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Hei State of Hockey legion! As you can see, I'm brushing up on my Finnish dialect. I am just a few hours from hopping on a plane bound for Finland. So far, I know "hei" means "hello." That's as much as I know, but I've got a 10 hour flight to learn the rest of the language so I should be solid by the time I emerge in Helsinki.
I even more excited because today marks Wild superfan Kieran Culkin's 28th birthday. Kieran is the younger brother of the much more overrated Culkin, Macaulay. Kieran was in Macaulay's shadow when he played Fuller during Home Alone and Home Alone 2, but finally broke out on his own in Father of the Bride as the precocious young Matty Banks. Kieran, here's to you as you quietly celebrate the big 2-8.
Kieran will be following tonight's game between the Wild and Blue Jackets very closely. It's Minnesota's final tune up before Finland, and it's time for a preseason victory.
Fortunately, Niklas Backstrom
is the guy to bring us that victory before he heads back to his hometown. He is turning away warmup shots with attitude right now. I hate to say, but it looks like the folks from Ohio are in for a long night of frustration, only to be matched a month from now when the Gopher football defense shuts down Terrell Pryor and steamrolls to a 31-0 victory over the Buckeyes. Mark it down.
The Wild will once again be without the services of Cam Barker, Guillaume Latendresse
and Marek Zidlicky. That trio is nursing some lower body injuries, but all should be good to go when the games start counting in a week.
How about wardrobe, which I've taken a particular interest in because I hear fashion is a high priority over in Europe. I only hope my "jorts" and "top hats" are considered acceptable over there. The Wild should get by in Europe so long as they wear the home reds that they're sporting tonight. The Blue Jackets will go with the road whites trimmed in red and blue with the Ohio flag and silver star on the chest.
Staff members who have worked all 10 years here at Xcel Energy Center, get us going with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. Since they've got seniority over all of us, we have no choice but to oblige. Let's get down to brass tacks.Period 1
17:44 - Derick Brassard fires a low slap shot toward the goal with traffic in front of Backstrom. The Wild keeper goes into the splits to make a pad save and then hangs onto the rebound as R.J. Umberger tries to jam it in from inside the crease.
16:05 - With Columbus on the power play, Rick Nash gets the puck down low on the right side. He tries to center a pass that hits Greg Zanon in front and bounces high toward the goal. Backstrom reacts quickly and makes a big stop to prevent the own goal.14:51 - MIN 0 - CBJ 1 - This time, the Jackets cash in and the Wild's penalty killing struggles continue in the preseason. Sami Pahlsson spots Fedor Tyutin at the left point and hits him with the pass. He picks his spot and rifles a shot that cranks off the high post and in.
13:43 - MIN 0 - CBJ 2 - Columbus pads the lead quickly. Pahlsson again is the set up man, getting the puck behind the Wild net and finding an open man out front. This time it's Ethan Moreau and from 10 feet out, he roofs it over the glove of Backstrom. Time to start playing.
8:35 - It took a couple of goals against, but the Wild has started taking the action to the Jacks in the last five minutes. The third and fourth lines do a nice job of cycling the puck in the offensive zone and pinning the white clad team deep in their own zone.
1:45 - Steve Mason has trouble fighting off a shallow angle slapper by Eric Nystrom, and the puck drops behind him at the side of the net. Kyle Brodziak
tries to push it in, but Mason reaches back to get his glove on top of it for the whistle.
0:00 - I've seen better preseason periods, but that's why they have three frames in hockey. It's all about rebounding, and that's what the Wild will be hell bent on doing in the second.Period 2
19:22 - On a Wild power play, Brunette centers one to the lower right circle and Antti Miettinen cranks a one-timer that beats Mason and rings the crossbar. I like it. I want Antti to get those out of his system now before the games count.19:00 - MIN 1 - CBJ 2 - This time, he's Larry Bird and hits nothing but net. Once again, Brunette finds him with a centering pass from behind the net, and Antti is angry at that puck. He punishes it by ripping a shot that blows by Mason and brings some excitement to the Wild bench who have been anxious to see the right red light come on.
15:47 - Chuck Kobasew, who is poised for a breakout year, nearly knots this thing up with a one-timer from the slot. This time, Mason is all over it, sliding to his right and sponging up the shot in his chest to prevent a rebound.15:24 - MIN 1 - CBJ 3 - Momentum can turn quickly in hockey. The Wild had been dominating this period, but a fortuitous bounce from a shot that hits traffic lands on the stick of Pahlsson. With his back to the net, he wheels around and puts the puck into the net with Backstrom down on the ice.
14:23 - MIN 1 - CBJ 4 - Wow. This is just a pretty goal by Jakub Voracek. He gets some space down the left side and gets in alone on Backstrom. It doesn't look like he's got much room to put the puck, but he dips down to his backhand and then roofs a perfect shot upstairs. What looked like a sure tie game with the way the Wild was playing early in the period has quickly turned into a large deficit.
12:23 - A loose puck in the Wild crease is obviously kicked in by Moreau and is waved off immediately. That sparks a brief scrum near the goal with Drew Bagnall
tangling with Derek Dorsett.10:10 - MIN 2 - CBJ 4 - This is just pretty. The Wild power play, which had one goal in five games prior to tonight, gets another here. Brunette gets the puck in his office behind the net, and Matt Cullen, playing the point, picks the perfect time to sneak up into the play. Brunette hits him in stride and he easily buries it into the gaping cage. Back in this thing.
3:48 - Kristian Huselius stickhandles in traffic and flips a quick backhand on goal, but Backstrom comes up big and gets the leg pillow down in time to make the stop.
2:32 - The power play game plan for the night appears to be "get the puck to Mittens in the slot and let him blast away." This time Mikko Koivu
hits him with a no-looker, and Antti steps into another one but whistles it just wide of the net.Period 3
19:21 - The Wild's power play continues to provide the most encouraging signs tonight. Koivu circles behind the Columbus net and then hits Cullen with a pass at the bottom of the left circle. The Moorhead Spud lets loose with a quick shot that puzzles Mason, but he recovers the rebound after not being able to handle it with the lobster mitt.
12:59 - Ouch! Nick Schultz gets hit with a rocket slap shot right in the ankle area. He is in obvious pain and immediately hobbles to the bench and makes his way to the locker room. Let's hope that's nothing more than a bruise. The Wild can't afford to lose another d-man, especially one as valuable as Schultzy.
12:16 - Schultz is already back on the bench. No need to fret.
10:11 - In the span of about 10 seconds, Backstrom comes up with two big glove stops on Voracek. The first one on a near two-on-oh is pegged for the upper corner, and he is able to get enough that one. Voracek gets the puck back and has space, but again, Backy flashes the leather and this time, he holds on for the draw.
4:40 - The Wild has had a large deficit in shots for most of the game, but a solid third frame has closed the gap to 26-23 in favor of Columbus. Yet, the Wild can't get that momentum changer past Mason.
1:32 - Koivu carries up the left side and hits a cutting Miettinen, who puts a tip on the puck. The redirection fools Mason, but makes a loud "tink" off the post.
1:00 - Backstrom is off for an extra attacker.
0:00 - The Wild will save its wins against NHL teams for when they count, starting a week from tonight.