It’s not that the Minnesota Wild scored five goals yesterday, but how those goals came. Players were sidestepping defensemen, roofing shots under the crossbar, and even passing to themselves off the net before burying a shot. It all led to a 5-2 thumping of the Nashville Predators and two points gained at home. That was yesterday, and now it means nothing. The Wild will look to find that offensive moxie again tonight in the first meeting of the season with the Colorado Avalanche.
Martin Havlat continuing his offensive surge would be a good start. Havlat potted two goals yesterday, and set up another for his 11th point in the last seven games. Marek Zidlicky, Andrew Brunette and Nick Schultz also picked up goals for Minnesota, which improved to 6-2-2 in games following a loss. Jose Theodore made his first Xcel Energy Center start as a member of the Wild and stopped 32 shots while earning the victory.
After winning four straight, the Avalanche have dropped their last two contests including Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Oilers in Edmonton. Kevin Shattenkirk and Matt Duchene rallied the Avs from a 2-0 deficit, but a Taylor Hall goal with 29 seconds left gave the Oilers the victory. Peter Budaj took the loss in a 21-save effort.
Wild at Avalanche will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North at 8:00 PM. The game can be heard on WCCO 830 AM, or online at Wild.com.
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It’s Family Night in Denver, and that means you can get four tickets, four sodas and four family meals for the nifty price of $99.
You’ll be getting familiar with these guys over the next three months. After a quarter of the season the Wild played every Northwest team at least once, except Colorado, who they see for the first of six meetings tonight.
The Avs were considered a surprise entrant into the postseason last year when a rebuilding project around youth quickly morphed into a group of young stars primed for a breakout. One of those was Chris Stewart, who pumped in 28 goals last year in his second full season. He’s well on his way to surpassing that total, currently leading Colorado with 11 goals.
Yes, Havlat is scorching, but so is the Wild’s newest member, Patrick O’Sullivan. He notched Minnesota’s only goal on Wednesday in a loss to Philadelphia. On Friday, Head Coach Todd Richards shook up his line combinations and moved O’Sullivan up to the first line, and he promptly delivered a pretty assist on Brunette’s goal.
Were it not for the Wild, an already impressive 2009-2010 Colorado campaign would have been spectacular. But Minnesota owned the Avs last season, winning five of the six meetings. That includes the game that followed last year’s Black Friday afternoon game. Early in the Wild’s existence, the Avs controlled the all-time series. That has shifted in recent years with Minnesota winning 13 of the last 17 regular season games and gaining points in the last eight games at Pepsi Center (6-0-2).
General Manager Chuck Fletcher loves to load his roster with “gritty” players, but that word is usually reserved for guys like Cal Clutterbuck, Eric Nystrom, John Madden and Greg Zanon. But has there been a grittier, more determined player in a Wild uniform this season than Zidlicky?
The guy has been hampered by a lower-body injury and has missed five games. Not surprisingly, the Wild is 1-4-1 in those contests. In games in which Zidlicky has returned, Minnesota is 3-0-0.
He has shown an increasing willingness to go deep into the offensive zone where he appears to carry the puck on the string. That’s how he scored yesterday, and what led to a setup of John Madden’s overtime winner in Detroit last week.
The Wild lines were all kinds of different yesterday, and Richards will likely want to see more of the same:
Clayton Stoner suffered an upper-body injury yesterday and did not travel with the team. Justin Falk will take his place in the lineup:
With a slew of games this week, Theodore will likely see plenty of action, but Niklas Backstrom is expected to get the start tonight.
The Wild has 20 players, so nobody will be sitting out tonight.
Stoner is out with an upper-body injury. Guillaume Latendresse is out indefinitely after undergoing two surgeries in his abdomen earlier in the week. Chuck Kobasew (lower body) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion) are also out. Kobasew has temporarily left the team's headquarters to travel to Vancouver for a family emergency. His mother has been ill for some time.
"Marty has definitely stepped up his game. I don't know what it is. Maybe we need more 1 o'clock games. Marty was great. This is what we need."
-- Todd Richards on Havlat’s exceptional performance against Nashville on Friday
C Peter Mueller is a native of Bloomington.
In the last four games against the Avs, the Wild is 0-for-16 on the power play, yet has won three of those contests.