At the start of the Minnesota Wild’s four day break this week, the club was sitting in the sixth position in the Western Conference. Then, all the team could do was practice and watch as other teams played games and sent the Wild down to a tie for eighth. The only way to start climbing up the standings again is to get back into game action, and the Wild has no shortage of those for the rest of the week. A stretch of three road games in four days starts tonight in Georgia against the Atlanta Thrashers.
The Wild won a season-high third straight game way back on Saturday with a 3-2 triumph over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Filling in for Niklas Backstrom, Jose Theodore stopped 35-of-37 Columbus shots and earned his first victory in a Wild sweater. Brent Burns picked up two goals, and Cal Clutterbuck knocked in the game-winner for his second straight game with a goal.
The Thrashers have dropped their last three, including a 5-2 loss in Ottawa on Tuesday. Andrew Ladd and Anthony Stewart both scored their fifth goals of the season, while Chris Mason gave up four goals before getting pulled in favor of Ondrej Pavelec.
Wild at Thrashers will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North at 6:00 PM. The game can be heard on WCCO 830 AM, or online at Wild.com.
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In honor of Veteran’s Day and all of the military personnel who serve our country, the Thrashers are hosting Military Appreciation Night. Teaming with their season ticket holders, the Thrash donated nearly 1,000 tickets to military members for tonight’s game. The soldiers will be involved in activities throughout the evening, including the lighting of the Thrasher head logos prior to puck drop.
No team raided the overstuffed talent cupboards more than the Thrashers, now known as Blackhawk South. Not surprisingly, Atlanta is led in scoring by two of those Cup winners – Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd. Those two are tied for the team scoring lead, each with five goals and nine assists. Byfuglien is tied for the NHL lead for goals among defensemen with Burns.
After one month, the Thrashers are still waiting to find out what kind of team they have. It could be the team that’s picked up wins against the likes of Washington, San Jose and the New York Rangers, or it could be the team that has lost its last three and given up 13 goals in those games.
Head Coach Todd Richards knew the Wild wasn’t going to be able to keep up its blistering success rate on the power play from earlier in the season, but he never mentioned anything about the penalty kill. In the last five games, the PK unit has killed 17-of-18 opponent power plays, including games against Washington, Chicago and San Jose, who are all in the top 10 in the League on the power play.
It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to use the phrase, “the first place Minnesota Wild.” But if the good guys can pull two points out of the Peach State tonight, and the Vancouver Canucks lose, the Wild will own a share of first in the Northwest Division for the first time since Dec. 4, 2008.
Richards has a decision to make when it comes to his top line. Antti Miettinen is set to return from a concussion, but Clutterbuck has thrived alongside Andrew Brunette and Mikko Koivu, with a goal in his last two games. Clutter has always shown flashes of scoring ability, and now that he’s playing with two supreme playmakers, he may be set to take off.
Richards will start the game with Clutterbuck on Koivu's wing, but depending on how the game goes, there may be an adjustment with Miettinen moving up.
The Wild recalled Cody Almond yesterday to get to 12 healthy forwards. He’ll center the fourth line. Miettinen may be on the third line, but there's a chance he moves to the second line, with Kyle Brodziak shifting down: