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Mike Doyle's Five Takeaways vs. Carolina

by Mike Doyle / Minnesota Wild

Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he'll remember from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes:

There has been some funky things happening around the Minnesota Wild, but tonight might’ve been the weirdest game of the early season. However, the Wild skated away with a 3-1 win and extending the team’s home unbeaten (in regulation) streak to six games. In the opening minutes of the contest, Canes goaltender Cam Ward left the game with a lower-body injury. The play looked harmless, as Mikael Granlund broke in, he fired the puck wide. Ward reached for the shot, but came up lame. Shortly after the start of the second period, in what had to have been the quickest sports diagnoses ever, the Hurricanes released news that Ward would be out for 3-4 weeks with a lower-body injury. His replacement, Justin Peters, made his season debut.

In the second period, something happened to Josh Harding because the goaltender didn’t return in the third and was replaced by Niklas Backstrom. After the game, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said that Harding suffered a lower-body injury but didn’t have an update on the severity of the ailment. Hopefully we’ll know more tomorrow. It was a shame to see Harding go down for two reasons: because he is playing so well and tonight the Wild hosted Harding’s Hope night…

Tonight, the Wild hosted Harding’s Hope Night at Xcel Energy Center. The goaltender started the charity after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis last season as a way to bring attention and funds to those struggling with the disease.

Last season after Harding was diagnosed with MS, he had a number of questions regarding his future. Somewhere on the list was, “How would it affect his career?” Well, early this season we’re seeing the answer to that. Harding has been an inspiration this year and was stellar again tonight until his injury prevented him from returning in the third period. Harding made 20 saves tonight, earning the win. Backstrom saw action for the first time since Oct. 8 and turned aside all seven of the shots he faced.

The future is now for the Wild.

The team’s first goal was youth on display, as three youngsters connected on the power play for a beauty. On a weak clearing attempt by the Hurricanes, Mathew Dumba activated down the right wall beating Jordan Staal to the loose puck and wrapped it low. Mikael Granlund, set up behind the net, corralled the puck off the boards and made a no-look backhand pass to a cutting Nino Niederreiter out front. The pass was slightly behind El Nino, who took it from his backhand to forehand in one motion then roofed it over the shoulder of goaltender Justin Peters.

On the play, all three showed off the best parts of their blossoming skill set. Dumba’s footwork and speed at the blue line to keep the puck in; Granlund’s uncanny vision and feel for where his teammates are on the ice; and Niederreiter’s soft hands and finish. In the game, Grandlund was named the game’s second star, while Niederreiter was awarded the third. The future looks good for these youngsters. Yup, that goal deserves a little Timbuk 3.

Sometimes goal-scorers need a greasy goal to get going. Sometimes it is as simple as scoring an empty-netter. Hopefully that’s the case for Dany Heatley, who iced the game with 26 seconds left, firing the puck into the empty cage as the Hurricanes pulled Peters for an extra attacker. It was Heatley’s first goal on the season.

Hockey, like anything in life, is about confidence. Believing that you are going to score, make a sale or finishing a Five Takeaways; it’s all relative. We all go through slumps. But it’s not adversity that makes the man; it’s how a man responds to adversity that makes the man. Hopefully this will get the monkey off of Heatley’s back and the sniper will get on track offensively.

Give credit to Matt Cooke, who was unselfish in finding Heatley. Cooke could’ve attempted a difficult shot at the yawning cage, but he fed Heatley for a better look.

The Carolina Hurricanes don’t get much attention nationally. Outside of the franchise’s 2006 Stanley Cup win, the non-traditional market often gets overlooked in the Eastern Conference.

However, Carolina has been the home one of the NHL’s best, and underrated, players for the past decade: Eric Staal. The Canes’ captain hit a milestone tonight, playing in his 700th NHL game. Staal assisted on the Hurricanes’ lone goal, threading the needle to Alexander Semin. It was the 635th point (271-364=635) of his career.

One of the great things about the NHL’s new realignment plan: every Eastern Conference team will visit Xcel Energy Center. So unlike in seasons past, State of Hockey fans will see the best the NHL has to offer east of the Mighty Mississippi.

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