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The R.S.S. Feed: Nov. 28, 2008

by Ryan Stanzel / Minnesota Wild
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Nov. 28, 2008 (live blogging the Wild's annual matinee game)

News from Aaron Sickman just before takeoff, where Wes Walz accidentally got on the wrong plane. Old habits die hard, I guess. Sickman said Walz muttered something to himself when he saw what he had done, said hi to the coaching staff and then went to the Lightning plane - parked nearby but an aircraft that says "Miami Air" on the side.

Post-game Wrap-up
I'm in the press box, just more than an hour after the Wild finished off the 4-2 win over Tampa Bay. Aaron Sickman and the Wild are nearing takeoff for Nashville from MSP airport, while I'm about two thirds the way through game notes for tomorrow. Since there are many games tonight - including Nashville at Atlanta - I'll hop back on later to update several team and individual rankings. Speaking of rankings - guess who is tied for the team lead in plus-minus after a +1 today? Derek Boogaard. He's tied with Benoit Pouliot at +5.

Jacques Lemare was obviously thrilled with the strong third period comeback, after a lackluster second period. He explained that Mikko Koivu got the two minute minor late for something he said, and the 10-minute misconduct which disqualified him for the rest of the game for the "look" he gave the referee, and that look was what he wanted to say. Jacques was very good today, make sure you check out Wild TV later today for his press conference.

Post-game notes are below. And I'm back onto some game notes. I'll be back Sunday after practice.

C Mikko Koivu snapped an early third-period tie, C James Sheppard tallied a goal and an assist, and G Niklas Backstrom made 19 of his 35 saves in the third period and helped kill off a two-minute 5-on-3 late in regulation, as the Minnesota Wild topped the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 before 18,568 in the Wild’s 299th regular season game at Xcel Energy Center. RW Owen Nolan and C Eric Belanger added a goal apiece and D Marc-Andre Bergeron and RW Antti Miettinen had two assists for the Wild, which finished a five-game homestand 2-3-0. Minnesota travels to Nashville for a 7 p.m. game Saturday, before playing host to Colorado on a nationally-televised game on VERSUS Monday at 7 p.m.

C James Sheppard tied a career-high with two points (1-1=2). It marked his fourth two-point game, the last coming Jan. 10, 2008, at Detroit. Sheppard has four points (2-2=4) in his last four games after posting just two helpers in the season’s first 17 games. His goal Monday against Washington snapped a 48-game span without a goal.

D Marc-Andre Bergeron has an assist in each of the last three games -- a season-high streak -- with five helpers over that span.

G Niklas Backstrom made 35 saves to improve to 9-1-1 all-time against the Southeast Conference. He is 3-0-0 against the Lightning, yielding just four goals in three games. Backstrom has started all but one of the Wild’s 21 games this season.

C Eric Belanger scored his 99th career NHL goal while skating in his 499th NHL game.

Minnesota won when trailing after two periods for the first time since Dec. 29, 2007, a 5-4 victory over Edmonton. The Wild trailed 4-2 after two in that game.

Minnesota improved to 5-2-1 in its annual day-after-Thanksgiving matinee.

The Wild went 0-for-3 on the power play, earning just the third regulation win of the season when failing to score a PPG. Tampa Bay went 1-for-5, as the Wild allowed four PPG on the five-game homestand. Minnesota yielded just four PPG in the season’s first 16 games. However, Minnesota killed off two minutes of a 5-on-3 situation late in regulation.

The Wild, 7-5-0 in November, matched a franchise record for November wins with one game remaining. November is the lone month in which the Wild has a losing record, all-time.

The Wild honored Wes Walz, now an assistant coach with the Lightning, with a 60-second video and scrapbook presentation before the game.



3rd period
18:55
If anyone is pulling for a comeback here, it's media relations guru Aaron Sickman. Tonight's flight will be much more enjoyable all around with two points.

17:58
Game tied at 2-2. Marc-Andre Bergeron rips a shot from the left point and it appears to chance direction in front and go under a stunned Mike Smith. It must have gone off a defenseman, as Bergeron gets the goal, from Marek Zidlicky and James Sheppard, who gets his second assist.
UPDATE: Sheppard did get a piece of it, his second of the season.

