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How you doin' State of Hockey legion? If my intuition is correct, you're here for a little live in-game commentary. Provided you finished your homework, I'll let you stay up and read along, but then it's right to bed. You've got a big day tomorrow, but the Phoenix Coyotes come to town but twice a year. Just don't tell your mother.
Tonight, I come to you live from my beloved perch in the Al Shaver Press Box, high above the ice surface at the Xcel Energy Center. It's great to be back after being stuck in the corners of press boxes all over the Eastern seaboard last week. Those chairs were so constricting, whereas my perch here already has a nice indentation to form fit to my posterior. It's the little things you come to appreciate after a week on the road.
Now then, let's get down to brass tacks. We've got the Yotes in town tonight, and I've got nothing against Phoenix. They're actually a bit of a Cinderella story this year considering they're ownership is in flux and there is all kinds of rumors about relocation. But, we've got business of our own to take care of, so we're going to have to unleash Niklas Backstrom
and let him do what he does - own the Coyotes. Nifty Nik is 9-1 in his career against these guys and judging by his reaction time in pregame warmups, win number 10 is but a formality at this point.
For all you Gopher fans, we've got a special treat for you. Former Gopher Danny Irmen is going to make his NHL debut tonight. I figure it's the least we can do for you guys since the UMD Bulldogs are coming into town on Friday and leaving on Saturday with four points under their belts. Irmen will get the start because of injuries to Chuck Kobasew (upper body), Benoit Pouliot (upper body), Petr Sykora (concussion) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion). John Scott is going to be the healthy scratch despite his first-ever NHL goal on Sunday.
Let's get to the duds. The Wild will wear the home reds for this one. The Coyotes are going with the road whites, trimmed in burgundy with the howling canine on the chest.
Miss Minnesota USA, Erica Nego, gets us going with the "Let's Play Hockey" declaration. If Miss Minnesota is telling me to do something, I don't argue, I just do it.Period 1
17:02 - Just after a nice penalty kill, Antti Miettinen skates the other way one-on-one. He's able to get a solid shot off and forces Ilya Bryzgalov to make a somewhat difficult pad save. The Wild needs to score about five goals in the first so the Coyotes pull Bryzgalov. Jason LaBarbera is much easier to type.
15:05 - "Cowboy" Nolan finds a pinching Marek Zidlicky in the low slot and the first golden scoring chance falls by the wayside as Zid puts his high wrister just over the crossbar.
7:44 - A turnover deep in the Wild zone leads to Bloomington native Peter Mueller getting the puck about 10 feet away from Backstrom. He rips a shot right on, then has a chance at the rebound but Backs does a great job of staying with the play and making another save from his kiester.
5:02 - Cal Clutterbuck
takes aim at James Vandermeer but pulls a Derek Boogaard and hits mostly glass as Vandermeer ducks out of the way and clears the zone. The Yotes D-man then turns to say a few things to Clutter, who skates past him but not without offering a bit of a jab with one of his gloves.
2:40 - Nobody blocks more shots than Greg Zanon, but he usually blocks them with parts of his body other than the side of his noggin. A long wrist shot catches him right in the ear hole. He goes down in a heap, but skates off quickly and heads to the locker room. My guess is he'll get stitched up and be back out there in time for the second period.
1:20 - James Sheppard starts a two-on-one with Irmen on his right. He draws the defenseman before making a pass, but the puck is a little behind the former Gopher, and he can't corral it and get a solid shot off.
0:08.6 - The Xcel Energy Center erupts in boos upon seeing the replay of a horrendous call on Nolan. As Sami Lepisto looked to make a breakout pass, his stick split in two pieces at the same time that Nolan lightly tapped his breezer. The ref obviously thought Nolan broke the guys stick, but replays show he didn't even come close. I expect...nay...demand a solid make up call early in the second.
0:00 - A period mostly controlled by the Coyotes comes to an end in a scoreless tie. I suspect a little strategery will change the momentum for the second period.Period 2
18:36 - MIN 0 - PHX 1 - The brutal call on Nolan at the end of the first helps the Yotes grab the early 1-0 lead. Radim Vrbata gets the puck along the left boards and he zips an absolute missile on the short side that beats Backstrom above the blocker. That's the first time that Phoenix has led in a game played at Xcel Energy Center since November 8, 2005. Accoring to PR guru Ryan Stanzel, that's a span of 441:24. Yowser!
