By Christian Tomas
Special to Wild.com
Confidence and a sense of urgency resonated throughout the Minnesota Wild’s victories over
During this 2-0-1 stretch, goaltending, secondary scoring and special teams helped the Wild tremendously.
These qualities, displayed on a consistent basis by the league’s playoff-bound teams, are expected to be a part of
* Josh Harding made 44 saves in a 2-1 win at
* Niklas Backstrom's 35-save performance nullified Detroit from making any kind of comeback in Saturday’s 5-2 win. Backstrom ranks among the top five in the NHL in goals-against average (2.20), save percentage (.926), shutouts (six) and wins (28).
* Peter Olvecky notched his first NHL goal and it stood as the game-winner against the Blackhawks, while Martin Skoula scored his first goal of the season against the Red Wings
* Owen Nolan seems to enjoy playing at Xcel Energy Center. In 25 home games this season
Nolan, though, is out to start the team's road trip after suffering a fractured toe against
* Anti Miettinen, second on the team in points with 39, scored the Wild’s only goal on a shorthanded bid on Tuesday. The architect? Mikko Koivu, who set a career-high with 55 points. Miettinen also lined a shot through Jonathan Quick’s pads in the shootout, the Wild’s only goal in the extra session.
IN OTHER NEWS
* Because of a lower body injury, Andrew Brunette missed two games and had played 509 consecutive games before missing Saturday’s contest against
* The Wild’s defensive style frustrated the Blackhawks, according to this Chicago Tribune recap.
* With three Finnish players on his roster, General Manager Doug Riesbrough would like the Wild to open the season in
* Marian Gaborik will take a much awaited physical on March 3, though Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press wonders about where the Wild would be in the standings with Gaborik in the line-up. When Gaborik scored, the Wild went 23-0-4 over the last 27 games dating back to last season.
* Brent Burns notched two helpers against
* Michael Russo of the Star Tribune spotted General Manager Doug Risebrough chatting it up with Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke.
* After missing 13 games with a head injury, Craig Weller returned against Detroit and skated 9:24.
* The Gillies family visited St. Paul and saw their son Colton score his first NHL goal last Thursday.
* Kurtis Foster, who is back with the Wild and traveling with the team, shared his experience in the AHL. Foster also made an encouraging phone call to a
* According to Ryan Stanzel, the Wild has a road crew of about 50 season ticket holders to support the team in
Despite injuries to six different players, the Flames are still getting it done, still have a 10-point lead in the division and, to top it off, Jarome Iginla is back. Iginla tallied two goals in a 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Iginla is just two points shy of all-time Flames scoring leader Theo Fleury.
* On Saturday, the Wild will travel 172 miles north to
The Oilers are 14-11-4 at
Ales Hemsky leads
The Oilers own the worst penalty kill in the division and second-worst in the Western Conference at 77.5 percent. By contrast,
* First-year general manager Mike Gillis does not expect to make much noise at the trade deadline because the Vancouver Canucks have won eight of nine games as of Feb. 23. Gillis’ mind could change, though, after the Canucks lost Pavol Demitra to a broken finger in a 3-0 defeat to
Daniel Sedin leads
Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com reports that the Canucks are turning a corner in the West.
* With a 4-1 victory over the Washington Capitals last Friday, Colorado Avalanche head coach Tony Granato won his 100th game as an NHL head coach. Granato is the 10th American-born coach to accomplish that feat. The Avalanche have an 18-0 record when leading after two periods this season.
Since that victory in
According to Jim Armstrong of the Denver Post, the Avalanche may be facing the inevitable by going into rebuild mode. Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News also pointed to Colorado’s defense as one of the reasons to the Avs’ proverbial downfall.
* Roger Phillips of NHL.com breaks down the latest trade rumors in the Northwest.
* NHL.com has provided a helpful trade deadline Q&A as well as several must-read pieces on notable trade deadline deals:
* Two days before the March 4 trade deadline, the NHL Network will be offered in the
* Kevin Allen of USA Today presented his buyer’s and seller’s guide last Friday.
