Tonight's matchup between the Minnesota Wild and Calgary Flames pits two division rivals that are tied for third in the Northwest, and just one point out of the top eight. But this grudge match goes far beyond the standings. Both teams are full and willing participants in the "Movember" movement and will be pitting their moustaches against each other for a good cause, and for good looks.
And, the showdown also pits several members of each team's AHL affiliate due to injuries decimating both locker rooms. Last night, Cody Almond became the third Houston call up in a week to join the big club in Minnesota. Because of an injury to Chuck Kobasew, Almond, along with Matt Kassian, will make his season debut tonight.
The Wild was missing offensive contributors on Tuesday, yet still found a way to top the San Jose Sharks, 1-0. That "way" was due in large part to a stellar 36-save effort from Niklas Backstrom, and a 5-on-3 goal scored by Andrew Brunette in the second period.
The Flames are coming off a 2-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday. Mark Giordano put Calgary up 1-0, but the Red Wings rallied, putting two of their 33 shots past Miikka Kiprusoff.
Wild vs. Flames will be broadcast locally in high definition on KSTC-TV Channel 45. The game can be heard on 830 WCCO AM, or online at Wild.com.
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Good tickets remain for tonight's game, including seats on the upper level sides for $46. Get out on this Friday night and buy your tickets here.
If you haven't yet noticed, the Minnesota Wild State of Hockey game program changed its format this year. While still featuring team rosters and exclusive content that changes nearly every game, the game program unfolds into a poster of a featured Wild player. Tonight's poster will have fan favorite, Greg Zanon.
We're only a month into the season. The Flames have played 12 games. They've already totaled 72 man games lost to injuries, compared to the injury-plagued Wild who are at 45 going into tonight. Daymond Langkow, Ryan Stone and Ales Kotalik have yet to play this season. Alas, Jarome Iginla is still healthy and will be back in the building where he's made a habit of tormenting Wild players and fans alike. Nobody has racked up more points (54), goals (30), game-winners (eight) and shots (175) against Minnesota than Iggy.
Too bad Tim Thomas doesn't tend goal for the Minnesota Wild. Why can't our goalie be 7-0-0 with a 0.72 goals against average and a .977 save percentage. Instead, all we get is a guy with a 1.88 goals against average (the best of any goalie to play 10 games), and a .938 save percentage. Why can't us Minnesota sports fans ever catch a break?
Wild newcomer Eric Nystrom will get his first chance to square off against the team that drafted him in the first round (10th overall) of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. Nystrom played all 82 Flames games last season, but he's never had to wear a Wild jersey and try to defend his former teammate, Jarome Iginla.
It's well known that Martin Havlat is still searching for his first goal, but in the words of Will.I.Am, tonight's going to be a good, good night for Marty. Havlat picked up two goals and three assists against the Flames last season, and had his best game as a Wild last year in Minnesota's 2-1 overtime victory over the Flames. Havlat scored the winner that night, and was a force for the entire contest.
Cal Clutterbuck and his stellar stache will start the game on the top line, but Todd Richards has hinted that he may give Martin Havlat more time with Koivu and Andrew Brunette:
Coming off a shutout, Backstrom will make his 11th start in 12 games. He'll get a break tomorrow when Jose Theodore is expected to start against Columbus.
If Zidlicky is able to go, Stoner will be the only healthy scratch.
While not calling it a setback, Todd Richards said Pierre-Marc Bouchard's return from a concussion will be put on "pause." He will continue to do everything he's been doing, but his return to game action will be delayed.
As for others, Kobasew will be out tonight and tomorrow in Columbus due to a lower body injury. Antti Miettinen (concussion) and Guillaume Latendresse (lower body) are also out. Zidlicky (lower body) will be a game time decision.
“Our goaltender has been really good."
-- Todd Richards at today's morning skate when asked how the team has been able to be successful despite some injuries to key players.
RW Tim Jackman played high school hockey at Park Center, and spent two seasons in the purple and gold of the Minnesota State, Mankato Mavericks. Flames assistant coach Jamie McLennan was a goaltender on the Wild's inaugural team in 2000.
The Flames are 8-2-1 at Xcel Energy Center when Jarome Iginla scores a goal.