Minnesota Wild rookie defenseman Marco Scandella has been so impressive during his first-ever NHL call-up, management deemed him worthy of staying with the big club despite Brent Burns becoming eligible after a two-game suspension. The Wild will find out how worthy he is tonight when he’s on the ice against the Detroit Red Wings, the top team in the Western Conference and on the ice against players like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom.
Minnesota is coming off a second straight win after beating the Anaheim Ducks in overtime on Wednesday. Martin Havlat tallied the only Wild goal in regulation, and Antti Miettinen scored his first career OT game-winner, converting on a centering feed from Scandella. Once again, Niklas Backstrom was brilliant in stopping all 16 shots he faced in the third period and finishing the night with 27 saves.
The Red Wings won their fourth straight on Wednesday by rolling over the St. Louis Blues, 7-3. Dan Cleary led the way with two goals, including one of four Detroit tallies in the third. Drew Miller, Justin Abdelkader, Zetterberg, Brad Stuart and Tomas Holmstrom also scored. Jimmy Howard earned his 10th victory, pushing his record to 23-1-3 in his last 27 starts.
Wild at Red Wings will be broadcast locally in high definition on KSTC-TV Channel 45 at 6:30 PM. The game can be heard on BOB 106.1 FM or KBGY 107.5 FM, or online at Wild.com.
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As part of the Motor City Mitten Madness program, the Red Wings are asking fans at tonight’s game to bring adult and children winter clothing, or monetary donations. The clothes will be donated to Detroit area shelters and warming centers. For every item donated, fans will receive a raffle ticket for the chance to win an autographed Pavel Datsyuk stick.
The last time the Wild saw Mike Modano, he was skating around the Xcel Energy Center ice in a vintage Minnesota North Stars jersey. We thought it might be the last time we’d see him on an NHL rink. Instead, we’ll see him tonight in the unfamiliar red and white of the Wings.
Modano has adjusted quite well to his new surroundings, which seems to happen with every NHL veteran (Brett Hull, Chris Chelios, Dominik Hasek) who decides to make one more run in Detroit. While certainly not seeing the ice time he’s been used to, Modano has played in all 16 games and has tallied two goals and five assists. In 35 career games against the Wild, Modano has nine goals and 18 assists.
It’s only been three games in the NHL for Scandella, so we’re forced to temper our enthusiasm for the guy a little bit. After all, the Wild just sent Justin Falk to the Houston Aeros, and there’s a good chance we see him in a Wild uniform soon. So Scandella’s margin for error is slim, but he’s shown the last two games that slim is plenty for him. Scandella logged more than 21 minutes on Wednesday, and he made every play he was supposed to make, and then some. Not many rookie blueliners in their third game get the chance to lead a rush in overtime, but that’s what Scandella did in setting up Miettinen’s heroics.
Few NHL arenas have presented more trouble for the Wild than Joe Louis Arena. The Wild has dropped four straight in regulation at the Joe, and seven of their last eight. Last year, the Wild still had aspirations for a playoff berth before coming to Detroit in early March and taking a beating from the red and white. This year, the Wild has gained confidence in being able to win close games. In order for that to happen tonight, they’ll have to keep it close. Of course, blowing the Wings out in their barn is always appreciated as well.
Burns returns tonight following a two-game suspension from a stick incident a week ago in Florida. Without him, the Wild defensive corps held its own, limiting the Tampa Bay Lightning and Anaheim Ducks to two total goals. Still, Burns and his exceptional ability to cover ground will be welcome against a team that skates as well as Detroit.
Head Coach Todd Richards will go with the same forward combinations he used on Wednesday:
The return of Burns means one player will sit out. That appears to be Clayton Stoner:
In his first three starts, Jose Theodore got the second of back-to-back games. Tonight, he gets the first. That means Niklas Backstrom most likely gets the start against the Rangers tomorrow in St. Paul.