Minnesota Wild (0-0-0: 0 points, T-5th in Western Conference, T-2nd in Northwest Division) vs.
Chicago Blackhawks (0-0-0: 0 points, T-5th in Western Conference, T-2nd in Central Division)
***Wild vs. Blackhawks will be broadcast on KSTC.TV Channel 45 at 7:30 PM, and can be heard on WCCO 830 AM, or online at Wild.com***
to sign up to receive broadcast alerts/game previews each Wild GamedayPregame Video
A summer spent stewing and coming to grips with the fact that Brad May, Chris Pronger, Ryan Getzlaf and Randy Carlyle got to spend a day with the Stanley Cup is over. Now, 30 teams will be fighting for that honor, and the Minnesota Wild sees no reason to believe that it won’t be the team taking the Cup on boat rides, public events and night clubs.
Of course, for now it is one game at a time, and that first game comes tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks. On paper (or the computer screen you’re reading this on), things seem to favor the Wild. Minnesota has never lost a home opener and has won five straight. The Wild has beaten Chicago 17 times (more than any other opponent), and has earned a victory in 13 of the last 16 meetings. The Wild won both preseason games that the two teams played last month.
Minnesota finished the preseason with a 5-2-0 record. After a dismal performance against Detroit in the exhibition opener, the Wild appeared to be clicking on offense, strong on defense and solid at the goaltender position. Pavol Demitra paced the club with nine points, and we promise that this is the last time we’ll bring up the preseason.
The Blackhawks process of rebuilding appears to be rounding into shape. The highly-touted Jonathan Toews is scheduled to play tonight. The former Fighting Sioux joins a slew of young talent that includes Patrick Sharp, Rene Bourque, Tuomo Ruutu and Patrick Kane. Those kids will learn from talented veterans like Martin Havlat
, Martin Lapointe and Robert Lang.Who’s Hot?
Demitra’s stellar performance in training camp earned him the captain’s “C” for the month of October. Last season, Demitra took off when Marian Gaborik returned from injury to play the other wing on his line. The two are back with Wes Walz at center, making a night without a goal from that line a disappointment.Wild keys to the game
1. Center Of Attention
: Walz has been with the Wild from the start, and he’s always drawn attention from his work ethic and speed on the ice. Tonight, perhaps for the first time, all eyes will be on him to see if he can handle the responsibility of centering two of the most dynamic offensive players in the League.
2. New Look
: The Blackhawks are one of just a few teams that didn’t make drastic changes to their uniforms (thankfully). The Hawks do look different. They look like a potent offensive lineup. If Sergei Samsonov can regain his once-dynamic offensive prowess.
3. Defense Never Rests
: With three very dangerous lines, this figures to be the Wild’s best offensive team in history. That won’t please Head Coach Jacques Lemaire unless his team can be even better defensively. It’s hard to get much better than last year, when Minnesota led the NHL in goals against.Keep An Eye OnBrent Burns
begins his fourth NHL season tonight, but this is the year that he’s expected to be the stud blueliner on this squad. The Wild has enough steady defensemen in Keith Carney, Nick Schultz
and Martin Skoula. Burns will be counted on to increase the scoring production from the back end, which he did by scoring a hat trick in the preseason finale.Probable Wild Line Combos
Jacques Lemaire has always has liquidity in his line combinations, but it appears he’s got four set lines to start the season:Pierre-Marc Bouchard
– Eric Belanger – Brian Rolston
Mark Parrish – Mikko Koivu
– Branko Radivojevic
Pavol Demitra – Wes Walz – Marian Gaborik
Stephane Veilleux – Dominic Moore – Derek BoogaardProbable Defensive PairingsNick Schultz
– Kim Johnsson
Martin Skoula – Petteri Nummelin
Keith Carney – Brent BurnsBetween The PipesNiklas Backstrom
will make his first-ever season opening debut tonight.View From the Press Box
Matt Foy will be scratched from the lineup, as will James Sheppard
, who is not allowed to play until his immigration issues are finalized within the next few days. Injury Report
Kurtis Foster remains sidelined with a lower body injury.Officials
Referees: Marc Joannette and Tom Kowal
Linesmen: Derek Amell and Brad LazarowichLemaire Quote of the Day
“One A, One B? Two A’s. No B’s.”
-- Jacques Lemaire on Wednesday when asked if Niklas Backstrom
and Josh Harding
are goalies 1A and 1B.Worthless Stat
Minnesota has not lost to Chicago at the Xcel Energy Center since March 29, 2002.Honorary State of Hockey Residents
Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien was born in Minneapoils and raised in Roseau. Defenseman Andrei Zyuzin played with the Wild during the 2003 playoff run. Both blueliners are injured. If You’re Going
Get your State of Hockey passport upon entering the arena tonight, and visit the six stops on there for a chance to win a team autographed jersey.