The Minnesota Wild continues shuttling players back and forth to Houston and Minnesota, looking for some depth and some spark from its youth. Yesterday, defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who was a tryout player at this year’s training camp and turns 21 today, was recalled from the Houston Aeros. Today, the Wild swapped left wingers with its minor league club, recalling Matt Kassian and reassigning Robbie Earl. This will be the third recall for Kassian already this season, as a theme tends to be developing when Minnesota is set to face a physical team, much like the Calgary Flames, who is tonight’s opponent.
The Wild was involved in a physical matchup on Saturday with the Colorado Avalanche in a 7-4 loss. Minnesota built a 2-1 lead after one period on goals by Antti Miettinen and Matt Cullen. But the Avs offense exploded for six goals over the next two periods, making Kyle Brodziak’s two goals irrelevant. Niklas Backstrom took the loss after allowing seven goals on 38 shots.
The Flames are getting back into Northwest Division play after coming off four straight road contests against Eastern Conference foes, including a 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday night. Rene Bourque picked up his 11th goal of the season for Calgary’s only tally. Miikka Kiprusoff fell to 8-11-1 despite making 39 saves on 42 shots.
Wild at Flames will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North at 8:00 PM. The game can be heard on BOB/KBGY FM and joined-in-progress on WCCO 830 AM, or online at Wild.com.
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Wild defenseman and military guru Brent Burns is sure to enjoy tonight’s contest at the Pengrowth Saddledome, which is Canadian Forces Appreciation Night.
“Bourque scored the only Flames goal” is a phrase that has been uttered way too many times for a Calgary fan’s liking. In losses to New Jersey and Pittsburgh last week, Bourque was the only Flames goal scorer. The same was true on November 5, when he scored the only goal in a 2-1 loss to the Wild. The former Wisconsin Badger leads the Flames with 11 goals on the season. If he stays atop the Calgary goal chart, he’ll join Michael Cammalleri as the only Flames player since the 2000-2001 season other than Jarome Iginla to lead the team in goals.
Head Coach Todd Richards lamented his team’s performance after getting off to a lead in the first period on Saturday. He used general terms to talk about his team, and didn’t single anybody out. But he couldn’t have been referring to Brodziak, who seems to feel right at home on a line with Martin Havlat and Cullen. Brodzy did all he could to pull his team back into the game, scoring two goals and dropping the gloves with Chris Stewart in an effort to fire up his team. The Wild did respond to his gutsy play, but it was too late to make a comeback.
Wild radio analyst Tom Reid joked on Saturday night that the Wild will lobby the NHL to change the format of games to one first period and two thirds. That way, it can avoid the messes that have commonly sprouted in the second periods of games. While we wait for the NHL’s approval, Richards will be looking for a way to keep his team churning all game, rather than losing its spark somewhere during the first intermission.
Spurgeon is scheduled to make his NHL debut on his birthday and he’ll be easy to spot. Pushing 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, Spurgeon isn’t a prototypical NHL defenseman. But he’s shown at the AHL level that he can hurt you with his offensive skill. In his last eight games, he’s produced eight points, and also scored a shootout winner for the Aeros on Saturday night.
"We gave up 20 shots in the second period. That's way too many shots and way too many opportunities. We have to find a way, whether it's our goalie or whether it's the guys in front, to corral it and get it back on track. You can't continue to make mistake after mistake."
-- Todd Richards to the Minneapolis Star Tribune on his team’s lackluster second period on Saturday.
RW Tim Jackman played his high school hockey at Park Center before going on to star for the Minnesota State, Mankato Mavericks.
A victory at the Saddledome tonight would give the Wild eight wins in November, which would tie a club record set in 2008.