The Minnesota Wild’s influx of former Western Collegiate Hockey Association stars continued today when the club called up former Gopher, Danny Irmen from the Houston Aeros. Irmen joins former collegiate rival, Robbie Earl, whose arrival last week has turned out well so far. Earl, the former Wisconsin Badger, scored his first two NHL goals on Sunday, and Irmen will have the chance to get his first tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes in his NHL debut. He will be the first former Gopher to play for the Wild since Erik Westrum in 2006, and he will be the first Wild player since Chris Armstrong in the 2000-2001 season to wear sweater #40.
Earl’s Sunday heroics were not enough to garner two points for the Wild in Sunday’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, but he helped secure an important point on the road. The Wild rallied from two three-goal deficits with goals also coming from Antti Miettinen and John Scott.
The Coyotes arrive in Minnesota having lost five of their last seven games, including Monday’s 4-1 home loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Adrian Aucoin scored the lone goal for Phoenix, which fired 31 shots on goal in the loss.
Good seats remain to watch Irmen make his NHL debut tonight. Click here to purchase. If you buy lower level or club tickets for tonight’s contest, you’ll be able to have your family photo taken on the ice of the Xcel Energy Center. Click here for more of the details.
Wild vs. Coyotes will be broadcast locally on KSTC-TV Channel 45 at 7:00 PM. The game can be heard on 830 WCCO AM, or online at Wild.com.
Click here to receive Minnesota Wild broadcast alerts/game day previews each Wild Game day
If You’re Going
Along with packing up your “Irmen #19” Gopher jersey for tonight’s game, bring a non-perishable food item as well. For the fourth straight year, the Minnesota Wild and Toyota are partnering together for the Toyota Tundra Food Drive to benefit Second Harvest Heartland, the Upper Midwest’s largest hunger-relief organization. Food or cash donations can be made at Gates 1-5 from 6:00 PM to the start of the second period. For every $1 donated, Second Harvest is able to distribute up to $9 in grocery products to the most vulnerable members of our community. For more information visit www.2harvest.org.
Meet The Coyotes
With constant rumors floating about regarding the Coyotes’ ownership situation and the departure of Head Coach Wayne Gretzky, the setup was there for a Cinderella story. The Coyotes busted out of the gates by posting a 9-4-0 record after the season’s first month. Led by goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, the Coyotes have allowed just 49 goals this season to rank third in the Western Conference. Scoring has been the issue as no Coyote has posted more than five goals this season. Yotes captain Shane Doan leads a club heavy on veterans, which could benefit the club if they can remain close in the playoff race. In order for that to happen, Phoenix will need to get its best defenseman, Ed Jovanovski, back from a lower body injury. Jovanovski is day-to-day, but he’s not expected to play tonight.
Even before he lit the lamp twice on Sunday, Earl had caught his coach’s attention. During a nightmarish first period, Earl was one of the few players skating at full speed along with Mikko Koivu. That effort earned Earl an in-game promotion from the checking line to the top line, and that resulted in two big goals.
Minnesota owns a seven-game win streak at the Xcel Energy Center against the Coyotes dating back to January 24, 2006. Most impressively, the Wild has never trailed in any of those seven games.
Keep An Eye On
Despite Earl’s big game on Sunday, and Irmen being a Gopher, both players know their time with the big club could end at any time once Chuck Kobasew, Benoit Pouliot and Petr Sykora return fully healthy. The only way they will stay up is if they can consistently make big impacts.
Probable Wild Line Combos
Expect Irmen to get his feet wet with the fourth line tonight:
Niklas Backstrom will be the no-brainer start tonight. The guy is 9-1-0 with a 1.51 goals against average and a .949 save percentage in his career against the Yotes.
View From The Press Box
John Scott appears to be the lone healthy scratch tonight.
Kobasew is day-to-day (upper body), as is Pouliot (upper body). Sykora (concussion) had a setback last week, but is believed to have begun working out again. Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion) remains out.
Richards’ Quote of the Day
“He’s a good skater. He can provide a little bit of a physical element…That’s what he’s got to do. He was really good for us in Carolina and he was rewarded with more ice time. It’s not realistic going into every game thinking Robbie’s going to net two. He has to be aggressive, be reliable in his own end and when he has opportunities, he has to use his shot because he’s got a really good shot as well.”
-- Todd Richards on what Earl has to do to remain with the Wild
Honorary State of Hockey Residents
RW Peter Mueller is a native of Bloomington, Minnesota, and injured D Kurt Sauer is a St. Cloud native. Another injured D, Zbynek Michalek, made his NHL debut with the Wild during the 2003-2004 season.
With his +4 rating against Carolina on Sunday, Brent Burns became the 16th player in Wild history to record a +4 rating or better.