Cheering from a suite inside the Wells Fargo Center tonight will be a group of older gentlemen wearing Wild jerseys and keeping a close eye on the action. On the ice will be their sons, looking to put on a show for the men who sacrificed so much to support them in their quest to fulfill their dreams of playing in the National Hockey League. That sounds like motivation for a strong performance, but the Wild already has plenty of that. The team has learned that its captain, Mikko Koivu, will be out of the lineup with an upper body injury. Every player will have to scratch and claw to keep the Wild in contention, and that’s exactly what they did in St. Louis on Saturday after Koivu left the game.
The courageous effort wasn’t enough for the Wild to come home with a win over the Blues, but they did pick up a point in a 3-2 shootout loss. David McIntyre scored his first NHL goal, and Jared Spurgeon scored the first goal for a Wild defenseman since December 8 to help the Wild force overtime. Josh Harding was masterful in goal, stopping a career-high 47 shots.
The Flyers return home after three straight road games, including Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Nashville Predators. Sean Couturier and Wayne Simmonds picked up the Philly goals, while Ilya Bryzgalov took the loss after stopping 21 of 24 shots.
Wild at Flyers will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North with a start time at 6:00 PM. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
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Apparently, smoking indoors at public places is just fine in Philly. So if you’re looking to disgust those sitting around you tonight, make sure you swing into the Wells Fargo Center Cigar Bar prior to puck drop and let those carcinogens really seep into the fibers of your clothing.
If you watched the 24/7 series on HBO featuring the lead up to the Winter Classic, you might know more about the Philly players than you really should. One of the storylines centered on Claude Giroux, who had his breakout season interrupted by a concussion.
Giroux has since returned, and he hasn’t needed much time to recover. In his last 16 games, he’s tallied five goals and 15 assists. Giroux is still a young talent, and he’s got even more around him in rookies Matt Read and Sean Couturier, who are starting to light it up with 13 goals and nine goals respectively.
With Koivu out, Kyle Brodziak will see his ice time jump. When the Wild was rolling in November, Brodziak was lighting it up. He’s now posted a goal and an assist over the last two games and getting plenty of scoring chances. He was robbed several times by Jaroslav Halak in St. Louis, but the goaltending in Philly has been questionable at times this season. We’ll see if Brodziak can take advantage and build on his modest scoring streak.
If it feels like we’ve been down this road before, we have. Last year, as the Wild was jostling for playoff position, Koivu went down with a broken finger and missed 11 games. The team wasn’t able to sustain the run it was on, and eventually fell out of contention.
This year, the club as the opportunity to rewrite that story. Yes, Koivu is out for at least a week, but there are enough players in that lineup that can step in and get the job done. That starts tonight.
Matt Cullen will likely be the forward that gets the same, if not more time than Brodziak tonight. Cullen moves up to the top line to play alongside Dany Heatley and Nick Johnson. While it’s not the top line that started the year, it certainly offers a nice blend of speed, shooting and grinding.
Carson McMillan was recalled from Houston yesterday and will join the fourth line:
"It’d be foolish of us to try and get anybody to be him. It’s a big challenge for us, and we have to view it as such, and get excited about the opportunity to rise to it. A lot of people are probably writing us off right now…but the one thing I know is this team has a lot of character, and we need a lot of that right now.”
-- Mike Yeo on the challenge of facing this next stretch of games without Koivu
RW Matt Read was a four-year star with the Bemidji State Beavers.