How you doing, State of Hockey Legion?
The Minnesota Wild is back on home ice after a quick back-to-back road trip on the West Coast, going 1-1. Tonight, the good guys host the Edmonton Slicks, also known as the Oilers, but it’s not for tea and crumpets. No, this game is going to be an interdivision battle for valuable positioning, as the Wild currently sits two points ahead of the Oilers in the standings. State of Hockey fans have a number of reasons to think the Wild will extend the lead on its division rival tonight.
We’ll start by looking at the Wild’s starting goaltender, Niklas Backstrom. If he were an 80’s wrestler playing Edmonton, they’d call him Mr. Perfect. He’s perfect 16-0-0 with a 1.30 goals against average and a .950 save percentage. He has allowed two goals or more only twice in that span, not too shabby.
The Wild also reinserts Mikael Granlund into the lineup and he’ll center Dany Heatley and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. The trio looked pretty good together in Phoenix and they’ll get another crack at playing together tonight. Defenseman Justin Falk is back in the lineup and he’s going to act like a giant derrick and prevent the Oilers from doing anything offensively.
Cal Clutterbuck, who suffered a lower body from a low hit from Edmonton’s Taylor Hall, is out tonight and on Injured Reserve. Josh Harding also is on Injured Reserve as he continues with treatment of Multiple Sclerosis.
Watching from the press box are defenseman Nate Prosser and forward Zenon Konopka, tonight’s healthy scratches.
The Wild is rocking its Iron Range Red sweaters, while the Oilers are wearing its road whites with oil drip emblem.
Remember to follow @mnwildLIVE for in-game updates.
Let’s burn this mother down!
Period 1 - MIN 1, EDM 1
The Wild came out of the gate like a team on fire in that first 20 minutes. Minnesota got things going early that period, jumping out to a lead just 2:37 into the period, but the Oilers evened things up late.
After a good forecheck and cycle, Devin Setoguchi took the puck to the middle of the ice and nearly lost control of the puck. Making a diving second effort, he pushed a pass to Jared Spurgeon at the point. The blueliner faked a shot, took a step to improve his angle and fired a wrister on goal through traffic. Edmonton goaltender Devan Dubnyk didn't see the puck as it flew by his blocker side. Matt Cullen picked up the second assist on the play.
Edmonton evened things up late in the period, as Magnus Paajarvi squared the score at one apiece. Paajarvi was stationed behind the Wild net, made a quick move and slammed a wraparound try on Backstrom. The netminder made the first save, but Paajarvi stuck with it and banged home the rebound. Jordan Eberle and Jeff Petry picked up the assists.
The Wild had a great start to the period and outshot the Oilers, 11-7, in the first frame. Expect more of the same and the Wild to pull away in the last 40 minutes.
Period 2 - MIN 1, EDM 1
The Wild continued its strong play in the second period, controlling the entire period. Minnesota fired 18 shots on goal and held the Oilers to zero shots. That's right, zero shots. That's like a bizzaro episode of The Real World.
Not only did the team have the shot advantage, a lot of the attempts were from Grade-A range. Dubnyk, however, was a rock and is keeping his team in the game. At the other end, I think I noticed Niklas Backstrom checking his iPhone and keeping up with the action at @mnwildLIVE.
Period 3 - MIN 4, EDM 2
Well, it didn't take long for the Wild to get on the board as they kept the good times rolling from the second right into the third.
Mikko Koivu scored just nine seconds into the period on a bullet wrist shot high over the glove of Dubnyk. Off the faceoff, Koivu raced down a tipped pass in the neutral zone from Charlie Coyle. He then cut to his left and fired high to the right to beat the Oilers' netminder.
Coyle added to the Wild's lead, on an odd-man rush midway through the period. He took a zone entry pass from Zach Parise and fired a backhander short side past Dubnyk.
Sam Gagner kept the streak of lucky goals against the Wild, as a clearing attempt hit his foot, then hit Ryan Suter and went past Backstrom.
The Wild closed things out with Dany Heatley tipping in a power-play point shot from Ryan Suter. Koivu added an assist on the play.
Very convincing win, to say the least, by the Wild tonight. Minnesota travels to Chicago to face the undefeated Blackhawks on Tuesday.