There’s no question the Minnesota Wild needs a win tonight against the Calgary Flames in the final home game until December 16. Minnesota has lost three straight, and has gone from playoff position to the outside looking in. But while there may be consternation on the outside, there remains an aura of confidence in the Wild locker room. Some of that stems from a better-than-expected return to the ice by Pierre-Marc Bouchard on Wednesday. More of it comes from a determined effort by the entire team that night, despite losing on a bad third period bounce. And some of it comes from players knowing the talent on this team that just needs to be in full view for 60 minutes tonight.
The Wild trailed the Coyotes 2-0 after two periods before finally breaking through on Jason LaBarbera when Matt Cullen notched his first even strength goal of the season. That preceded a fluke goal from Scottie Upshall, which pushed the Coyote lead back to two goals, making Mikko Koivu’s fifth of the season irrelevant. Making his second consecutive start, Jose Theodore took the loss after stopping 32-of-35 shots.
The Flames were feeling good after shutting out the Wild on Monday night in Calgary, but those emotions quickly soured Wednesday when the Vancouver Canucks pounded them. Tim Jackman and Alex Tanguay scored goals for Calgary, but they weren’t near enough in a 7-2 shellacking.
Today is the last day to take advantage of the “Tix the Season” online savings program. By purchasing a ticket online for tonight’s game, you’ll save big and pay zero Internet fees. Click here to take advantage.
Wild vs. Flames will be broadcast locally in high definition on KSTC-TV Channel 45 at 7:00 PM. The game can be heard on WCCO 830 AM, or online at Wild.com.
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In partnership with Wells Fargo, the Minnesota Wild will begin its Toys for Tots toy drive at the Xcel Energy Center tonight. Fans can bring new, unwrapped toys when they enter gates 1-5 from the time the doors open until the start of the second period. Monetary donations will also be accepted. Fans can also make donations at the Community Relations booth at Section 124 at all remaining home games through December 20. Fans making a donation to Toys for Tots will receive a buy-one, get-one-free ticket voucher good for one future Wild home game during the 2010-2011 season. Toys for Tots benefits families in need throughout Minnesota this holiday season.
If you’re feeling like the Wild plays the Calgary Flames more than any other team, you need to trust your feelings, because you’re right. Tonight, the Wild and Flames meet for the 60th time in franchise history, and that means we’ve seen way too much of Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff.
Those two Wild killers were at it again on Monday, as Iginla popped for a goal and an assist, while Kiprusoff shut out the Wild for the fourth time and 25th victory, far more than any other goaltender. Calgary might be brining up the rear in the Western Conference right now, but as long as Iggy and Kipper are around, consider the Flames one of the most dangerous teams in the West.
The wealth is generally spread in this section as much as possible, but lately it seems that Martin Havlat’s name resides here. Once again, Havlat looked like the best player on the ice on Wednesday, pulling out moves around defenders that shouldn’t happen on a regular basis. Havlat is making the game look easy, at least up until goaltenders come up big on him. Even though the goals haven’t piled up, the points have. Havlat now has 14 points (4-10=14) in the last 10 games after an assist on Wednesday. It looks like he’s the new beneficiary of Bouchard’s return, which is only going to mean a more balanced attack on offense.
Tonight marks the 26th game of the season, and the Wild is playing its 15th home game of the season (including one in Finland). Starting tomorrow in Dallas, the Wild plays six of its next eight games on the road. Coming into the season, the Wild has never had a problem winning at home, but this year the boys are 7-5-1 at Xcel Energy Center.
Mr. Miyagi (respect) would have been the first to tell you that in life, it’s all about balance. The same is true for an NHL team looking for goals, and that’s what the Wild has with Bouchard’s return, and the reunification of the Koivu, Andrew Brunette and Antti Miettinen trio. If that top line increases production, and Bouchard and Havlat click, the Wild’s third line looks very dangerous if Cullen, Patrick O’Sullivan and Cal Clutterbuck develop some quick chemistry.