The Minnesota Wild will play its last game before the All-Star break, and it will be the biggest matchup of the season to date. The Wild has a chance to leapfrog tonight’s opponent, the Colorado Avalanche, but the club will have to put a halt to an 11-game road-losing skid. A win with the team still without Mikko Koivu, would be a huge boost going into a six-day break. The Wild would come out of it the break in playoff position, and the prospect of Koivu returning shortly after the break.
Minnesota certainly has reason to feel good heading into tonight after a resounding 5-2 win over the Dallas Stars on Saturday night. Twice trailing by a goal, the Wild took a 4-2 second period lead with three goals in 59 seconds from Cal Clutterbuck, Chad Rau and Kyle Brodziak. Devin Setoguchi had a goal and an assist, and Dany Heatley led all scorers with a goal and two helpers. Josh Harding earned the win by stopping 23 of 25 shots.
The Avalanche finished up a trip to the West Coast on a losing note on Sunday in a 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. After falling behind 3-0, Ryan O’Reilly and Milan Hejduk scored third period goals, but the Ducks held on. Jean-Sebastien Giguere took the loss after stopping 15 shots.
Wild at Avalanche will be broadcast locally in high definition on NBC Sports Network (previously Versus) with a start time at 8:00 PM. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
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It’s KYGO Puck Pack night tonight, so fans can get four tickets, four sodas or beers and a $10 Altitude Authentics Gift Card for the low, low price of $98.
Last year, the Avalanche pulled off two major deals, getting Erik Johnson, Jay McClement, Semyon Varlamov and a first round pick in exchange for Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk and three high draft picks. As of now, it looks like the Avs have ended up on the short end as both Stewart and Shattenkirk are thriving with the Blues, and Varlamov isn’t even the number one option in goal right now.
But few teams have drafted as well as the Avs have in recent years, and it’s those high picks that have this team in contention for a playoff spot after a disastrous swoon last year. Matt Duchene is the unquestioned star of this team, but rookie Gabriel Landeskog is just 19 and leads the team with a +11 rating. The second overall pick in last June’s draft in St. Paul has posted nine goals and 22 points in his first 48 games.
Heatley hasn’t been putting up the amount of points he’s used to seeing over his stellar career, but when he’s going, the Wild is too. He broke out in a big way on Saturday, not just because he had three points, but he was making those plays that elite NHL players make.
After four straight losses and finding his team out of playoff position for the first time since November, Head Coach Mike Yeo looked for a jolt. That came in the callup of four players from Houston who all played in Saturday’s win. Coming out of the lineup were veterans Mike Lundin, Brad Staubitz and Marek Zidlicky.
Whether or not the new faces had to do with the Wild’s inspired effort is unknown, but they all were factors in the win, and have earned the right to fight for two huge points tonight.
Our All-Star is injured, but we’ve got quite a bit of young talent already on this Wild team, with more coming. The Wild has used 11 rookies this season, and one of those is Nick Johnson, who has been added to the roster of 12 rookies who will take part in All-Star Weekend during Saturday’s Skills Competition.
Don’t expect Yeo to do much tinkering with the lineup that was so strong on Saturday:
"I’m sure he really believed in himself, but I don’t know if he would have expected that, at this time of year, he’d be playing with the top line. And going to the All-Star Game. But it’s a real credit to him.”
-- Mike Yeo on Johnson being picked to replace Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at NHL All-Star Weekend
C Peter Mueller and D Erik Johnson are both natives of Bloomington.
The Wild is 8-1-2 in its last 11 games played in Denver.