Bring on the rookie defensemen. While general opinion would say that starting four rookie defensemen in one game would be a negative, the feeling in Minnesota is actually one of excitement. After all, with the success thus far of Marco Scandella, Justin Falk and Nate Prosser, why not bring in one more? Tonight, recently signed and recalled defenseman Kris Fredheim will make his NHL debut. That means that four of the Wild’s blueliners in tonight’s game against the Colorado Avalanche spent significant time together as Houston Aeros last year.
The Wild has also recalled Casey Wellman today, but it appears he will not be in the lineup.
Fredheim’s recall came after Marek Zidlicky was injured in the Wild’s 4-2 win over Columbus on Tuesday night. Matt Cullen and Nick Johnson scored goals 20 seconds apart in the second period to rally Minnesota from a two-goal deficit. That set up Cal Clutterbuck’s game-winning one-timer in the third and a sixth victory for Niklas Backstrom.
The Avalanche are coming off a 6-3 road loss in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. The Avs built a 3-1 lead in the first period on goals by Jay McClement, Matt Duchene and David Jones, but crumbled in giving up five unanswered. Semyon Varlamov took the loss in goal.
Wild vs. Avalanche 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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All fans at tonight’s game will receive the third installment of the Wild Trading Card series. Tonight’s card features Backstrom. Remember, there’s a letter on the back of each card that will help form a hockey term. Spell the word, and you’ll be in line for some big-time prizes.
These two teams had some interesting on-ice confrontations last year as the Wild went 4-2-0 against the Avalanche. There were also some entertaining word wars between players in the newspaper, with even a member of the media getting involved.
Some of the key role players in those incidents (David Koci and Chris Stewart) are no longer wearing the burgundy and blue. Instead, the Avs are rolling out a young, talented group led by top scorer Duchene and prize rookie Gabriel Landeskog.
In those confrontations with the Avs last year, Clutterbuck was a key figure on the Wild’s side. A 19-goal scorer last year, Clutter is heating up again. After going eight games without a point, he’s now riding a three-game point streak with two goals and an assist.
Tonight, the Wild will have played seven rookies in just 19 games. Only the Philadelphia Flyers have played more with eight, but not on the blueline. The Wild will have played four rookie defensemen while Nashville is the only other NHL team to have played three rookie blueliners.
There is one veteran on the defensive corps tonight, and that's Nick Schultz. A fixture on the Wild blueline since 2001, Schultz will skate in his 700th NHL game tonight.
Look for Wellman to get into the lineup and take the spot of Brad Staubitz:
“We have a team full of fighters. When the game's on the line they're fighting, blocking shots, collapsing in front of the net, in scrambles. They find a way [to come back], and to protect a lead.”
- Mike Yeo on his team being able to rally from early deficits and hold on to late leads
D Erik Johnson is a native of Bloomington and spent one season with the Minnesota Gophers. Injured C Peter Mueller is also a Bloomington native. RW Chuck Kobasew spent two seasons with the Wild and appeared in 125 games.
Fredheim will be the first Wild player ever to wear #59 tonight.