16:53 - Nolan heads back toward the locker room for what appears to be an equpment issue. Equipment manager Tony Dacosta is all over that like dressing on salad.
15:24 - Vandermeer might want to keep his mouth shut next time he dodges a check by Clutter. This time, Clutterbuck has him lined up behind the Phoenix net, and he doesn't miss. He absolutely smokes Vandermeer, and hopefully makes fun of his last name right afterwards.
9:48 - Lauri Korpikoski - yes that's a male - nearly pads the Phoenix lead by ripping a shot that beats Backstrom on the glove side but clanks loudly off the post.
5:43 - I don't think Antti Miettinen could do this again if he tried. He puts not one, but two consecutive shots from point blank range off the post. Off a pretty centering feed from Andrew Brunette, he wrists one off the post, then gets his own rebound, and puts it off the same post again! If he was playing shinny with no goalies, he'd be on fire.
4:25 - The Wild is starting to take over this game and generate some swagger. Kim Johnsson gets the puck at the point and sends the puck toward the net where Nolan is camped out alone. Rather than trying to tip it, Nolan catches the pass, which fools Bryzgalov who goes down early. Nolan then waits him out and puts a backhand on goal, but Bryzgalov reaches back and stops it with the paddle of his lumber.
2:35 - Miettinen shows he's got some fire in his belly after taking a crosscheck from 6-foot-6 Martin Hanzal. Mittens spins around and jams his stick into Hanzal's lower body, then drills him again and puts the big man down on the ice. Don't let the nickname fool you Hanzal, number 21 has foil under those Mittens.Period 317:37 - MIN 1 - PHX 1 - Sah-weeet! Isn't funny how a guy that stands out earlier in the game seems to figure into a goal later? Your boy Mittens, who has been stellar tonight, does the leg work on this one, darting with the puck to the slot and drawing Bryzgalov with him before sending a pass to the crease where Bruno whacks it in. This one is much needed as the sellout crowd was waiting to explode.
17:12 - The Yotes nearly grab the lead right back as Hanzal streaks up the left side and puts another shot right off the pipe. That goal down to my right is going to need a fresh coat of red paint after this one.
16:25 - Mittens again gets something going. He gets behind the Phoenix defenseman and streaks in on a partial break while taking a couple sticks up high. He doesn't get a shot off, but he does draw a slashing call on Lepisto.11:11 - MIN 1 - PHX 2 - Not good. A defensive breakdown leads to an easy goal for Vandermeer, who may get the last laugh after all. He skates in on a two-on-one and he doesn't get challenged so he picks his corner and roofs one past Backstrom. That is a momentum killer.
5:39 - Look no further than the Coyote net if you want to know why this team could be a contender this year. Bryzgalov, who has had an awful history in this building, has been solid as Sears tonight. He positions himself perfectly against the post to stop an Eric Belanger wraparound attempt, and with Nolan all over him in the crease, he doesn't give up a rebound.4:58 - MIN 2 - PHX 2 - Oh Mittens! You're too good to us. Having himself a breakout game, Miettinen gets this thing tied up as his friend, Bruno, gets the puck in his office behind the net and puts one out front. Mittens wastes no time with his one-timer that grazes Bryzgalov and pops into the back of the net.
4:39 - MIN 2 - PHX 3 - Really? We get to enjoy our success for a grand total of 19 seconds? Scottie Upshall leads a rush into the Wild zone and sends a long shot in. Backstrom stops that, but Upshall follows his shot like they teach you in basketball and from a shallow angle, he buries it in the far corner.
3:35 - This isn't good, either. Clutterbuck goes down awkwardly after an attempted hit in front of the Wild bench. He's slow to get up and then marches right toward the Wild locker room.
0:43.1 - Curses! Koivu sends a perfect pass to a wide open Burns in front, but he's unable to sweep it past Bryzgalov and the Coyotes are able to clear.
0:00 - A disappointing ending to this one as the Coyotes fend off a late charge and take this one, 3-2.