We’re now three days into November, so it seems like a good time for the Minnesota Wild to start playing a team not named the Edmonton Oilers or the Detroit Red Wings. The Vancouver Canucks fit that description. Last year’s Western Conference champs and the Wild’s fiercest rivals in the Northwest Division make their first visit to Xcel Energy Center this season.
The Wild is coming off two straight games against the Red Wings that saw them take four points in the home-and-home set. On Tuesday, it was Mikko Koivu’s late-game heroics that steered the Wild to the 2-1 overtime victory. It was his tip-in of a Justin Falk shot that tied the game with one minute remaining in regulation. Koivu then made the play that led to Devin Setoguchi’s OT winner. Of course, the comeback was made possible by a masterful 36-save performance from Josh Harding, who moved to 2-0-1 on the year will of his starts coming against the Wings.
The Canucks won their second straight game on Tuesday night in a 5-1 thumping of the Calgary Flames. Alex Edler led the way with a goal and two assists, while Alex Burrows tallied the game-winning goal. Cody Hodgson and Chris Higgins also lit the lamp. Roberto Luongo stopped 28 of 29 shots faced.
Wild vs. Canucks will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North with a start time at 7:00 PM. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
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Tonight marks the first Wild home game during Movember, the month when Wild players grow mustaches to raise money and awareness for cancers affecting men. Some of us have trouble establishing a good growth on the upper lip in just four days, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a big-time contribution early and often. Donations to the Wild cause will be accepted at the Community Relations booth outside Section 124.
A visit from the Canucks always brings the entertainment. They’ve always been a team Wild fans and players get riled up about. Outside the East Coast, there probably wasn’t a region more excited about Roberto Luongo sieving out and the Boston Bruins winning the Stanley Cup than right here in the upper Midwest.
As Wild fans watched Luongo get pulled time after time in the Cup Finals, they flashed back to watching him make that same skate from crease to bench at Xcel Energy Center. Unfortunately, it’s doubtful that we’ll get that chance tonight. Head Coach Alain Vigneault is onto us, and he’s expected to go with Cory Schneider between the pipes tonight.
Harding will get his first non-Red Wing start tonight, and he’s certainly earned it. Even with Niklas Backstrom performing very well early in the year, Harding has been scorching. While there is far from a goaltending controversy in St. Paul, you don’t pull a guy who has stopped 72 of the last 73 shots he’s faced.
You wouldn’t think the tests could get any tougher for the Wild’s frat boy blueline, which is coming off two straight games against the puck-controlling Wings and allowing just one goal. Trying to keep track of which Sedin is which can be pretty daunting as well. The young foursome of Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon, Nate Prosser and Justin Falk will get that task tonight, and it remains to be seen what happens when Clayton Stoner, Greg Zanon and Mike Lundin get healthy and return to the lineup.
Today’s newspapers talked a lot about an on-ice meeting between Head Coach Mike Yeo, and defenseman Marek Zidlicky. Yeo has said he’d like Zid to get to “another level,” and Zidlicky admitted that he knows he “can be better.” If Zidlicky was challenged by his coach, look for him to come out firing against Vancouver.
The Wild has reassigned Matt Kassian to the Houston Aeros, meaning there are no extra forwards available tonight:
Stoner is nearing a return from an injured hand, but it’s unlikely he plays tonight:
Harding gets the start despite less than stellar career numbers against the Nucks. He’s 0-3-0 with a 4.37 GAA and a .843 save percentage.
There won’t be any healthy scratches tonight as Stoner is still considered injured.
Lundin (back) and Zanon (groin) are out, while Stoner (hand) is doubtful.
"We looked at the schedule. We don’t play Detroit again until March, so it’s probably not fair to make [Harding] wait until the next Detroit game.”
-- Mike Yeo on letting Harding face a team other than the Red Wings.
D Andrew Alberts was born in Minneapolis and played his high school hockey at Benilde-St. Margaret’s. D Keith Ballard is a Baudette native and won a national championship while playing for the Minnesota Gophers. C Andrew Ebbett played in 49 games with the Wild in 2009-10. Injured LW Mason Raymond played two seasons of college hockey at Minnesota-Duluth.
The goals haven’t been coming in droves for the Wild, but it hasn’t mattered too much thus far. The Wild is 3-1-0 when scoring two or fewer goals in a game this season.