For the past seven days, the Minnesota Wild players have gotten to know the city of Helsinki well. They’ve made the trip to Sauna Island. They’ve taken a bus tour of the city. They’ve had team dinners at local establishments, and made a road trip to Tampere. And of course, they’ve been relentless about hassling native Finns Mikko Koivu, Nik Backstrom and Antti Miettinen about where the nearest moose crossing is, or which igloo they grew up in. Suddenly, the trip will come to an abrupt end after tonight, when the Wild will look to even its NHL Premiere series with the Carolina Hurricanes.
In the NHL’s first game of the season yesterday, the Wild dropped a 4-3 decision to the Canes at Hartwall Areena. Guillaume Latendresse, Matt Cullen and Brent Burns scored the Minnesota goals in a game where four of the five Finnish skaters notched at least one point. Niklas Backstrom took the loss after stopping 27 of 31 shots.
Wild at Hurricanes will be broadcast locally in high definition on VERSUS at 11:00 AM. The game can be heard on 830 WCCO AM, or online at Wild.com.
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You’ll want to get your hands on some of the limited edition NHL Premiere memorabilia on sale, but you’ll also need to pick something up from the Jokerit merchandise stand. Jokerit, which plays at Hartwall Areena, has one of the most unique logos you’ll ever see, and you can’t leave Finland without something that displays it prominently.
The Hurricanes showed yesterday that they are a hard skating team, but what won the game for them yesterday were two timely goals from Brandon Sutter, and the stellar netminding of Cam Ward. Ward actually looked shaky on the three goals he gave up, all of which found the five hole. But spectacular saves were needed, Ward made every one of them and finished the night with 26 stops.
For different reasons, the Wild has to be happy with who scored the three goals yesterday. Latendresse was a goal-scoring machine last year, but there was questions about what his effectiveness would be after a dismal training camp in which he injured his hip flexor. He answered some of the questions surrounding him with the first NHL goal of the year. Cullen, who was the team’s prized offseason signing, did not take long to make an impact, buzzing around all night as the second line center. And after scoring just three goals a season ago, Burns got off to a rock solid start by netting his first last night.
Tonight marks the end of the long awaited NHL Premiere in Helsinki. The players has the ultimate time while they were here, but they won’t look back as fondly if they can’t pull two points out of the event.
The Wild only took five penalties yesterday, and none in the third. But it was the timing that crippled them. Cam Barker’s hold led to a tying Carolina goal with less than 10 seconds remaining in the first. And Cullen’s slash put Minnesota down two men for 1:50, and the Canes converted.
Brad Staubitz got the go-ahead on the fourth line last night. Tonight, Casey Wellman will make his season debut on the fourth line: