Tonight, when he takes his first shift, Matt Cullen will become the first Minnesotan to skate in his 1,000th NHL game in a Wild sweater. The accomplishment is just one of many for the Moorhead Spud and St. Cloud State Husky. But Cullen has always been about team accomplishments, like helping Moorhead to a state tournament berth every year he played there. Or getting St. Cloud State to the WCHA Final Five both years he played there. Or helping the Carolina Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup title in 2006.
Cullen has always been about the team, and you’re not going to hang around for 1,000 games or more if you’re not. Fortunately, Cullen brought his attitude to Minnesota for the past two seasons, and tonight he reaches a significant milestone in his home state.
While 1,000 games is nice for Cullen, he’s more concerned with helping the Wild snap a three-game losing streak and getting back on track. The Wild wrapped up a two-game road trip on Saturday with a 3-1 loss to Calgary. Dany Heatley scored the lone Wild goal while Nik Backstrom took the loss after stopping 33 of 36 shots.
The San Jose Sharks are looking for a fifth straight win after running their unbeaten streak to four against Washington. Patrick Marleau notched the game-winner and also added a pair of assists in a 5-2 win. Dan Boyle chipped in with three assists and Torrey Mitchell also had a goal and an assist.
Wild vs. Sharks will be broadcast natinonally in high definition on the NBC Sports Network with a start time at 6:30 PM. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
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All fans walking through the Xcel Energy Center doors tonight will receive a Wild stocking cap. It will be the second of three fleece giveaways this year. The series will end with a glove giveaway on February 9.
Tonight will also mark the return to Xcel Energy Center for Brent Burns. The former number 8, who was drafted in the first round by the Wild in 2003, eventually became the Wild’s all-time scoring leader among defensemen. Thus far in San Jose, he’s notched seven goals and six assists while playing in all 38 games for the Sharks this season.
Heatley’s goal on Saturday gives him a team-leading 13 on the year. It was the ninth time that he’s scored the Wild’s first goal, and he now has a goal in four of the last seven games.
The Burns return will have to take a backseat to Cullen, who has posted 523 points (191-332=523) over his 14 NHL seasons in Anaheim, Florida, Carolina, the New York Rangers, Ottawa and Minnesota. He currently ranks 32nd in games played among active NHL players and will become the seventh Minnesotan to reach the mark. Two other players – Keith Carney and Andrew Brunette – have hit the mark in Wild sweaters.
In the last meeting between the Wild and Sharks, it was Burns that delivered a hit on one of the players he was traded for, Devin Setoguchi. Seto missed the next 12 games with a lower body injury, and he wasn’t happy with the hit. As if he didn’t already have motivation for this game, he’s got more now.
David McIntyre was recalled from Houston yesterday and brings an element of speed to the front lines. He is expected to play, but the forward that comes out will be a gametime decision:
Marco Scandella was reassigned to Houston yesterday so he could find his game that was so strong at the beginning of the season. His departure clears the way for Justin Falk to return to the blueline corps:
Josh Harding will get the start tonight. Over his career, Harding is 0-1-0 with a 5.00 goals against average against the Sharks.
Two players will have to come out of the lineup tonight. Mike Lundin appears to be out among defensemen, but the forward will be a gametime decision.
"It’s such an incredible accomplishment for any player to do that. And then to see a player like Matt right now, who’s playing at the level he’s at with the type of season he’s having…it’s a real credit to how he takes care of himself and what kind of professional he is.”
Burns registered 183 points over his seven seasons in Minnesota…Injured RW Martin Havlat totaled 116 points over his two years with the Wild…Injured C James Sheppard registered 49 points over 224 games with the Wild…D Justin Braun is a native of Minneapolis and played his high school hockey at White Bear Lake.
Nick Schultz is the most tenured professional athlete in Minnesota. He has played in 723 games over 10 seasons with the Wild.