is scheduled to fly into Toronto this morning, and then be driven the roughly two-hour ride to Buffalo. We will see if he can make it to today's morning skate.

Maybe I won't complain the next time one of my flights has a long layover somewhere.

Last night's travel was also interesting as the team needed to find out results from tests run on Guillaume Latendresse, who was taken to the hospital as a precaution after taking a high stick to the back of the head. Gui was on the team bus to the Detroit airport, but Dr. Don Fuller wanted results from tests taken before the flight to Buffalo. On the way, Fuller got the good news that all was clear. Let's hope that means Guillaume feels well enough to play tonight.

One last Wild tidbit, it's been reported that Olympic MVP Ryan Miller will not be in goal tonight against the Wild. He is going to start tomorrow night in Detroit. That might be good news for the Wild, but sad news for those of us that wanted to see him play and earn another ovation for his Olympic efforts.

Sounded like a tough night for the beloved Duluth East Greyhounds last night in a 5-3 loss to Hill-Murray. Yes, Hill-Murray is a big city school, and yes it's a private school, but there is still a small part of me to see Duke Pieper's team move on in the tournament. As you recall from Hockey Day Minnesota, Pieper was a freshman on the Hill-Murray team when he was found to have a rare, life-threatening brain condition.

In one of the most touching moments I've seen at Xcel Energy Center, he dropped the puck for Mikko Koivu and Rick Nash prior to a Wild win that night.

It should be a great day of hockey back in St. Paul.

March 11, 2010 | 12:06 PM

Good news, bad news after today's morning skate in Detroit. The good news is that Cal Clutterbuck participated fully, and although he didn't say for sure if he's playing tonight, it appears he will. That means a forward will have to be scratched, but Todd Richards doesn't know who that will be. He said Derek Boogaard will play, but does that mean Robbie Earl, who scored again on Tuesday, sits out? We shall see.

Brent Burns took the ice for the skate today, but he left shortly after it began. Apparently his hip is still sore, and he will not play tonight. That means both Jaime Sifers and John Scott will get into the lineup tonight. A team that lacked a lot of tougness on Tuesday now gets an infusion of it with the return of Clutter, Boogey and Big John.

Niklas Backstrom will get the start tonight, and it sounds as if Josh Harding will go tomorrow against Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres.

Richards' brother, Travis, who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was sitting in the stands at today's skate with his son. Like Todd, Travis is a former Minnesota Gopher. He played in three games with the Dallas Stars, but he found a home with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the IHL and NHL. He spent 10 seasons in Grand Rapids before hanging up the blades in 2006.

March 10, 2010 | 5:49 PM

The Wild has arrived in Detroit, Michigan minus one defenseman. Sherriff Shane Hnidy stayed behind in Minnesota due to his leg injury. Both Brent Burns and Cal Clutterbuck did make the trip. Clutter's strut appeared back to normal, so I think we'll see him on the ice Friday, if not tomorrow night. 

It's been a busy day for recent call up Jaime "Not Jamie" Sifers. He was out late at a Houston Aeros charity event last night, before getting the news that he was getting called up. He hopped a 7:20 AM flight to MSP, and then got on the team plane bound for the Motor City.

I'm excited to see that UMD Bulldog recruit Adam Krause lifted Hermantown to the Class A semifinals in a great game against Virginia-Mountain Iron-Buhl. Watch out for those northern teams all you big city folk. They'll get ya.

March 10, 2010 | 9:30 AM

The Wild is going to recall defenseman Jaime Sifers today, after both Shane Hnidy and Brent Burns left last night's game with lower body injuries. Their status for this upcoming trip is still unknown.

The Wild also sent Petr Kalus back to Houston after he made his Minnesota debut last night. Kalus saw 6:41 of ice time.

Following an off site practice, the Wild will head to Detroit this afternoon. Somehow, I lucked into getting on this trip to Detroit and Buffalo, which by all accounts are two of the best NHL cities. Hopefully nobody is pulling my leg when they are saying that.

The only downside to leaving town is I'll miss the majority of the Boys' State Hockey Tournament, which kicks off with Class A action today. It's tough to beat tourney time in Minnesota. Good luck to all the northern teams!

March 9, 2010 | 10:26 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 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers.

In a classic episode of The Office (they’re all classic), Michael Scott tries to motivate his team by writing on the white board:

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

He then attributed the quote to Wayne Gretzky, and then attributed it to himself.

Even someone as clueless as Michael Scott knows that 11 shots through 65 minutes is not enough to win an NHL game. It was enough to gain a point in a 3-2 shootout loss, but not enough to gain any ground in the Western Conference with just 17 games remaining.

When asked at the morning skate about what he expected from Florida, Head Coach Todd Richards talked about Florida’s ability to get in shooting lanes and blocking shots. They certainly did that, but the Wild missed on several opportunities with wide shots, and they passed up several others.

The Wild didn’t record its eighth shot until Mikko Koivu slid one on goal with 8:49 to play. Koivu accounted for five of the 11 Wild shots, which tied the franchise record for fewest shots in a game.  

