A major factor in the Minnesota Wild’s surge into contention in the Western Conference has been the goaltending of Niklas Backstrom and Jose Theodore. The two veterans have been brilliant and have formed one of the most reliable goaltending duos. Between the two, they’ve combined for 385 NHL wins. Tonight, the Wild’s goaltending tandem will be Anton Khudobin and Matt Hackett, who have totaled two NHL wins, but no losses. Khudobin, who won two games last year and made one memorable start against Philadelphia on February 6, will get the start tonight. Hackett, who is in his first professional season with the Houston Aeros, was recalled this morning, along with defenseman Jared Spurgeon.
Khudobin saw his first action of the season on Tuesday in a 5-1 loss to the Predators. He relieved Theodore in the third period and allowed one goal on five shots. The Wild’s only goal of the game came off the stick of Mikko Koivu. The loss was the second straight for Minnesota, which had won its previous four games.
Tonight’s opponent, the Colorado Avalanche, is coming off a 4-0 shutout loss to the Blackhawks in Chicago on Wednesday. Peter Budaj stopped 27 shots in the loss for the Avs, who currently have a slim hold on eighth place in the Western Conference.
A limited number of tickets are still available for tonight's game. Click here to get your seats.
Wild vs. Avalanche will be broadcast locally in high definition on KSTC Channel 45 at 7:00 PM. The game can be heard on WCCO 830 AM, or online at Wild.com.
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You could be the eight millionth fan to watch a Wild game tonight. The Wild’s all-time attendance stands at 7,984,803. The number needed is 15,197, and considering it’s Friday night against the Avs and the Wild has averaged 17,658 fans this season, you can bet we’ll see that total surpassed.
The intensity of this rivalry hit a new level right before Christmas when the Wild went into Denver and came away with a 3-1 victory. Kyle Brodziak, who has two fighting majors this season, both against Colorado, dropped the gloves with Ryan Wilson. Cal Clutterbuck dished out five hits and infuriated the Avs bench all night, especially Adam Foote who made it his mission to chase Clutterbuck around all night. But it was 6-foot-6 David Koci’s shenanigans [he challenged Spurgeon to a fight] that drew some vitriol from the Wild locker room after the game.
Martin Havlat has put up eight points (2-6=8) in his last 10 games and 21 points (7-14=21) in his last 23 contests, including six multi-point games.
The last time Khudobin started for the Wild, there was some trepidation about this bubbly Russian who would make his first NHL start against the big, bad Flyers. The roly poly goalie came up with a stellar 38-save performance in a thrilling 2-1 triumph over the eventual Eastern Conference champions. That game was a must-win, and the same could be said of tonight’s contest, considering the Wild could be within one or five points of the Avs.
Clutterbuck knows he could have a bull’s eye on his back tonight, but what else is new? Clutterbuck said on Thursday that he welcomes the challenge, because of the Avs are worried about him, that’s going to mean an advantage for the Wild. Clutterbuck also said he’s more than willing to defend himself if needed. Will this be the first night of the season that we see Clutter drop the gloves?
With Patrick O’Sullivan clearing waivers, the Wild will go with the 12 forwards available: