The Minnesota Wild learned on Tuesday night that it’s captain and leader, Mikko Koivu, would be shut down for the next two weeks. While the news was disconcerting, Wild players no longer have to wait and hope for their best player to come in and save the day. If the Minnesota Wild can make a final push for a playoff spot, it will be done with the players in that locker room in Montreal, getting ready to face the Montreal Canadiens tonight.
It was those players that led the Wild to a big win on Sunday over San Jose, but also fell flat in a 4-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night. Niklas Backstrom took the loss in that game, stopping 11 out of 15 shots.
The Canadiens are already looking toward next year after losing for the fifth straight time on Tuesday. David Desharnais scored the only goal for the Habs, who fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-1. Carey Price stopped 20 shots in a losing effort.
Wild at Canadiens will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North Plus with a start time at 6:00 PM. To see what channel FSN Plus is located on with your provider, click here. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
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There are few atmospheres in any sport that compare with the party that is a Habs home game. In fact, Wild fans right remember last year’s game with the Canadiens at Xcel Energy Center when a boisterous throng of Habs fans threw their own little party in the stands and concourses.
It’s been a disastrous year for the proud tradition that is Montreal Canadiens hockey. There’s been a coaching controversy. A player questioned the team’s character, and was subsequently traded to Calgary. And then there was the issue of Scott Gomez, who once scored 33 goals in a season, but didn’t get his first of this season until February 9.
But there is talent on this team, and Wild fans who were at the Wild vs. Canadiens game last year saw P.K. Subban become the first defenseman ever to register a hat trick against Minnesota. Despite struggling at times this year, Subban has put up 24 points while playing all but one game.
Jared Spurgeon had his four-game point streak snapped in a shutout loss on Tuesday, but the diminutive defender has still picked up an assist in five of the last seven games. Spurgeon leads all Wild defensemen with 22 points, and his 19 helpers rank third on the team overall.
It’s pretty clear that recently acquired Nick Palmieri has made a solid early impression on his new team. While he has yet to register a point in a Wild uniform, Palmieri has been impressive in his ability to use his size deep in the offensive zone. He seems to get to the dirty areas and generate scoring chances because of it.
The Wild has two defensemen – Tom Gilbert and Kurtis Foster – currently on the roster that came over at the trade deadline. Another – Steve Kampfer – is in Houston and is knocking on the NHL door. But the player that will be asked to step up the most is Marco Scandella, who will play his first game in his hometown tonight.
Foster, Gilbert and Spurgeon will be asked to contribute to the offense and Nate Prosser, Justin Falk and Clayton Stoner will be counted on to shut other teams down. But Scandella will be asked to do it all, and he’s going to start seeing a lot of ice time in order to do that.
“We’re always about coming to the rink and getting better.”
-- Mike Yeo on on the team’s mentality with 19 games remaining on the schedule
RW Brad Staubitz was with the Wild for two seasons up until this week when the Canadiens claimed him off waivers.
The Wild has allowed two goals or fewer in almost half of its games (31 of 63) this year. Minnesota is 24-4-3 when allowing two goals or less. The Canadiens haven’t scored more than two goals in any of their last five games.