Happy Hockey Day Minnesota! Today, the State of Hockey gloriously celebrates the game we all love. The day is dedicated to Jack Jablonski, the Benilde-St. Margaret’s player who suffered a spinal cord injury in a game last month, and his family. The Wild, FOX Sports North and Wells Fargo will combine to host an all-day telethon as part of Hockey Day Minnesota, beginning at 9 a.m., raising money for the Jack Jablonski Trust Fund. As for the games, Hockey Day festivities feature three Minnesota High School Hockey games, and Minnesota Gophers hosting Colorado College. Tonight, the celebration climaxes as the Wild hosts the Dallas Stars with an 8 p.m. puck drop.
In addition to the HDM festivities, before the game, there will be a ceremony commemorating Matt Cullen's 1,000th career NHL game. He will be presented with a silver stick. Cullen's 1,000th game came on Jan. 10 against the San Jose Sharks.
Yesterday, the Wild made a plethora of moves within the organization, calling up four players from Houston. Matt Kassian, Jed Ortmeyer, Nate Prosser and Chad Rau were all recalled, while Casey Wellman and David McIntyre were sent back to Houston. With the combination of the shakeup, its return to Xcel Energy Center and the Hockey Day Minnesota festivities, the Wild looks to get back on track after a tough four-game road swing.
On Thursday, the Wild lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-1. It was the second game of the Wild Fathers/Sons Trip and the team’s fourth consecutive road game. Nick Johnson scored the team’s lone goal. Niklas Backstrom made 29 saves in the loss.
Last night, the Stars hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning and lost 2-1. Tom Wandell scored the lone Dallas goal. Kari Lehtonen finished with 20 saves in the loss.
Wild vs. Stars will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North with a start time at 8:00 PM. Hockey Day Minnesota coverage on Fox Sports North starts at 9 a.m. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
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As earlier stated, it’s Hockey Day Minnesota, so anyone going will be celebrating the greatest game in the world. If you’re interested in more tangible rewards for celebrating HDM, all fans in attendance will receive a commemorative Hockey Day Minnesota puck.
In the Western Conference, the Stars are one point behind the Wild, and is also slumping going 0-3-1 in its last four contests. The Stars are led by All-Star Jamie Benn, who’s 17 goals and 42 points ties him with the team lead in both categories. Benn isn’t the Stars’ only offensive threat as Loui Eriksson also has 42 points on the year.
After spending last season with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League, Sheldon Souray has resurrected his career with the Stars. The 35-year-old has 17 points this season, and leads all Stars blue liners.
On the Wild’s four-game road swing, goal scoring was hard to come by. The team registered six goal and Kyle Brodziak was in on half of them. Brodziak registered a goal and two assists on the road trip, and his 12 goals on the year is good for second best on the Wild. He is on pace to set a career-high in goals this season.
If the playoffs started today, the Wild would be out of the post-season picture. However, since the playoffs don’t start today, there is still time to right the ship, but it has to start soon. No better time than at home on Hockey Day Minnesota.
With Mikko Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Guillaume Latendresse out with injuries, if the Wild hopes to make the playoffs, healthy players need to step up. If yesterday’s roster moves were any indication, the Wild is looking for a spark and is willing to shake up its lineup to get the team back on track.
In three-straight games, Wild players have been tagged with unsportsmanlike conduct minors for disputing calls with the refs. This is a sign of the frustration level of the team, and the Wild can’t continue to shoot itself in the foot. Expect to see a much more discipline team at Xcel Energy Center tonight.
Tonight’s Wild lineup will look drastically different than we've seen with all three forwards from Houston in. That means Eden Prairie native Chad Rau will make his NHL debut on Hockey Day:
Koivu (upper body) is listed as “week-to-week” and will not play tonight. Bouchard (concussion), Latendresse (concussion) and Jarod Palmer (concussion) are all out.
"We need to make some changes right now. We’re not going to just stand around and hope that things get better. Whatever it takes to try to energize our group, to try to gain some confidence or to get a good feeling coming to the rink."
-- Mike Yeo on the recalled players
D Alex Goligoski (Grand Rapids) and C Toby Peterson (Minneapolis) are Minnesota natives.
Tonight the Wild will wear its alternate, green jerseys with the Minnesota patch. This season, the Wild is 3-3-2 in the forest green sweaters.