Because of the Christmas holiday, National Hockey League teams are prohibited from playing, practicing or even flying to their next city. That means the Detroit Red Wings got into the Twin Cities today, and skipped a morning skate in favor of a little extra shuteye in the hotel. The Wings may own the best record in the Western Conference, but there’s not a question they’re at a vulnerable as the road team in a situation like this. That’s especially true after losing Pavel Datsyuk to a broken hand. If the Wild can take advantage, it will push its winning streak to a season-high four games and make a significant leap in the standings.
The Wild went into the Christmas break after posting a third straight victory, all coming against Northwest Division opponents. For the third straight game, Minnesota gave up just one goal in beating the Colorado Avalanche, 3-1. Matt Cullen led the way by scoring the first two goals of the game, and later assisting on Andrew Brunette’s power play goal in the second. Niklas Backstrom, who has been in goal for each of the last three victories, made 36 saves and has lowered his goals against average to 2.52.
The Wings dropped a 4-3 decision to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night. Johan Franzen scored Detroit’s only goal as the Blues built a 4-1 lead, but the Wings rallied in the third on tallies from Nicklas Lidstrom and Patrick Eaves. That’s when the rally stopped for the Wings, who were playing their first game without Datsyuk, the team’s leading scorer.
Tonight’s game is projected to be a second straight sellout at Xcel Energy Center with only scattered single seats still available. But one option for tickets for tonight’s game is the TicketExchange program. Click here to buy tickets from other Wild fans. Click here to get busy.
Wild vs. Wings will be broadcast locally in high definition on FOX Sports North at 6:00 PM. The game can be heard on WCCO 830 AM, or online at Wild.com.
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Before every Wild home game, the team plays an opening video to get the fans revved up, but the holiday special is always the most popular among Wild fans and gets a huge amount of hits once its posted on Wild.com. Don’t wait until it’s on the website to see it. Get in your seats early tonight and experience it with your fellow Wild fans.
The Wild’s signature victory of 2010 came early in January when the team rallied from four goals down to beat the Chicago Blackhawks in overtime. But if there’s been a signature victory of this season, it came in November when the Wild visited Detroit, lost a lead and then rallied in the third to tie the game on a Mikko Koivu goal. Then, Marek Zidlicky set up a John Madden overtime winner, and the Wild left Detroit with two huge points.
Despite getting the win, the Wild saw firsthand why the Wings are who they are. After a tight first period, the Wings came alive and played keep away with the puck, outshooting the Wild 18-3 in the second period and 44-27 for the game. Like their last game, they showed they aren’t reliant on their top scorer to produce. Role players like Eaves and Helm scored goals in that game, and that’s the strength of the Wings. Every line is a threat to score.
For the Wild to keep its roll going, it will need Brunette to keep his roll going. Prior to this win streak starting, Todd Richards publicly asked for more from his “big dogs,” and Brunette falls into that category. He also falls in to the group of players who have stepped up, picking up a point in each of the last three games, and four of the last five. It was his power play tally that inserted the dagger into the Avs and their band of merry muckrakers.
The Wild has won three straight games on two occasions this year, but a win tonight would mean a whole lot more than just a season-high win streak. It would also prove that this team is firing on all cylinders going into a huge week of games that features Columbus, San Jose, Nashville and Phoenix. All but San Jose are teams that are within reach by the end of the week if the win streak can keep growing.
Like Brunette, Cullen is another “big dog” who has shown he can play with just about anybody on the roster and develop chemistry. He’s also proven to be invaluable in all three situations. He’s been the team’s best power play threat, and he’s a top penalty killer. He owns two of the Wild’s three shorthanded goals this season.
Don’t look for Richards to change anything up in the midst of a streak: