On Thursday, the Minnesota Wild welcomed last year's President's Trophy winners. On Halloween Eve, things get even scarier when the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks make their first of two visits to Xcel Energy Center tonight. Because of injuries to Guillaume Latendresse and Antti Miettinen, they'll likely get a look at the same lineup that took down the Caps on Thursday, 2-1.
Chuck Kobasew and Mikko Koivu accounted for the Wild goals, but a solid defensive effort was punctuated by a sterling performance by Niklas Backstrom, who turned in 21 saves on 22 shots.
Like the Capitals, the Blackhawks come to St. Paul the night for the second of back-to-back games. Chicago fell at home to the Edmonton Oilers last night, 7-4. The Hawks got goals from four different goal scorers, but Marty Turco gave up four goals on eight shots before giving way to Corey Crawford, who gave up two more.
Wild vs. Blackhawks will be broadcast locally on KSTC-TV Channel 45 in high definition at 7:00 p.m. The game can be heard on BOB 106.1 FM and KBGY 107.5 FM, or online at Wild.com.
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A limited number of seats are available to see the Stanley Cup Champs, but tonight's contest is expected to sell out. Don't pussyfoot around! Buy your tickets here.
Fans 14 and under are invited to Trick or Treat at the game tonight. Treats will be distributed at Section 123 near Nordy’s Pond from 6 – 7 p.m. Nordy will sign autographs for every ghost and goblin who visits "Nordy’s Pond" during that time. In addition, fans of all ages are encouraged to come in costume for the chance to win great prizes. The top three costumes will each win a Minnesota Wild gift pack. The overall winner will be invited to make the “Let’s Play Hockey!” announcement prior to the game.
The Hawks knew well before Kane slid a shallow angle wrister under the pads of Michael Leighton last June that this year's team would look much different. Kane, Toews, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp are still doing their thing, and any team would love to have that nucleus. But the Hawks still seem to be adjusting to the realities of the cap world, having to live without Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Antti Niemi and our new guy, John Madden.
One of the characteristics of Backstrom that makes him so valuable is ability to rebound from a shaky performance the very next game. The only thing is, this year, he hasn't had a shaky performance. He did give up four goals in the season opener against Carolina, but still played brilliantly. Since then, he hasn't given up more than three goals in regulation, and he's done that just once in the last seven games.
The theme of the night will be consistency. The Wild has turned in several excellent performances in the first month of the season, and usually those have been followed by clunkers. Minnesota is within striking distance of a lot of teams right now, including Chicago. But as Head Coach Todd Richards has said, it needs to be consistent and string wins together.
Kobasew experiencing immediate success playing on a line with Koivu and Andrew Brunette is not unprecedented. Last year, when Miettinen was diagnosed with H1N1, Kobasew filled in and promptly posted a hat trick in a post-Thanksgiving win over St. Louis.
All the lines will be the same combinations we saw on Thursday:
Cam Barker is available, but Richards typically likes to keep the same lineup after strong performances like Thursday's:
Why change up a good thing? The sizzling Backstrom will get the start again tonight.
One defenseman will be scratched, and that appears to be Barker.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion) remains out of the lineup. Latendresse (groin) and Miettinen (head) are also out. Barker is expected to be available after missing three games with a groin injury, but whether or not he'll play is unknown.
“Once they become more comfortable and more part of the team, hopefully they'll start coming down and they'll feel they can shoot."