Tonight, Andrew Brunette will become the second Minnesota Wild player to skate in his 1,000th game, and he’ll be the first who has played more games with Minnesota than any other team. The franchise’s second-leading scorer (113-190=303) will play his 457th Wild game tonight, but the big number is 1,000. Brunette doesn’t love talking about the feat, but when he does, he’s quick to point out the players and coaches who have helped him along the way. He also points out that he always thinks about the next game, which is the most important. Game 1,000 for Bruno is of utmost importance to the Wild, which enters post-All-Star break play just one point from a playoff spot and up against a team, the Los Angeles Kings, with the exact same point total.
The Kings also entered the break on a roll, winning their last three games. Jarret Stoll scored the lone goal in a shootout against the San Jose Sharks after Alexei Ponikarovsky forced overtime in the third period. Ryan Smyth also scored in the 3-2 shootout victory, while Jonathan Quick made 22 stops through overtime and four stops in the shootout.
Some tickets remain to see Brunette play his 1,000th game. Click here to see it in person.
Wild vs. Kings 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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The Top Ten Moments Puck Series continues tonight with number seven. The first 3,500 fans will receive a puck that commemorates the NHL returning to the State of Hockey.
Tonight’s game will mark the third meeting of the season between these two clubs with both contests being won by the road team, and both going into overtime. When LA beat the Wild in a shootout on October 25, they were in the midst of a 12-2-0 start. After Brent Burns snapped the Kings’ three-game win streak with the overtime game-winner on December 11, the Kings were in the middle of a 10-2-1 stretch. So how does a team that has put those kinds of runs together still find itself outside the playoff picture?
Four losing streaks of at least three games don’t help, and neither does losing seven-of-eight around the New Year. The Kings rebounded with three big wins over Phoenix, Boston and San Jose. Now, they come to St. Paul with a potent lineup led by All-Star Anze Kopitar, who ranks 12th in the League in scoring with 16 goals and 33 helpers.
Havlat racked up three assists as he and Burns helped Team Lidstrom to an 11-10 triumph in the All-Star Game. But notching three helpers in that game is a feat on par with eating three M&M’s at one time – not overly difficult (at least for a playmaker like Havlat).
But Havlat was doing just fine before the break, when teams actually tried to stop him and his teammates. He’s put up four goals in the last five games, and he’s got 10 points (6-4=10) in the last 11 contests.
Tonight is about two points in the standings, but it’s also about “Bruno” who will become the 261st player to reach 1,000 NHL games.
Brunette is seemingly friendly with everybody who steps into a Wild locker room, but he’s very close to fellow Twins season ticket holder, Nick Schultz. Coincidentally, Schultz might be the next player to reach 1,000 games in a Wild uniform. Already with 653 games under his belt at the age of 28, Schultz seems to be a shoo-in for the milestone. Like Brunette, he has that durability, which he showed in rebounding from a head injury on January 22 to play nearly 23 minutes the next game and post a +1 rating.
The Wild won’t bring up any extra forwards for tonight’s game, so the lineup will remain unchanged:
Six healthy defensemen are available tonight, and they’ll all be in the lineup:
Coming off the break, Backstrom will get his fourth straight start.
The Wild won’t have any extras for tonight’s game.
Guillaume Latendresse (abdominal) and Marek Zidlicky (shoulder) are expected to return to skating in the near future, although both will remain out of the lineup indefinitely. Marco Scandella (concussion) has not progressed any further and will remain unavailable.
"It’s a very significant number. To play 1,000 games, you’ve got to have the production on the ice. But for me, it goes beyond that and it’s what he does for the team…His leadership that he brings. The other thing is his character. You have to be a good teammate and good person to be around for 1,000 games. In this game, you get weeded out pretty quick if your character is in question. There’s no questioning his character.”
-- Todd Richards on the significance of Brunette’s 1,000th game
D Willie Mitchell skated in 288 games with the Wild and was a teammate with Brunette from 2001 through 2004. D Jack Johnson is a product of the Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep school in Faribault.
Brunette has scored in 44 NHL buildings and 27 of the 30 current arenas. The only ones he has yet to score a goal in are Prudential Center in New Jersey, CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh and Air Canada Centre in Toronto.