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Wild Expecting New Challenge From Chicago

by Kelly Erickson / Minnesota Wild

It only seems fitting that the State of Hockey can expect some flurries outside today, as it’s already a white out inside Xcel Energy Center.

As the Wild took in its morning skate, white rally towels in the likeness of the Wild’s white sweaters — which will be worn tonight — adorned every single seat inside the arena. It was certainly a sight to behold, especially with the added brightness the towels provided.

Not only will the towels add a little extra something to the atmosphere tonight, but the Wild take on Chicago once again to finish a home-and-home series. The Wild pegged the Blackhawks for a 5-3 win Saturday, so the outcome is certainly fresh in everyone’s minds. While the Wild are expecting a Hawks team that’s upped its game tonight, the Wild are staying focused on what’s at hand and improving on its own game. WildTV caught up with Mikko Koivu, who talked about how, despite the win Saturday, the Wild have plenty of areas to improve upon.

While the Wild can certainly use the momentum and confidence that comes with upending the defending Stanley Cup Champions on their home rink, the Wild can’t let it go to its head. Minnesota needs to stay grounded and continue to battle, a fact it’s quite aware of. But the Lighthouse will not be surprised at all if things pick up right where they left off and get chippy quickly.

Head Coach Mike Yeo echoed the idea that the Wild need to stay focused. As he said after practice this morning, the Wild can’t get too ahead of itself and tonight presents a new challenge, just as every new game does. Though, the budding rivalry between the Wild and Chicago is hard to deny. Regardless of the teams’ proximity to one another or even the fact they’re in the same division now, the recent history between the two is just enough to kick this matchup up a notch. Yeo even said the arena has a playoff-like atmosphere to it already.

While the Hawks will be a different animal to contend with tonight, Yeo is turning to the same lines to replicate Saturday’s success. The only difference is Josh Harding will back up Niklas Backstrom in net.

With no other roster changes, Mathew Dumba will skate in that ever-important ninth game tonight. Keith Ballard did skate today, while Jonas Brodin was held off once again. With the pair of them remaining scratches, Dumba has put together some consistent ice time, something he said he appreciates. With Dumba skating tonight, it’s the last game he can play in without his contract kicking in. If he skates in Friday’s matchup with Montreal, marking his tenth game, the first year of his contract will go into effect. He could still be returned to juniors, but wouldn’t be able to be recalled unless in an emergency situation.

Dumba said it’s obviously something that’s been on his mind — and who can blame him — but he’s trying not to let it distract him from playing a consistent, strong game when he does get ice time. Yeo mentioned Dumba is the type of player who could be influential against Chicago, not only in his defensive skill set, but in his ability to jump on loose pucks and help relieve pressure in the defensive zone and get things moving up ice.

Fans can expect a fun matchup tonight, but those going to the game should be sure to check out the Wild Foundation’s Mystery Puck Sale. A purchase of $40 will guarantee an autographed puck by one of the following: Niklas Backstrom, Jonas Brodin, Kyle Brodziak, Charlie Coyle, Josh Harding, Dany Heatley, Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville or Ryan Suter. The mystery is finding out who get. The pucks will be on sale from the time gates open while supplies last and can be found near sections 104 and 121. Proceeds benefit the Minnesota Wild Foundation.

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