* George Laraque of the Montreal Canadiens admitted that he is not happy with his role or ice time, and asked for a trade. Mathieu Dandenault, according to TSN and sources, is in the same boat. The Canadiens dealt Steve Begin on Thursday to the Dallas Stars for Doug Janik in a move that frees up cap space for
* Mike Keenan trusts Calgary GM Darryl Sutter in adding depth to the Flames roster. According to reports from CBC Sports, Sutter is eyeing
TSN also believes that the Flames are expected to be buyers at the deadline.
* The Pittsburgh Penguins traded Ryan Whitney to the Anaheim Ducks for Chris Kunitz and prospect Eric Tangradi.
Bob McKenzie of TSN reported that the Ducks acquisition of Whitney does not change Chris Pronger’s status and that the 34-year-old
Meantime, Kevin Allen of USA Today countered that acquiring Whitney gives the Ducks options an
* To that end, Edward Fraser of The Hockey News advised Washington General Manager George McPhee to go all in as the window of opportunity to win it all may be small. Just ask the Pittsburgh Penguins, who struggled to sign key role players in the offseason as a trip to the Stanley Cup Final raised salary demands.
* According to reports from TSN, the Ottawa Senators are likely to be sellers at the deadline for the first time in more than a decade.
* Toronto General Manager Brian Burke wants at least a first-rounder for smooth-skating defenseman Tomas Kaberle.
AROUND THE NHL
* The New York Rangers became the third team this month to hire a new coach. Rangers General Manager Glen Sather chose John Tortorella to replace Tom Renney. Jim Cerny of Rangers.com captured Tortorella’s first practice with the Rangers. In Torterella’s debut, the Rangers earned a point in a 2-1 shootout loss to
* According to the
* Ed Willes of the
* In his first game back from his respite, Alex Kovalev scored a goal and added two assists in a 5-3 Montreal Canadiens win over the Ottawa Senators last Saturday.
* Martin Brodeur made his first start for the New Jersey Devils since elbow surgery four months ago and shut out the Colorado Avalanche, 4-0, with 24 saves.
This also meant that GM Lou Lamoriello sent down unsung hero Scott Clemmensen, who posted 25 wins in 40 appearances, a .917 save percentage and a 2.39 goals against average.
Zach Parise scored his 36th goal in a 3-0 rout of
* Fans from Scotland came all the way to see the Washington Capitals. Seems appropriate considering Mike Millbury, color analyst of NBC, would pay just to see Alex Ovechkin play, according to Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post’s D.C. Sports Bog.
* Adam Proteau of The Hockey News expressed his thoughts on the league cultivating the rivalry between Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby.
* Darren Eliot of SI.com can sum up
* Danny Briere is expected to make his return to the Flyers tonight after missing 34 games with groin injuries. To make room cap room for Briere, the Flyers waived two players: Glen Metropolit and Ossi Vannanen, who each make $1 million. The Flyers lead the league with 14 shorthanded goals and are the only team thus far to not allow a shorty.
* The Russians seem to be having more fun these days in the NHL, according to John Buccigross of ESPN.com.
The Blue Jackets are aiming to make the playoffs for the first time ever and hold the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference.
* Within an hour, 26,000 tickets to both matches between the Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues games in
IN THE SYSTEM
* Nolan Schaefer won his 100th pro game and 19th of the season in a 2-1 shootout win over the Iowa Chops on Feb. 21. Schaefer made 24 saves for the Houston Aeros, including four of five in the shoot-out.
* Kurtis Foster also scored his first goal for
John Royal of the Houston Press captured the Aeros’ reaction on Foster’s contributions.
* General Manager Tom Lynn signed Matt Beaudoin to a standard player’s contract. The right winger had been playing on a professional tryout contract. In 19 games, the Rock Forest, Quebec, native posted eight goals and 12 points, including the Aeros’ only hat trick of the season in a dramatic 7-6 win over the Iowa Chops on Feb. 14.
* The Aeros, in a three-way tie for second place in the West Division with 65 points, host the Rockford Icehogs tonight (7:35 p.m. faceoff) and then travel to Quad City to battle the Flames on Saturday night (7:05 p.m. faceoff).