In a reversal from the first nine seasons of Minnesota Wild hockey, the green and red team has struggled to rack up the wins at Xcel Energy Center. Instead, Minnesota is getting its wins away from home, having posted just one losing road trip this season, an 0-2 swing through Colorado and tonight’s city, Calgary. In road games, the Wild has been able to avoid crippling momentum swings that seem to arise at home in recent games.
On Thursday, that momentum swing came when the Wild appeared to take a 2-1 second period lead on the Ottawa Senators. As the celebration from a Kyle Brodziak goal kicked off, the officials determined the Wild has too many men on the ice. Instead of a lead, the Wild was down a man, and then down a goal when the Sens scored the game-winning goal nine seconds later. Brodziak was the only Wild goal scorer earlier in the game when he notched his fifth of the year.
After the Wild loss, the Flames jumped ahead of the Wild in the standings later on Thursday with a 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Five different Flames scored, including Rene Bourque who picked up his 13th of the season. Mikael Backlund, Olli Jokinen, Alex Tanguay and Niklas Hagman also lit the lamp for Calgary, which has won its last three home games. Miikka Kiprusoff made 17 stops in the win.
Wild at Flames will be broadcast locally in high definition on FOX Sports North at 9:00 PM, with the late start accredited to the Hockey Night In Canada broadcast. The game can be heard on WCCO 830 AM, or online at Wild.com.
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Like the Wild, the Flames hold a 50/50 raffle, but in Canadian speak, it’s called a 50/50 draw. Just look for the people wearing bright yellow aprons and you can buy your ticket, hopefully winning enough to buy a plane ticket back to Minnesota.
By now, Wild fans should know the Flames as well as they know their own team. Tonight marks the third meeting in the last three weeks between these clubs, and there’s another showdown coming up in St. Paul on Monday.
Kiprusoff, the all-time leader in wins against Minnesota, has won five of the last six games at Pengrowth Saddledome, and that includes a 3-0 shutout of the Wild on Nov. 29. That win pushed his record to 16-2-2 against our guys in Calgary.
Brodziak had his 100th career point stripped away when his second goal on Thursday night was waved off. It also snapped a trend of Brodzy scoring a second goal every time he gets one. Despite his mistake of jumping on the ice early, Brodziak has found a home on a line with Martin Havlat and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, doing the dirty work while those two dip and dangle with the puck.
Currently sitting in the 14th spot in the West, the Wild has several opponents it needs to leapfrog before it gets into the top eight. It can start knocking off those teams tonight and Monday by setting sights on the Flames who sit just one point ahead.
Bottom line, the Wild needs to find the net more in order to start stringing wins together. The return of Matt Cullen could help in that aspect. The center has missed the last three games with a groin injury, but appears poised to return. The Wild could use his speed and his contributions on the power play.
Looking for a spark, Todd Richards may do some line juggling tonight. Chuck Kobasew may see time on the top line: