The Minnesota Wild pulled out a win on Thursday night, but what other outcome could there have been? The Wild doesn’t lose home openers (9-0-1 all-time), and it doesn’t lose to the Edmonton Oilers at Xcel Energy Center (14 straight at home against the Oil). So now, the true test of the 2010-11 season begins. The Wild has to play its second game at Xcel Energy Center, and it has to face a Columbus Blue Jackets team that its only beaten 11 out of the last 13 meetings in St. Paul.
The Wild used four power play goals to take down Edmonton on Thursday. Mikko Koivu’s two goals in less than a minute during the second period morphed a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead. Matt Cullen, playing his first official home game at Xcel Energy Center, added insurance with a third period marker. Antti Miettinen also scored, while Koivu finished the night with three points. Nik Backstrom earned his first win of the season after turning aside 22 of 24 shots.
Like the Wild, the Blue Jackets opened their season overseas, and got their first taste of home ice action last night. Unlike the Wild, the Blue Jackets couldn’t pull out a win, falling to the Chicago Blackhawks, 5-2. R.J. Umberger notched a goal and an assist, and Kristian Huselius picked up his third goal in as many games. Steve Mason gave up five goals on 40 shots and was saddled with the loss.
Wild vs. Blue Jackets will be broadcast locally in high definition 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.
Good seats remain for tonight’s game. Click here to purchase tickets.
The Home Opener may be in the past, but there is still plenty of bustling activity tonight on the corner of Kellogg and West Seventh. All fans entering the game tonight will receive a magnet schedule courtesy of Fox Sports North. The Wild will also be announcing its All Time Team, as chosen by fans on Wild.com.
While the Blue Jackets wait for Rick Nash to get going (one goal in three games and a -2), they are enjoying the early success of their new second line. Newcomer Ethan Moreau has joined Samuel Pahlsson and R.J. Umberger and the trio has clicked right away. They combined for four points and a +5 rating in two games against San Jose in Sweden. Last night, Umberger picked up a shorthanded goal in his 170th consecutive game.
“Hot” doesn’t capture the Wild’s power play at this point in the season. “Scorching” might be more accurate. Minnesota converted four of six of its attempts on Thursday, and is now boasting a 43.8% efficiency rate. Some folks may say that will be impossible to keep up over the next 79 games. Those folks are naysayers. Don’t surround yourself with them.
There’s always a chance that the Blue Jackets don’t take a bunch of penalties tonight. In such an instance, the Wild will need to get its even strength lines rolling. In particular, the line of Cullen, Martin Havlat and Cal Clutterbuck will be counted on for more goals. Cullen is the only one of the trio to have scored this season, and both of his tallies have come on the power play. If the points don’t come, we may see Guillaume Latendresse reunited with his old linemate, Havlat.
The power play gets the glory, but the penalty killers should get a steak or a magazine subscription or something nice after their effort on Thursday. The killers negated a parade to the penalty box by Wild players in the first period, and only gave up one Oiler power play goal in seven chances.
Head Coach Todd Richards plans to stick with the same combinations he threw out there on Thursday, although Latendresse did see some time on the second line, and that could happen again:
“We won a game last night, so guys should feel good about what they accomplished. But today’s a new day. There’s a lot of lessons in that about getting ready. I want them to have fun during practices, they should be fun. But there’s also got to be a purpose to it.”
-- Todd Richards on Friday’s practice, when he snapped his team to attention after a lackluster start
C Kyle Wilson was a ninth round draft pick of the Wild in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Injured C Andrew Murray played four seasons at Bemidji State.
As worthless stats go, this might be the all-time greatest. Lou Nanne will be signing copies of his new book “A Passion to Win” at tonight’s game. Since 2007-2008 when Nanne’s previous book, “Minnesota North Stars: History and Memories with Lou Nanne” was first released, Nanne boasts an impressive Wild record of 8-2-3 when hosting book signings at Xcel Energy Center.