The Minnesota Wild will put its top spot in the Western Conference on the line tonight when the New Jersey Devils visit Xcel Energy Center for the first time in two years. The Wild will be bidding adieu to St. Paul after tonight, embarking on a five-game road trip beginning Sunday in Anaheim. It looks as if the Wild will be playing this game without Cal Clutterbuck, who suffered a severe charley horse in Wednesday’s 3-2 shootout win at Edmonton. With his absence, Devin Setoguchi will go back to the top line, while Casey Wellman will skate on a line with Matt Cullen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
The Devils will play the second game of a four-game road trip tonight, and it did not start out well on Wednesday in Colorado. Ilya Kovalchuk scored New Jersey’s only goal in a 6-1 thumping by the Avs. Martin Brodeur took the loss while making 19 saves.
Wild vs. Devils 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’s game program sellers are members of the East Ridge High School hockey team. This team experienced tragedy on October 14th when two of their teammates were in a car accident that took the life of one of the team’s stars, Braedon Hyland, at the young age of 18. Former Wild fan favorite Wes Walz had the pleasure of knowing and coaching Braedon last year. Be sure to purchase a game night program from the East Ridge hockey team at tonight’s game for $3. A portion of the proceeds will go to the B & B Fund, which was set up to help families involved with medical expenses.
In conversations about the best Minnesotan currently playing in the NHL, Zach Parise’s name figures to be mentioned most often. The Prior Lake native has shown how valuable he is in New Jersey playoff runs and of course the run to the silver medal by the United States Olympic team in 2010.
With six goals and seven assists this year after missing much of last season with a knee injury, Parise ranks third on the Devils in scoring. His progress will be closely monitored by everybody in the League due to his impending free agency at the end of the season.
If he can pick up a goal or an assist tonight, Koivu will extend his scoring streak to a career-high eight games. Since the streak started on November 17, the Wild captain has put up three goals and seven assists. Koivu now holds a firm lead in the Wild scoring race with 20 points (4-16=20).
Tonight’s matchup will be the seventh game at home in the last eight. After tonight, the Wild will play five straight road games and eight of the next 10 away from Xcel Energy Center. Thus far, the Wild has gone 9-4-1 at home, and another win tonight would set them up well before heading to the West Coast.
Prior to joining the Western Conference, Dany Heatley was feasting on Eastern teams while skating for the Atlanta Thrashers and Ottawa Senators. The Devils were one of his many victims. In 29 games against them, he scored nine goals and added 15 assists.
Like Clutterbuck, Darroll Powe also suffered a charley horse on Wednesday, but he is expected to be ready to go. Cody Almond has a chance to get in the lineup tonight:
"I’m a believer that shooters shoot. Guys that are goal scorers…sometimes they might have a stretch where they’re not scoring as much on a shootout. But I believe those are the guys that you have to continue to get out there.”
- Mike Yeo on his philosophy in picking his shootout participants
C Parise was born in Minneapolis and played his prep hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary’s. C Ryan Carter is a native of White Bear Lake and played two seasons of college hockey at Minnesota State, Mankato.
Minnesota has beaten the New Jersey Devils just once before with that win coming on March 4, 2003.