Last week, Carson McMillan was a surprise call up by the Minnesota Wild as the club prepared to face the Detroit Red Wings. Today, McMillan’s call up prior to taking on the Vancouver Canucks comes as no surprise considering he tallied his first NHL goal on his first NHL shot in his NHL debut against the Wings. It also comes as no surprise due to a rash of injuries affecting Wild skaters as the regular season winds to a close.
That depleted lineup gave the Red Wings all they could handle on Sunday, but a 4-2 defeat was the result. Brad Staubitz joined McMillan in the scoring column while Jose Theodore took the loss in goal.
The Canucks easily clinched the best record in the NHL, but they have sputtered recently in meaningless games. Vancouver is coming off back-to-back losses to the Edmonton Oilers, including a 2-0 defeat on Tuesday night. Roberto Luongo took the loss in goal, giving up two goals on 22 shots.
Wild at Canucks will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North at 9:00 PM. The game can be heard on WCCO 830 AM or online at Wild.com.
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Tonight, the Canucks will honor Hall of Fame coach Roger Nielson, whose signature moment was waving a white towel on the end of a stick during a playoff loss to signify surrender to bad officiating that night. The Canuck fans followed suit after that and started waving white towels in playoff games.
A loss to the Oilers doesn’t sit well with any team, so despite clinching home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, the Canucks are going to be a surly bunch tonight. Earlier this week, Head Coach Alain Vigneault berated his team in the middle of a practice as his team coasted through drills.
Still, by this time next week, any late season struggles will be forgotten by the Stanley Cup favorites, who could be headed toward a first round battle with the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks.
If the Canucks are going to snap out of their funk, they better figure out a way to slow down Brad Staubitz. The guy who hadn’t scored a goal in 79 games now has three in his last eight games and is coming off a two point game (1-1=2) against the Wings.
When it comes to the Canucks, Wild fans might be more excited to see him use his fists, but do you really want the hottest scorer on the team sitting in the box for five minutes?
The priority for the Wild is finishing the regular season with three wins, but giving some young players the chance to audition for next season is the silver lining to missing the playoffs. McMillan and Colton Gillies had impressive outings on Sunday, and four rookie defensemen held their own against a high-powered Detroit team. Now we’ll see what they can do against a higher-powered Vancouver squad.
After three games, the Wild will have an offseason to ponder the moves it will make. With youngsters in Houston primed to make the step to the next level in October of 2011, the Wild will have decisions to make regarding impending free agents. Andrew Brunette, Antti Miettinen, Chuck Kobasew, Jose Theodore and John Madden are free agents at the end of the season. Theodore is expected to back up tonight, and Madden is injured, but the other three will be in the lineup tonight.
Todd Richards will go with a very similar lineup to what he used in Detroit:
“He took a shot in that Tampa Bay game. I was walking behind him off the ice, and he could hardly make it to the locker room."
-- Todd Richards on the injury to Madden, who might have played his last game in the NHL.
D Andrew Alberts is a Minneapolis native and played high school hockey for Benilde-St. Margaret’s. D Keith Ballard is a native of Baudette. LW Mason Raymond spent two seasons with the UMD Bulldogs, who will face Notre Dame in the Frozen Four semifinals this afternoon.
With a win tonight, the Wild would be the only team to beat the Canucks three times this season.