There’s nothing wrong with making a New Year’s resolution a few days early. That’s called a head start. The Minnesota Wild should resolve to find its usual winning ways at Xcel Energy Center as the club opens up its last extended homestand until late February. The stretch begins tonight with the always-dangerous San Jose Sharks, winners of four of their last five.
The Wild continued to pick up points on the road on Monday night with a 4-3 shootout loss in Columbus. Chuck Kobasew, Mikko Koivu and Cal Clutterbuck tallied goals in regulation, but Pierre-Marc Bouchard was the only scorer in the shootout, while the Blue Jackets scored on all three of their attempts. Jose Theodore stayed at 249 career wins after a 19-save performance.
The Sharks had a four-game win streak snapped on Monday, getting shut out by the Los Angeles Kings, 4-0. It was the fourth time the Sharks have been blanked this season. Antti Niemi took the loss in goal after stopping 31-of-35 shots.
A limited number of tickets remain for tonight’s contest. You may need to try other avenues of securing tickets, in which case you are encouraged to utilize TicketExchange, which is a secure online source to purchase tickets from other Wild fans. Click here to take advantage.
Wild vs. Sharks will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North at 7:00 PM. The game can be heard on WCCO 830 AM, or online at Wild.com.
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A Wild goal isn’t the only reason to stand and cheer at Xcel Energy Center. For example, on Sunday the home crowd gave a rousing ovation to two Army Sergeants, Dan Schmitt and Scott Scherbing, who attended the game against the Red Wings after serving stints in Iraq and Afghanistan where they flew a Wild flag over all of their helicopter missions. Tonight, you’ll have another chance to recognize a Wild favorite, Assistant Equipment Manager Rick Bronwell. The comedic and musically gifted character will be working his 1,000th professional game tonight. Now, an assistant equipment manager doesn’t exactly risk his life like an American soldier, but considering how much smelly equipment he’s dealt with, he’s come pretty close.
You might need four guesses to answer the question of which San Jose Shark is leading his team in goals this season with 18. It’s not Dany Heatley, or Patrick Marleau, or Joe Thornton or even Joe Pavelski. It’s 21-year-old Logan Couture, who is easily outpacing all NHL rookies in goals, and ranks second in points with 25.
Kobasew had struggled to find any offensive success prior to missing a month of action with a lower-body injury. Since returning on December 9, he’s picked up three goals, and on Monday, he registered his first multi-point game since March 21.
The Wild and Sharks are both looking for their first wins since Christmas. Both teams are looking at this as a must-win for different reasons. Sitting at 13th in the West, every game is taking on bigger importance for Minnesota. As for San Jose, whispers are starting to circulate that they’ve lost their dominance of the Pacific Division with teams like Dallas and Los Angeles enjoying great seasons.
Despite his small frame, Jared Spurgeon endeared himself to the Wild coaching staff during his 12-game stint with the Wild. He always seemed to be in the right position, and never let his size get in the way of winning battles for the puck against much bigger forwards. Spurgeon was reassigned yesterday, which shows just how highly the Wild thinks of Marco Scandella. Now in his second callup in his first professional season, Scandella has shown the ability to join the offensive rush, while not making any mistakes that lead to chances the other way.
Richards will go with the same lineup that dominated the majority of the action in Columbus:
"I’m sick and tired of getting booed at home. Minnesotans want an honest effort and you have to be prepared, ready and focused because we’re going to get their best tonight."
-- Richards on the importance of his team finding its game at home
D Justin Braun is a native of Vadnais Heights and played his high school hockey at White Bear Lake high school.
With a win tonight, the Wild would win consecutive home games against San Jose for the first time since a three-game streak dating from April 8, 2002 to February 7, 2003. The 2002-2003 season was the only year in which the Wild swept the Sharks.