Ah, Ottawa. Home of the Senators, the nation’s capital and a whole lot of storylines for a game between the Minnesota Wild and Ottawa Senators in early October. For the Wild, it’s of course the first return to Scotiabank Place since the infamous equipment truck fire of 2009. Just a day after the Wild had beaten the Montreal Canadiens and a day before they were about to take on the Senators, a fire destroyed about half the team’s equipment. In the span of 24 hours, the team’s equipment staff had to piece together some semblance of gear, meaning sending someone back to Minnesota for backup gear, used gear and anything else short of old magazines that could be used for pads.
While the Wild has bed memories of Ottawa, Ottawa still harbors some bad feelings about a Wild player, who wasn’t here at the time. Dany Heatley was traded from the Senators to San Jose under less than ideal circumstances, and fans have been reluctant to forgive him. He’ll be making his second visit to Ottawa since that trade, and hopefully won’t have to deal with fans hurling his jersey onto the ice.
The Wild is coming off its first loss of the season yesterday – a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the New York Islanders. Minnesota trailed 2-0 after one, then turned on the pressure, but could only muster a Matt Cullen goal as the rally was stopped short. Rookie Brett Bulmer tallied his first NHL point with an assist on Cullen’s goal. Niklas Backstrom stopped 12 shots as the Wild gave up just 14 total shots, setting the record for fewest allowed in a road game.
The Senators are still searching for their first win, having dropped two in a row to start the year. On Saturday, Ottawa fell behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-0 after two periods. They mounted a furious charge back, but eventually left with nothing in a 6-5 defeat. Defenseman Erik Karlsson bagged four assists, while Daniel Alfredsson lit the lamp twice. College free agent signing Stephane Da Costa scored his first NHL goal, while Jason Spezza and Colin Greening also scored.
Wild at Senators will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North at 6:30 PM. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
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Tonight will mark the Senators’ home opener, and the team will pay tribute to the original Sens of 1992-93. Public address announcer Stuntman Stu will recognize 14 players from that team who will be honored before tonight’s game.
If there was a team as busy as the Minnesota Wild was during the first two rounds of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, it was the Senators. Thanks to some wheeling and dealing, Ottawa had three first round picks, and another in the second. One of the players taken was the “Persian Prince,” also known as Mika Zibanejad, selected with the sixth overall pick.
Zibanejad could be the face of Ottawa’s rebuilding project, if that’s indeed what they’re going through. But proven stars like Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Sergei Gonchar lead some to believe that there could be some surprises in store for the East if Ottawa is taken lightly.
Cullen has said he’s looking for a rebound year after being disappointed with his first season in Minnesota. He didn’t reveal his plans to score a goal every game, though. It remains to be seen if he’ll finish the season with 82 large in the goal column, but his speed and confidence seem to indicate he could be a force on that second line this season.
Two years ago during the Wild’s last visit, the media throng enveloped the Wild locker room to discuss the inferno. This year, a similar crowd is milling about, but they want to hear from one Wild player: Heatley. He will have all eyes on him tonight, but as dangerous as he and his linemates have looked in two games, it’s the Senators’ players who will have to watch him the closest.
Bulmer was advertised as an aggravating player who gets under the skin of opposing team’s stars. If New York’s John Tavares is officially a star now, consider Bulmer’s reputation accurate. The rookie was all over the Isles former top pick, hammering him into the boards and absorbing some retaliation in the process.
Bulmer was moved up to the second line in Pierre-Marc Bouchard’s absence, and that’s where he’ll be again today: