The Wild placed forward Colton Gillies on waivers yesterday, and today, he was claimed by the last place team in the Western Conference - the Columbus Blue Jackets. The move came as Minnesota looks to shake things up in the second half of the season, and regain its early season form. If last week’s reassignment of blueliner Marco Scandella to Houston was intended as a wake-up call to the rookie, this latest move could be construed as a message to the entire team.
It doesn’t get easier for Minnesota as it takes on one of the hottest teams in the NHL tonight. The Wild has faced the Blues two times this season, both wins for the Wild at Xcel Energy Center, but St. Louis has been resurgent under Head Coach Ken Hitchcock and is among the top teams in the Western Conference.
On Thursday night in Chicago, the Wild scored first but three second-period Blackhawk goals proved to be the difference in a 5-2 loss. In the first period, Devin Setoguchi started off the scoring, putting up his first goal since returning from a lower body injury. Kyle Brodziak’s 12th goal of the year in the third pulled Minnesota within two, but the team couldn’t mount a comeback.
The Blues lost at home 3-2, in overtime, to the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night. The Blues had a 33-21 shot advantage and went up 2-1 on Jason Arnott's second goal of the game early in the second period, but couldn't hold on. The loss snapped a four-game win streak.
Wild at Blues 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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The Blues will be hosting a silent auction for Blues and NHL memorabilia. The Home Game Auction will be on the Scottrade Center concourse outside of Section 123. The silent auction will feature collectibles featuring St. Louis Blues and NHL legends. The auction closes at the start of the third period, so check out the items up for bid before the Zamboni doors close at the start of the final frame.
It’s been a tale of two seasons for the Blues: Before and after Hitchcock. Since taking over for Davis Payne on Nov. 6., St. Louis is 19-5-6 with Hitchcock at the helm. The Blues are the NHL’s best home team, compiling 17 wins in the Gateway City.
A big reason the Blues are among the best teams in the West: its goaltending duo of Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak. They have played in 22 games apiece, and have combined for the third best goals against average in the league, allowing an even 2 goals per game.
In the three games since his return from a lower body injury on Jan. 4, Devin Setoguchi has a goal, assist and has registered 12 shots on goal. His linemate, Dany Heatley, has a point in each of his last three games (one goal and two assists during that stretch). If the Wild are to get out of its mid-season funk, it needs its top wingers to produce.
Earlier in the season, the Wild seemed to respond to every challenge or difficulty thrown at them. After a loss to Chicago, an unhappy Head Coach Mike Yeo said to the media, “Let’s decide right now. We all talk about the playoffs, and that’s nice. But you don’t talk your way into the playoffs. This is when playoff teams are made – right now.”
Facing a red hot Blues team on the road, the Wild should be fired up to prove to its coach it is a team that is more than just talk.
In practice yesterday, Nick Johnson was skating on the second line with Matt Cullen and Cal Clutterbuck. Casey Wellman moved down to the fourth line, but Yeo acknowledged that things might not be the same against St. Louis as it was in practice. With the Wild still looking for a consistent offensive effort, don’t be surprised if there is some in-game line shuffling if Minnesota doesn’t start the way Yeo would like it to.
With Gillies gone, the Wild has 12 healthy forwards and all will play, but like previously stated, the lines aren’t set in stone:
“It’s not acceptable to play one good game and then not play the next game. t’s not, we cannot accept that.”
-- Mike Yeo finding consistency in the team’s play.
Blues Captain David Backes is a Minneapolis native and spent three seasons at Minnesota State, Mankato. Oshie won a Class A State Tournament title with Warroad. RW Jamie Langenbrunner helped Cloquet-Esko-Carlton to a state tournament berth back in 1992.
Fourteen Wild players have posted at least one multiple-point game on the season for a total of 32 multiple-point games. The Wild has lost just two games in regulation in which a player had more than one point.