After Nik Backstrom gave up the only goal of the shootout to Cory Stillman in the fourth round, he skated right to the locker room and didn’t look to absorb any stick taps from his teammates. Backstrom had a right to be perturbed. He continued his stellar post-Olympic play in making 29 saves. He didn’t have to make many spectacular saves, but he sponged up every shot and held is ground on repeated bids from in tight. He deserved a better fate once again.

The news doesn’t get much better. Shane Hnidy missed most of the game with what Richards called “a leg.” Brent Burns also had to leave the contest with what Richards called “a hip.” That doesn’t shed a lot of light as to the severity of either injury, but any injury is going to hurt (no pun intended...or maybe it was because I could have deleted it) at this point of the season.

Make no mistake, this game was not pretty, but there were two pretty plays, both of which resulted in Wild goals. First off, any time a player dislodges a goaltenders water bottle with a shot, it’s cool. Chicks dig it. And Koivu’s wrist shot on his first period power play goal smoked that thing into the air. Hitting the goalies water bottle is like a Twins player putting a home run into the fountain at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium. You just get a sense of satisfaction when you see it happen.

Pretty play number two was Robbie Earl’s goal – his sixth in 24 games. First, Nick Schultz made a great play to win the race for a loose puck in the neutral zone, and then feed Earl an instant before getting hit. Earl then whipped a perfect wrister past Vokoun, giving the Wild a 2-0 lead going into intermission – the second time all season that the Wild has led by two after one. But Earl continues to show that he belongs in the NHL. As the Wild searches for goal contributions from players other than the usual suspects, Earl is beginning to fill that role.

March 9, 2010 | 11:41 AM

Cal Clutterbuck is officially not playing tonight. Todd Richards said after today's morning skate that there is still some pain in his leg and he will not be able to go. That means Petr Kalus will be in action tonight, and it appears that he'll be on a line with Owen Nolan and James Sheppard. That means Chuck Kobasew likely will drop down to the "fourth" line with Robbie Earl and Kyle Brodziak.

Of course, with Derek Boogaard suspended and Clutterbuck out, Richards could opt to throw John Scott in at forward just to provide some more nastiness. Although, Florida doesn't exactly have a reputation of being a dirty team, except when they slash their own goalies (sorry, low blow to a former Gopher).

As you may know, I like to put some things on the Lighthouse blog that make me laugh (see below and my thoughts on Ludacris), but here's something else. For whatever reason, this photo makes me laugh. Most likely because the three Wild Finns look like they'd rather be watching re-runs of "Shear Genius" than posing for this picture.

March 9, 2010 | 10:32 AM

Cal Clutterbuck is not on the ice for today's morning skate, meaning Petr Kalus is more than likely to make his Wild debut tonight.

March 9, 2010 | 9:17 AM

The Wild has called up RW Petr Kalus from the Houston Aeros today as insurance for Cal Clutterbuck, who is day-to-day with a charley horse. The Wild hits the ice in a little over an hour for today's morning skate, and we will see if Kalus is in the lineup.

If Clutterbuck can't go, the Wild would be short a forward with Derek Boogaard serving the second of a two-game suspension.

Kalus has 11 goals and four assists in 53 games with Houston this year. Should he crack the lineup, he will make his Wild debut. It will be his first NHL action since the end of 2007 when he scored four goals and an assist in nine games with the Boston Bruins.

It looks as if Kalus will wear #23 with the Wild. The last Wild player to wear #23? Cody Almond, about two weeks ago.

March 8, 2010 | 12:06 PM

The "View from the Lighthouse" returns after a one-week hiatus. I'm not sure how you survived last week, but here we are again. You can breathe normally again. 

You can meet this guy at Tom Reid's Puuuuub.
Unfortunately, I am without ground-breaking news after this morning's practice at Xcel Energy Center. But I can tell you the highlight of my day was during this morning's commute into work. I was cranking some KDWB and a commercial came on for a pre-concert party hosted by the rapper, Ludacris. For whatever reason, hearing Ludacris say, "Come down and meet me at Tom Ried's Hockey Puuuub!" brought a huge smile to my face.

Today's skate was optional, but doing some type of physical activity was mandatory. Some players worked out. Mikko Koivu, Brent Burns, Antti Miettinen and Marek Zidlicky kicked around the soccer ball.

Those that did hit the ice included Andrew Brunette, Chuck Kobasew, Derek Boogaard, Kyle Brodziak, James Sheppard, Andrew Ebbett, Guillaume Latendresse, Greg Zanon, Robbie Earl, John Scott and Nick Schultz. Josh Harding was the lone goaltender on the ice.

Todd Richards also exercised his option and let his assistants run practice. 

Cal Clutterbuck abstained from doing anything overly exerting today. He suffered a charley horse in yesterday's loss to Calgary and is listed as day-to-day.

Most of the talk in today's locker room centered on how this team can still fight for the postseason if players can remember how they were already able to dig out of a huge hole once, i.e. a 1-6-0 start to the season.

Today was one of the few practices at Xcel Energy Center that the Wild will have the entire month of March. With the boys' high school tournament, the WCHA Final Five and lots of road games, my count as three more Xcel Energy Center practices for the rest of the month (not including morning skates).
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