And now the trip begins in earnest. No offense to the New Jersey Devils, but the Minnesota Wild was supposed to take care of business on Tuesday night against the lowest ranked team in the NHL. Tonight, the Wild begins a stretch of three straight games against division leaders, starting with the Boston Bruins.
The Wild did take care of the Devils on Tuesday, although the victory didn’t come easy. It took Clayton Stoner’s third period bank shot off the sideboards to bounce past goaltender Johan Hedberg. Stoner’s first career NHL goal proved to be the game winner in a 2-1 victory that also included a Cal Clutterbuck first-period tally. Jose Theodore started his second straight game and earned a 21-save victory.
The Bruins have earned at least one point in each of the past six games, including a 2-1 triumph over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday. Nathan Horton and Marc Savard recorded second-period goals and Tukka Rask stopped 36-of-37 shots.
Wild at Bruins 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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The city of Boston is filled with historical gems. Unfortunately, it seems to be pretty short on restaurants and watering holes. There is some scuttlebutt over a little hole-in-the-wall speakeasy nearby named “Cheers” and apparently, everybody there knows your name.
The B’s on the crest of the Boston jerseys might be short for “Boston” or “Bruins.” But this year, the “B” could stand for “Big.” Nobody is bigger than 6-foot-9 behemoth defenseman Zdeno Chara, but he’s got some large teammates as well, like leading scorer and bruising 6-foot-4 power forward Milan Lucic, or former Minnesota Gopher Blake Wheeler, whose speed belies his 6-foot-5 frame. And nobody has been bigger than Boston’s rather rotund goaltender Tim Thomas, who has already posted five shutouts and leads the League in goals-against average (1.80), save percentage (.945) and shutouts.
When Clutterbuck burst onto the Minnesota hockey scene a few years ago, he endeared himself to Wild fans with his non-stop energy and fearless hitting. We always thought, “How great will that guy be if he can add some offense to his game?” We’re beginning to see his offense on full display as Clutter has become more comfortable in his role. On Tuesday, he picked up his 11th of the season by roofing a nifty shot from a shallow angle. Clutterbuck has moved one goal behind Brent Burns for the team lead, and is making a case to be the team's first half MVP.
Coming from a city that it had never previously won in, the Wild now enters The Hub, where it has never lost. Minnesota is 5-0-0 at TD Banknorth Garden, making it the only undefeated team in Boston.
Chuck Kobasew didn’t have as much history in Boston as he did in Calgary, but he likely is still relishing the chance to play his first game in his former city.
Antti Miettinen skated this morning, but won't be ready to go tonight. It's possible he can play in Pittsburgh on Saturday:
With Theodore playing well and Backstrom still not at 100 percent, Head Coach Todd Richards will keep him in for a third straight start.
Spurgeon will be the only healthy scratch tonight.
Guillaume Latendresse (abdominal), Marek Zidlicky (shoulder) and Miettinen (lower body) are out. Backstrom is available, but won't start.
"I told the players yesterday to 'do whatever you need to do to get ready for [Boston].' But they better have their "A" game and be ready to go tonight."
-- Todd Richards on giving players the option of practicing yesterday on the campus of Harvard.
RW Wheeler is a Robbinsdale native who played his high school hockey at Breck. D Mark Stuart is a Rochester native who played his high school hockey at Rochester Lourdes before bolting for the U.S. Development program.
In 10 all-time games against Boston, the Wild has never allowed a Bruin power-play goal. The Minnesota penalty kill is currently 31-for-31 against Boston.