13:50
Wild up 3-2! Mikko Koivu skates between four Lightning players, gets a backhander off that Smith stops, but he slides the rebound under the goalie as he falls to the ice for his sixth goal of the season. Antti Miettinen and Marc-Andre Bergeron with the assists - each have two-point games.


9:36

Pardon the lack of updates, not much going on, and I'm trying to get post-game notes in order. Some things to look up, thanks to the comeback, which would be the Wild's first win when trailing after two periods since Dec. 29, 2007, a 5-4 win over Edmonton. That note thanks to intern Robert Desimone.

9:04

Stephane Veilleux hits the outside of the net on a rebound attempt, but to his credit, he got crushed to the ice with a hit from behind. No call.

5:05

The Wild is going to have to earn this one, as Nick Schultz high sticks Steven Stamkos. The Bolts are 1-for-3 so far on the power play. There was some conversation near the penalty box, but it's a two minute minor and not five. This isn't good at all, as Mikko Koivu gets a 10-minute misconduct and two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct, taking him out of this game save for a possible shootout. And let's hope we don't see that. But a full two minutes 5-on-3 for Tampa Bay. The boo birds are out towards tonight's officiating crew.

4:44

Backstrom robs Steven Stamkos from low in the right circle. Eric Belanger killing this penalty up front thus far. He's going to need some faceoff wins.

3:58
Just as I wonder why Koivu is still in the box (12 minutes in penalties with five minutes left in regulation and then another possible five in overtime), the linesman skates him off the ice.

3:27
Another big clear from the Wild. Tampa Bay hasn't gotten a solid chance since Stamkos early on. Huge defensive play by Johnsson to steer a Lightning player off an open puck, and then a crush of bodies fell on top of Backstrom, who was quickly up. Three seconds left on the big PK.

2:55
As expected, the crowd goes nuts whtn the PK is over. Little bit longer here to hold on...

:45
Tampa Bay with 19 shots already in the third. Be back post-game.



2nd period
The Wild has played six straight one-goal games, and Tampa Bay has played a league-high 14. And they played to a 1-0 shootout in October .So should we be surprised this game is tied after one? I didn't think so. Here we go on period No. 2.

17:57

Owen Nolan with a good shot at a second goal, but Mike Smith stops his attempt from the right circle with his toe.

13:32

Pretty tame beginning to the third, with four shots apiece thus far at the first TV timeout.

12:15
Another e-mail from a fan, as Lindsay wants to know if a Wild player has ever been a captain three straight months? Answer: No. We'll find out of Mikko Koivu will be captain for December, likely at Sunday's practice. Koivu is the 10th Wild player to be named captain for back-to-back months. Only Brad Bombardir (four) and Brian Rolston (three) have been named captain for more than two months in one season.

10:40
Niklas Backstrom with maybe a game-saving stop on Steve Downie, called up from Norfolk yesterday. Downie blocked Erik Reitz' point shot and raced alone down the ice, with Reitz trying to catch up. Downie went backhand on Backstrom, who made a pad save.

10:35

A little too close for comfort, as off the faceoff win, Martin St. Louis pops a puck just over the net.

10:09
We have controversy on a goal again, this time with the Lightning getting a Ryan Malone rebound goal, but with Vinny Lecavalier laying on top of Niklas Backstrom. It's a tough call, as Lecavalier was pushed into Backstrom, but they don't look at this one very long. The goal stands. St. Cloud State's Ryan Malone with his sixth of the season.

9:20

Pierre-Marc Bouchard is tripped up, and the Wild will go on the power play. The minor goes to Lukas Krajicek. Five forwards on the ice for the Wild.

7:45

Mikko Koivu drives to the far post for a tip, but the puck goes up and into the protective netting above the glass.

6:15

Brent Burns gets loose in the right circle and unleashes a drive that beats Smith but is just wide of the far post.

4:29

Lecavalier gets an assist on the Malone goal. He had the original shot, before he went flying into Niklas Backstrom.

1:27

Kim Johnsson draws an interference call, and he is unhappy about it. He claimed his stick was being held, and replays appeared to concur.

End 2nd period

The Wild fail to score a second period goal for the first time in five games. They'll need a third period goal to keep this thing going.



1st period
We're set to go on an emotional afternoon, as the Wild honored Wes Walz with a minute video and a scrapbook with fans' memories. His son, Kelvin, and friends led "Let's Play Hockey." Walz did interviews with Wild radio and TV today, you know he is ready to drop the puck.

19:55
It's Belanger and Vincent Lecavalier for the opening faceoff, won cleanly by Belanger.

17:33

Wild power play, drawn by Derek Boogaard, who took a big hit up high from No. 1 overall pick Steven Stamkos. Ryan Craig hopped off the bench for his shift and slashed Boogaard, setting up the Wild power play, which has three goals in the last two games. Check that: Stamkos got the penalty, plus an unsportsmanlike to the Lightning. Full two minutes of a 5-on-3 for Minnesota.

15:51
Mike Smith, who has two shutouts in three career starts against the Wild, has been outstanding here, stopping seven shots already. He just dove about three feet in the air, missed the puck, but it was high anyways. A terrific save to cover up with 19 seconds left on the power play...

15:48

...which is now 4-on-3 for the next 15 seconds, as Antti Miettinen goes for tripping. The faceoff goes back in front of Niklas Backstrom, who has yet to see a shot.

14:42
Backstrom is without his stic, after it got chopped out of his hands. Looked like Vinny Prospal, who was cleared off the puck by Nick Schultz.

14:15

Prospal is all alone with an open net from the right doorstep, and he pushes the puck wide.

13:28

Smith makes an athletic save on Brent Burns (who also skated with Houston in 2004-05) on a 2-on-1.

9:13
Neither team is maintaining much pressure right now. A lot of play in the neutral zone. I'm looking up some good Mike Smith notes - it's a long way to go, but he is looking to join Dominik Hasek as the lone opposing goalie to earn two career shutouts at Xcel Energy Center. He'd also be just the seventh goalie with three career shutouts against the Wild. He's got two shutouts in just three starts.

7:53
As I was finishing typing that, Owen Nolan makes sure the note isn't needed. His second goal in as many games, taking a nice pass from Antti Miettinen in trafffic in the right circle and beating Smith to the far blocker side for his third goal of the season. Three points in four games (1-2=3) for James Sheppard, who gets the second assist. Nolan has a goal in back-to-back games for the first time in more than two seasons, since Oct. 24-Oct. 26, 2006. Click here to see the goal, courtesy of Wild.com's Travis Brillowski.

1:42

Wild halfway through its first penalty kill, and they were lucky there as Eric Belanger went down hard in the corner. With the puck cleared back into the Lightning zone, there is amazingly no whistle, and the Wild down two men essentially until Koivu can clear the puck the length of the ice. Belanger remains on the Wild bench, but in pain.

39.9
The Wild allow a power play goal with five seconds left on the kill. Steven Stamkos, at the top of the right circle, fires a shot through a screen and under Backstrom for his third goal of the season. Game tied at 1-1. Edited: Radim Vrbata credited with the goal, the Stamkos shot deflected off him on the way by.

End 1st period
We'll head to the intermission deadlocked. The Wild allowed just four PPG entering this homestand, in 16 games. But opponents have scored four PPG on the five-game homestand. We may have an RSS Feed first, an e-mail FROM someone at the game. Technology is a wonderful thing.

Q:
Dear Ryan,

I drove 300 miles from Wisconsin and am now sitting at my first-ever Wild game. Can I get a shout out in your blog?

Thanks!
Kate

A:
Kate - Consider it done! Enjoy the game! And I hope the Packers fare better than last week.



Pre-game Warm-ups
It's Niklas Backstrom vs. Mike Smith, who has an odd W-L-T stat line (5-4-6). The Bolts have seven OT/SO losses this season. Craig Weller and Colton Gillies are out for the Wild. Marek Malik and Minneapolis native and UND alum Matt Smaby are out for the Lightning.



11:45
Back in the press box, watching Bruins/Islanders with Jamie MacDonald. During the first intermission, they're showing the highlights of the mite one-on-one shootout from today's intermission. Good stuff.

The meal, as expected, was awesome. And I was able to talk Jamie into coming downstairs early to eat. We watched Robert put a hurting on: bourbon maple steak, eggs, potatoes, pancakes, sausage and bacon. And he had some fruit too. I'm calling it the "Spectacular Seven." And the steak is - rather, was - enormous. Quoting chef Patrick: "We served half a chicken the other night, so we figured we'd serve half a cow tonight." I didn't eat nearly as much but still left satisfied.

Mike Smith will go in net for the Lightning. No news yet from the Wild, but it wouldn't be surprising if Josh Harding got a start. Niklas Backstrom has allowed seven goals in the last two games, and he's 5-0 against tomorrow's opponent, Nashville. But then again, Backstrom blanked the Lighting last month in Tampa Bay. If Harding does play, it will mark his first NHL match-up against his former Houston Aeros teammate Mike Smith. They both spent the 2004-05 lockout season in Houston. Here’s a story some schmuck named Ryan Stanzel did on those guys a little more than four years ago.

10:30

I've waited long enough - time to go downstairs for the press brunch. Ok I didn't really wait - it's not open until now - but here I go. In a rare display of control, Wild.com's Jamie MacDonald is waiting until 11 to eat.

9:30
We have Colorado's credential list (see 6:40 a.m. entry). All the copies are done - one hour ahead of time - and Robert just went downstairs to grab the Lightning's media credentials and leave them at Gate 1. I'm watching NHL Network's "On The Fly" from the press box. Nice walk over here through the Hmong New Year festivities, taking place in RiverCentre.

9:00

Cool e-mail and picture from “devoted fan” John Hames: "To the best team in the NHL!!!   A little Turkey Day fun in honor of Mr. Burns."

I’m going to head over to the arena to see if Robert needs any help finishing up. The good news is, only 90 or so minutes till press dining opens up!

8:05
Robert’s laptop has a “bluescreen” issue, which is not good. He’s bluescreened already this morning, which I guess is payback for it not doing it following (or during) Wednesday’s game. Fortunately he has everything printed out for right now.

8:00
Here’s a statistical oddity:

Minnesota is 4-8-2 all-time at Nashville’s Sommet Center. The Wild is 4-0-0 when scoring four or more goals there, but 0-8-2 when scoring two or fewer (the Wild has never scored exactly three goals there).

7:40
Stats are done, so we are one third the way done. Robert is going to finish up clips – all the stories in both local papers, plus Tampa Bay/St. Pete, as well as Sporting News Today and other online items, and start making those copies. While they’re copying, he’ll go over to the press box to make 70 copies of game notes. There are two printers over there, so that’ll be a snap. Ideally, we’ll have everything done by 10:30, and we’re ahead of schedule. But we at least want to have stuff to the TV trucks by 9 or so.

While Robert is at the arena, I’m going to set up notes for our game in Nashville tomorrow night.

7:25
Robert the intern is here. And a good thing too. The toner was empty in the copier (13 minutes remaining on stats) and he handled the change seamlessly. He’s working on clips now. I’ll probably go to the press box soon and make 90 copies of game notes. Half go in the press box and half go downstairs in media dining. We split the 70 copies of stats and clips the same way.

Speaking of media dining, don’t have the exact menu for today. But this is typically a brunch pre-game meal, lots of good things like eggs and sausage and bacon. Yum. On a related note, my heavily caffeinated soda is almost gone.

7:22
Look up and see if Josh Harding and Mike Smith, teammates in AHL Houston during the 2004-05 lockout season, have faced each other since. Answer? No. Here’s a story some schmuck named Ryan Stanzel did on those guys a little more than four years ago.

7:20
Just finished updating some rankings in game notes and printed them.

6:50
Started 70 copies of stats. I see that Tampa Bay recalled two players – tough guy Steve Downie and Minneapolis boy Matt Smaby, so I – email Wild assistant coach/video coach Matt Shaw and make sure he knows.

6:40
Arrive to Happy Thanksgiving voicemail from our VP Bill Robertson, asking me to try to track down Colorado’s credential list for Monday. Each visiting media and team gets personalized welcome letters from Billy Rob and Aaron Sickman, and it would help us, with a Monday game, if we had all that done today.


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