Minnesota Twins catcher and American League MVP Joe Mauer will drop the puck for tonight’s ceremonial faceoff, and then he’ll shake the hand of Wild captain Mikko Koivu. Let’s hope a little bit of Twins magic rubs off on Koivu and the Wild, who are looking to imitate the cross-town baseball team in rebounding from a slow start to make an amazing late season push. If Mauer felt like sharing some of his offensive production with the guys in green tonight, that would be dynamite.
The Wild has been off since Friday night when they overcame a third period deficit to beat the New York Islanders, 3-2. Owen Nolan notched a pair of goals, including the game-winner with 1:07 remaining, and Koivu also scored. Eric Belanger tallied a pair of assists, and Niklas Backstrom stopped 27 of 29 shots.
The Bruins enter tonight’s game having picked up three straight wins, and at least one point in eight of their last nine games. On Monday, the Bruins won their third consecutive road game with a 4-3 decision over the St. Louis Blues. Patrice Bergeron assisted on all four Bruin goals, one of which was scored by former Minnesota Gopher, Blake Wheeler. Mark Recchi, Milan Lucic and Marco Sturm also scored goals in the victory.
Limited tickets remain for tonight’s game, so click here to purchase.
Wild vs. Bruins 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.
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If You’re Going
You’ll want to be in your seats before puck drop so you can let Mr. Mauer know just how spectacular his season was, and to make sure he signs a lifetime extension with the hometown ball club. Mauer’s good friend and another member of the MVP club, Justin Morneau, will be shouting out “Let’s Play Hockey” as well.
Meet The B’s
The Bruins were the sexy pick to represent the Eastern Conference Finals thanks to their back end, which is led by last year’s Vezina Trophy winning Tim Thomas, and behemoth defenseman, Zdeno Chara. Both Thomas and Chara were sluggish to start the season, and their problems mirrored a rough start for the Beantown hockey squad. Chara has since regained his form by posting seven points (1-6=7) in the last nine games. Thomas has also found his game, but the Bruins have benefitted from outstanding play by backup netminder, Tuukka Rask. Though their stats are similar, Rask has posted a 6-2-1 record compared to Thomas’ 5-6-3 mark. Rask has started the last four games for the B’s and earned at least a point in each.
Koivu has started to run away with the Wild scoring lead. With his goal on Friday, Koivu ran his point streak to three games with a goal and three assists. In his last seven games, the captain has posted three goals and six assists.
Since Friday, the Wild has made a total of four personnel moves. It started out innocently enough be sending Danny Irmen and Nathan Smith back to Houston of the AHL. Then, General Manager Chuck Fletcher claimed speedster Andrew Ebbett off the waiver wire. Two days later, he swung his second in-season trade by getting Guillaume Latendresse in exchange for Benoit Pouliot. Latendresse won’t make his Wild debut tonight as he waits for his visa issues to be resolved, but Ebbett will make his Wild debut tonight.
Keep An Eye On
When Latendresse does join the team, the Wild staff will have a difficult decision to make. One forward will have to sit, but Head Coach Todd Richards will have a tough time pulling Robbie Earl out of the lineup. The Houston call up has now been with the club for nearly two weeks and has been a boost of energy on every line he’s played on. Earl might be the fastest skater on the team (although Ebbett could challenge him), and he’s been able to maintain that speed for the duration of each game.
Probable Wild Line Combos
Ebbett has been practicing the last two days with Derek Boogaard and Chuck Kobasew on his wings:
The Wild have not called up anyone from Houston, meaning there won’t be a healthy scratch tonight.
Kobasew (upper body) will return to the lineup tonight, and Martin Havlat (hamstring) appears close, but it won’t be tonight. Burns, Petr Sykora and Pierre-Marc Bouchard are all out for an undetermined amount of time with concussions.
Richards’ Quote of the Day
“There’s probably going to be a lot of emotions. He’ll be excited. He’ll be nervous. He’ll have something to prove. When you’re the new guy coming in, you want to show everyone what you can do.”
-- Todd Richards on what he expects from Andrew Ebbett in his Wild debut tonight
Honorary State of Hockey Residents
RW Wheeler won a Class A state championship with Breck High School and a WCHA title with the Gophers. D Mark Stuart is a native of Rochester, Minnesota.
The Wild owns an 8-1-0 all-time record against the Bruins. The only other team that Minnesota has had better success against is the Atlanta Thrashers (6-0-2).