After a brief one-game stay at home, the Minnesota Wild goes back on the road for three games before taking three days off for Christmas. Tonight, the Wild faces the Pittsburgh Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center for the first time since Jan. 8, 2011, a 4-0 win for Minnesota. The Wild has won six straight games in Pittsburgh, outscoring the Penguins 24-6 in that span.
Yesterday, the Wild placed goaltender Josh Harding on injured reserve as he makes a minor adjustment to his treatment protocol for Multiple Sclerosis. The team expects him to rejoin the team after the break in Winnipeg against the Jets on Dec. 27.
So, Niklas Backstrom will get the nod in net against Pittsburgh. The netminder owns a 3-1-0 record with a 2.22 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage in four starts against the Penguins. Minnesota recalled goaltender Johan Gustafsson from its American Hockey League affiliate, the Iowa Wild, and he’ll backup Backstrom.
Tonight, Matt Cooke returns to Pittsburgh to face the team he helped win a Stanley Cup in 2009. Cooke collected 150 points (67-83=150) in 352 games during five seasons with Pittsburgh (2008-13).
Minnesota comes into the game on a two-game win streak, both pulled out with late game-tying goals and eventually shootout victories. The team hopes its late game heroics will continue, but would like to get off to better starts, especially on the road. While the Wild is 6-8-3 away from home this season, it has been dynamite against the Eastern Conference. The team looks to improve its record away from Xcel Energy Center on its current three-game road trip, all against the East. Thus far, Minnesota is 9-4-2 against Eastern Conference teams.
Minnesota earned a come-from-behind victory in its last outing, against the Vancouver Cancucks, 3-2, in a shootout on Tuesday. Zach Parise scored on the power play and Charlie Coyle sent the game into overtime in the third period. Jason Pominville scored the lone shootout goal, while Harding made 29 saves in regulation and overtime for the win.
Wild captain Mikko Koivu added two assists Tuesday for his 98th career multi-point game and regained the Wild lead with 20 helpers this season. He sits at 299 career assists, and will become the first Wild player in franchise history to register 300 assists on the all-time charts.
The Penguins pulled off a 4-3 shootout win against the New York Rangers yesterday after giving up a two-goal third period lead. The Pens got goals from Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis and Brandon Sutter. Brandon Sutter scored the only goal in the shootout. Marc-Andre Fleury made 29 saves for the win.
Meet the Pens
Injuries to Pittsburgh’s top four defensemen (Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi) and center Evgeni Malkin haven't stopped the team, coming into tonight’s game riding a five-game winning streak.
Sidney Crosby paces the Pens and leads the NHL in scoring with 49 points (19-30=49).
If You’re Going
Don’t want to deny anyone delicious McDonalds, but hopefully this promotion will get shut down: If a Penguins player scores during the two (2) minute Big Mac Attack promotion, fans may take their ticket stub to an area McDonald’s location to get a free Big Mac. If you’re really craving Mickey D’s, just go buy some and don’t root for a Pens goal during the promo.
Ryan Suter is on a four-game assist streak (4), which ties the Wild season high (Granlund, 6; Parise, 4) and his 19 assists this season rank second on the Wild and T-6th amongst NHL defensemen.
Probable Wild Lineup
The Wild’s lineup will look the same as its last outing:
There are no changes on the blue line:
Between the Pipes
Backstrom has made 12 appearances with a 2.93 goals-against average and .900 save percentage.
Yeo Quote of the Day
It's a minor adjustment he has to make. He wants everyone to know he feels great and he'll be ready to join us after Christmas.
- Yeo on Harding missing the road trip
View From the Press Box
Forward Mikael Granlund is on the road trip and nearing a return from an upper-body injury, but will not be in tonight’s lineup.
Honorary State of Hockey Resident
C Sidney Crosby played at Shattuck St. Mary’s (2002-03). RW Pascal Dupuis recorded 141 points (67-74=141) in 334 games during six seasons with the Wild (2000-06). RW Chuck Kobasew played in 105 games with the Wild (2009-11). C Andrew Ebbett skated in 49 games with Minnesota during the 2009-10 season. D Paul Martin is from Minneapolis and played at the University of Minnesota. D Matt Niskanen is from Virginia and played at the University of Minnesota-Duluth (2005-07).
Minnesota has scored at least one third-period goal in 10 straight wins, dating back to a 2-1 shootout win vs. Toronto on Nov. 13. In that span, the third-period goals have been a game-winning goal in five games and have tied the game to force extra time before winning in a shootout in four contests.
Wild at Pittsburgh will be broadcast locally in high definition on FOX Sports North with a start time at 6 p.m. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
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