GAMEDAY: Wild at Rangers
Minnesota Wild (33-25-6: 72 points, 11th in Western Conference, 3rd in Northwest Division) at New York Rangers (33-28-4: 70 points, 7th in Eastern Conference, 3rd in Atlantic Division)
The Minnesota Wild needs a reason to get excited after losing two straight. If that good news has to come from the injury front, so be it. The Wild got good news today when it was determined that Cal Clutterbuck should be fine and available tonight. Clutterbuck was shaken up when he took a shot to the head from New York Islander thug, Trevor Gillies. Clutterbuck did finish the game, but admitted afterward that he wasn’t feeling great. The Wild had planned on recalling Casey Wellman
in the event that Clutterbuck was not able to go, but now it appears that won't be necessary.
The Wild has been very good about avoiding losing streaks this season, and it will look to stop its current skid at two games. Minnesota dropped a 4-1 decision to the Islanders last night with John Madden
tallying the only Wild goal. Niklas Backstrom
took the loss after allowing three goals on 19 shots and was pulled in favor of Jose Theodore
The Rangers have also lost their last two games, the most recent defeat coming at home to Buffalo on Tuesday. Erik Christensen and Artem Anisimov picked up the goals for the Rangers while Henrik Lundqvist took the loss in a 23-save effort.
Wild at Rangers will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North at 6:00 PM. The game can be heard on WCCO 830 AM or online at Wild.com.
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Unfortunately, tonight’s game is in the heart of Manhattan, and by all accounts, there isn’t much to do before or after the game in that area of New York.
Marian Gaborik had his reunion with the Wild back in November when the Rangers came to Xcel Energy Center and left with a 5-2 victory. Gaborik won’t be in the lineup tonight due to concussion symptoms. His absence has had a significant impact as the Rangers have been unable to find the net at home. The Rangers have lost their last three home games and have scored just five goals in those defeats.
The Rangers have been getting big contributions from Hastings native, Derek Stepan. The rookie ranks third on the team in scoring with 36 points on 17 goals and 19 helpers.
Theodore will get the start tonight and will look to build on his most spectacular performance of the season. In his last start, Theo turned away 46-of-48 Anaheim Duck shots allowing the Wild to pull out a 3-2 victory in overtime. Theodore has won three of his last four starts, all on the road.
The bad news: the Wild has dropped two straight games and has fallen to 11th in the Western Conference standings. The good news: Minnesota still sits just four points out of fourth place in the West, and two points out of eighth. The better news is that Minnesota is still in position to make a playoff push because of its ability to snap skids quickly. There wouldn’t be a better time to do that than tonight.
Head Coach Todd Richards asserted after last night’s loss that he would shift his lines around in search of more offense. That likely means a new center skates between Andrew Brunette
and Antti Miettinen
. You can bet he won’t be breaking up the combination of Pierre-Marc Bouchard
and Martin Havlat
. Those two continued to show some dynamic chemistry in the offensive zone last night.
The Wild held an optional skate today so not much can be gleaned from that, but look for Richards to try Madden on the top line:
The same six defensemen will be used tonight:
Theodore will get the start tonight.
There won’t be a player scratched from the lineup tonight.
(abdominal), James Sheppard (knee), Koivu (hand) and Barker (upper body) are out. Kobasew (illness) is also out. Clutterbuck (upper body) is expected to play.
“We need these guys to score, and we’re going to have to switch lines.”
-- Todd Richards leaving no doubt that he’s searching for ways to get Brunette and Miettinen back on track in the absence of Koivu
Injured RW Gaborik is still the Wild’s all-time leading scorer with 437 points in 502 games…Injured LW Boogaard appeared in 255 games with the Wild…C Stepan is from Hastings…D Ryan McDonagh is a St. Paul native and won a state championship at Cretin-Derham…D Michael Sauer is from St. Cloud.
The Wild has won 30 games this season after getting outshot. It has outshot the opponent in just three of its wins.