The Sports Daily > Crease and Assist
Game #26: Minnesota Wild vs New Jersey Devils, Friday December 2, 2011 at 7:00pm (CST), Xcel Energy Center [GAME PREVIEW]

Record Pts Div. Rank G/G GA/G PP% PK%
Minnesota Wild (15-7-3) 33 1st NW 2.24 (28) 2.16 (5) 14.4% (23)

83.9% (12)

New Jersey Devils
(12-10-1) 25 4th Atlantic 2.30 (26) 2.74 (18) 12.2% (26) 94.4% (1)


Minnesota Wild
Top 5 Scorers: G A Pts
1. #9 Mikko Koivu 4 16 20
2. #15 Dany Heatley 6 6 15
3. #10 Devin Setoguchi 8 5 13
4. #7 Matt Cullen 8 4 12
5. #96 Pierre-Marc Bouchard 3 9 12
Top 3 Penalty Minutes: PIM
1. #16 Brad Staubitz 44
2. #22 Cal Clutterbuck 38
3. #25 Nick Johnson 23
Goaltenders: GAA SV%
1. #32 Niklas Backstrom (9-5-2) 2.07 .932
2. #37 Josh Harding (6-2-1) 2.10 .933
New Jersey Devils
Top 5 Scorers: G A Pts
1. #26 Patrik Elias 8 12 20
2. #14 Adam Henrique 5 10 15
3. #17 Ilya Kovalchuk 5 9 14
4. #9 Zach Parise 6 7 13
5. #8 Dainius Zubrus 7 5 12
Top 3 Penalty Minutes: PIM
1. #23 David Clarkson 46
2. #25 Cam Janssen 28
3. #22 Eric Boulton 19
Goaltenders: GAA SV%
1. #1 Johan Hedberg (7-4-1) 2.24 .920
2. #30 Martin Brodeur (5-6-0) 3.09 .887

 Welcome to December.  In the calendar year, we prepare to wrap up the end of the current year and transition into the new one.  It’s always a busy month, as we’re preparing for the big holidays (Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s) on top of our normally busy work/school schedules.  For college students, it’s a time for the mad rush of research papers and final exams before they head into their long winter break.  For those of us in the work force, there are end of the year projects so that our higher up’s can submit the final fiscal reports.  And if you’re like me, a person who works in customer sales on the phones, you’re helping customers find the right holiday gift in the right size and color, sometimes up to the last possible minute.  However, in the world of hockey, December is simply nearing the middle the of the regular season.  Even by the end of the month, there’s still a considerable part of the season left.

December is not often a kind month to the Minnesota Wild.  There have been seasons, where the month seems like an endless stream of losses with the occasional win.  It also tends to be the make or break month for the team.  This year, December will once again most likely serve as a reality check on whether or not they’re a playoff team.  Yes, Minnesota leads the Northwest Division (although Vancouver is close behind) and is in second place in the entire league.  But as many point out, whether or not they stay in those positions for an extended period of time has yet to be seen.  This month could also serve another challenge, because of the fifteen games this month, only six are at home.  Even worse, the opponents could make things even worse.  Just on the upcoming five-game roadtrip that starts on Sunday, the visits to California make me extremely nervous. 

Tonight, the Wild face off against the New Jersey Devils.  All-time, Minnesota is (2-5-2-2) against New Jersey.  I don’t know about you, but that’s not exactly a reassuring record.  When a team like the Wild needs the wins in order to continuing building on success, facing a team that has not been a good matchup for you might be a problem.  Plus, it’s always nice starting off a new month with a win.  Starting the month off against a team like New Jersey is not in our favor.  For example, the Wild will most likely once again look horrible on the power play.  Now, they normally don’t look so good with the extra man, but tonight it should look even worse.  Why you ask?  Simply because tonight, they’re facing the league’s number one penalty kill.  Some fans on the official message boards have made comments like “it’s too bad that you can’t decline the penalty like you can in football because we play much better even strength.”  That thought goes through the heads of the fans even more when Minnesota gets scored on shorthanded.  The Devils do have three short-handed goals to their name this season (although Minnesota has four of their own).  When you’re not playing so well with the extra man, the last thing you generally want to do is face a team that is very successful killing penalties, and can score when down a man. 

With December upon us, many start making their list of New Year’s Resolutions now.  For the Wild, that list can be as simple as “shoot the puck” and “improve power play.”  In fact, if they didn’t list anything beyond those (and managed to follow them), I’d be happy.  Although, if they could have a December that was like November, we should have a better idea of whether or not this team is truly playoff bound or simply playing dress-up. 

Injury Report:

Minnesota Guillaume Latendresse (concussion), Marek Zidlicky (concussion), Justin Falk (chest), Cal Clutterbuck (charley horse), Darroll Powe (charley horse)

New JerseyTravis Zajac (Achilles surgery), Jacob Josefson (clavicle surgery), Dainius Zubrus (ankle)  

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