The Minnesota Wild and Buffalo Sabres are in different conferences but similar situations. Both teams are just one win away from joining the top eight in their respective leagues and putting themselves in playoff position. The only other difference as that while the Sabres keep closing the gap because teams in front of them are losing, the Wild can’t seem to make up any ground because their competition keeps winning.
The Wild did their part on Thursday night in rallying from an early deficit to beat the Rangers, 3-1. Recently recalled Casey Wellman scored his first goal of the season, which stood as the game-winner. Kyle Brodziak and Pierre-Marc Bouchard also scored. But the story on this night was Jose Theodore, who topped the 40-save mark for the second straight time – both in wins. This time, Theo turned away 40 of 41 shots in a stellar performance.
The Sabres have picked up at least a point in each of their last six games, including yesterday’s come-from-behind victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. After falling behind 2-0, Drew Stafford, Tyler Ennis and Andrej Sekera put the Sabres in front. After Philly tied it, Jason Pominville and Nathan Gerbe picked up goals to put the game away. Ryan Miller earned the win with a 33-save effort.
There are still good tickets remaining for yet another huge game with playoff implications. Click here to secure your seats.
Wild vs. Sabres will be broadcast locally in high definition on KSTC-TV Channel 45 at 5:00 PM. The game can be heard on WCCO 830 AM or online at Wild.com.
Click here to receive Minnesota Wild broadcast alerts/game day previews each Wild Game day.
The first 10,000 fans inside the gates of Xcel Energy Center will receive a pack of six Upper Deck Wild hockey cards. Kids, don’t let your mom throw these out. They could be worth a lot of money some day.
The Wild met the Sabres once last year, just a couple weeks after goaltender Ryan Miller endeared himself to America with his brilliant performance at the 2010 Olympics. That night, the Sabres were playing the second of a back-to-back, and Miller was given the night off. The Wild took advantage of backup Patrick Lalime, who was nearly booed off his home rink.
Once again, the Sabres are playing their second game in as many days, but with points so crucial, they may rely on Miller again. While his stats aren’t close to his Vezina brilliance from a year ago, he is the man behind this recent Sabre surge in the standings.
With another slick connection with Marty Havlat that resulted in a big goal at Madison Square Garden, Bouchard continued his trend of scoring huge goals in the late stages. Bouchard now has a point in each of the last four games, and has picked up eight over the last eight contests. The Wild is now 7-0-1 when Butch lights the lamp.
When Cal Clutterbuck played the night after taking a vicious hit to the head from Trevor Gillies, it was assumed he was fine. But yesterday, Clutterbuck missed the Wild’s practice, and it was revealed he was visiting the doctor to get looked at for an “upper body” injury. An extended absence for Clutterbuck would be a serious blow to a team that gets a huge energy boost when number 22 is on the ice.
In his brief NHL stint at the end of last season and early this season, it was clear that Wellman had the skills to play at this level. But the points weren’t coming for the speedster and the team sent him to Houston to find his scoring stride. Wellman started picking up points, but he also started piling up missed games due to injury. After receiving a clean bill of health at the end of the last month, Wellman started piling up points in Houston.
In his first game back with the big club, Wellman notched his first-ever game-winner. But even bigger was his hustle play that knocked a way a loose puck in the Wild crease before a Ranger could punch it in.
Clutterbuck is not expected to be available, but the Wild will still benefit from Chuck Kobasew’s return. Warning: the lines could look a lot different tonight than what you see here:
There could be changes on the back end as well as Cam Barker nears a return. The guess is that he’ll remain out at least one more contest:
And since there are decisions to be made up front and on the blue line, there might as well be one in goal. Theodore will get the start considering his recent hot streak.
If Clutterbuck is unavailable, there won’t be a healthy scratch tonight.
Clutterbuck (upper body) is considered day-to-day…Kobasew (illness) is expected to return after missing two games…Barker (upper body) is questionable…Guillaume Latendresse (abdominal), James Sheppard (knee), and Mikko Koivu (hand) are out.
""I don't know if I need to be concerned yet. I'll wait until I hear something from the doctor or [Wild athletic trainer Don Fuller]."
-- Todd Richards following Saturday’s practice on the status of Clutterbuck
D Jordan Leopold is a native of Golden Valley and captained the Minnesota Gophers to a National Championship in 2002…LW Thomas Vanek helped the Gophers to a title the following year…RW Drew Stafford played his prep hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault.
The Sabres have 11 Americans on their roster, which is more than any other team in the NHL.