Hockey Day Minnesota has become an annual tradition to celebrate all levels of hockey. Filled with high school hockey games played outdoors, great college matchups and plenty of emotion-filled stories, you sometimes wonder if the Wild game at the end of the night will be able to live up to its position as the final game of the day.
Thanks to last night's 5-4 Wild shootout win in St. Louis, there's just no way tonight's game won't live up to the hype and expectations that surround a grand finale. Before yesterday's game, both teams talked about the importance of the contest, not only to earn points in the standings, but to go into tonight's game feeling good. From the drop of the puck, it was an intense, physical battle and neither team let up for rest of the way.
After Patrik Berglund opened the scoring less than two minutes into the game, Minnesota responded 59 seconds later with Andrew Brunette's 15th of the season. St. Louis again took the lead off an Andy McDonald goal before Cal Clutterbuck registered his first of the night in the second. David Backes gave St. Louis another lead scoring just 19 seconds into the third period, but Clutterbuck yet again tied things up for the Wild quickly, scoring 22 seconds later. Backes netted his second of the evening minutes later and it seemed as though the Blues had finally stopped the Wild hopes of a comeback, taking a fourth lead of the game.
But Minnesota was nothing if not resilient throughout the contest and defined it when it pulled Jose Theodore for the extra attacker and Martin Havlat scored with 57.6 seconds left. Minnesota fought to take one point out of regulation and another when John Madden secured the win with a goal in the ninth round of a shootout. Theodore earned the win stopping 31 shots on the night, while Jaroslav Halak took the shootout loss with 23 saves.
Tonight's finale of Hockey Day Minnesota is close to a sellout. Don't risk buying fake second-hand tickets. Make sure your seat to the game is guaranteed with Ticketmaster's TicketExchage.
Wild vs. Blues will be broadcast locally in high definition on FOX Sports North at 8:00 PM. The game can be heard on WCCO 830 AM, or online at Wild.com.
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Fans attending tonight's game can take part in the Hockey Day Minnesota food drive, where they'll receive a buy-one-get-one free ticket voucher to a future Minnesota Wild game during the 2010-11 season for donating a minimum of $5 or five non-perishable food items. All donations will benefit Second Harvest Heartland and Great Plains Food Bank.
After helping some hungry people in need, fans can take care of their own hunger with Year 10 rollback pricing on select concessions. Fans can get certain food and drinks for the price the items were 10 years ago, during the Wild's inaugural season.
After not facing each other all season the Wild and Blues face each other for the second time in 25 hours tonight. Just 57.6 six seconds away from two points in last night's game, the Blues will be especially desperate tonight. The Blues sit in the 13th spot in the West, seven points out of a playoff spot and have to start making some moves if they don't want to be left behind in the ulta-compeitive race to the finish.
Minnesotan Backes continued his impressive performance this season, notching two goals in last night's contest to lead the Blues with 20 markers on the year. Jay McClement is also on a hot streak, gaining five points (1-4=5) in his last six games, while Berglund has 11 points (5-6=11) in his last 11 contests.
Clutterbuck started the season on an absolute tear, quickly jumping out as the team's leading scorer. As the season's gone on, Clutter has understandably cooled and many of his teammates have challenged his position as the team's top goal scorer. But much like his play on the ice, Cal showed last night that he's going to be feisty when it comes to the top scorer title. Clutterbuck's two goals last night have him tied with All-Star Martin Havlat for the team lead with 16 markers on the year. It was just the second time Cal has tallied two goals in a single game and the winger now has four points (2-2=4) in his last four games.
It's Hockey Day Minnesota and that means a day filled with live high school and college hockey on FOX Sports North will once again be capped with a Wild game. This year's Wild contest should have plenty of excitement because of the aforementioned battle in the Western Conference playoff chase and the fact that tonight's game will be 25 hours after an intense battle with the Blues.
Minnesota's also looking to establish some dominance in St. Paul. The team has been asked all season why it has a better record on the road than at Xcel Energy Center and certainly wants to perform well in front of the home crowd. The Wild may finally be on to something because it has won three straight in St. Paul.
Niklas Backstrom will be back in net for the Wild tonight and that's bad news for Blues fans. Since missing four games with a hip flexor strain in January, he has been on a tear. He's 4-2-0 with a 1.49 GAA, .956 SV% and two shutouts over his last six starts. He's allowed just three goals in the month of February.
The Wild will again go with the minimum number of forwards:
Backstrom will get the start in St. Paul on Hockey Day.
Everybody that’s healthy will be in the lineup.
Marek Zidlicky (shoulder) continues to practice with the no-contact jersey and is considered day-to-day but will not play tonight. Guillaulme Latendresse (abdominal) has resumed skating in St. Paul but no timeline has been given for his return. Marco Scandella (concussion) skated for the first time yesterday in St. Paul but will remain unavailable.
"We weren't perfect, but I still liked the way that we played. We battled, we competed and we played extremely hard and you want the guys to get rewarded for their effort. So, to come out with two points, I'm happy for the guys because I think they put it on the line tonight and deserve the two points."
-- Todd Richards talking to the media after Friday's comeback win.
RW Backes is a native of Minneapolis and played three seasons at Minnesota State Mankato (2003-06)...D Erik Johnson is a native of Bloomington and played one season at the University of Minnesota (2006-07)…C T.J. Oshie played high school hockey in Warroad.
The Wild is 2-1-1 all-time on Hockey Day Minnesota, including a 4-2 win over Columbus last season (1/23).