The Sports Daily > Crease and Assist
Game #74: Minnesota Wild at Buffalo Sabres, Saturday March 24, 2012 at 6:00pm (CST), First Niagara Center [GAME PREVIEW]

Record Pts Div. Rank G/G GA/G PP% PK%
Minnesota Wild (31-32-10) 72 4th Northwest 2.06 (30) 2.64 (17) 15.1% (26)

82.5% (14)

Buffalo Sabres
(36-29-10) 82 3rd Northeast 2.49 (22) 2.69 (18) 16.2% (19) 82.1%(15)


Minnesota Wild
Top 5 Scorers: G A Pts
1. #15 Dany Heatley 21 26 47
2. #21 Kyle Brodziak 19 21 40
3. #9 Mikko Koivu 10 27 37
4. #7 Matt Cullen 14 21 35
5. #10 Devin Setoguchi 18 14 32
Top 3 Penalty Minutes: PIM
1. #22 Cal Clutterbuck 95
2. #21 Kyle Brodziak 62
3. #28 Matt Kassian 55
Goaltenders: GAA SV%
1. #32 Niklas Backstrom (17-17-6) 2.44 .920
2. #37 Josh Harding (11-10-4) 2.65 .917
3. #31 Matt Hackett (3-5-0) 2.30 .927
Buffalo Sabres
Top 5 Scorers: G A Pts
1. #29 Jason Pominville 28 39 67
2. #26 Thomas Vanek 23 30 53
3. #21 Drew Stafford 17 28 45
4. #9 Derek Roy 15 26 41
5. #19 Cody Hodgson 18 19 37
Top 3 Penalty Minutes: PIM
1. #36 Patrick Kaleta 114
2. #6 Mike Weber 58
3. #8 Cody McCormick 54
Goaltenders: GAA SV%
1. #30 Ryan Miller (28-18-7) 2.51 .917
2. #1 Jhonas Enroth (8-11-3) 2.70 .916
3. #31 Drew McIntyre (0-0-0) 1.40 .944
. .


In the world of sports, following a team that plays the role of spoiler is often great fun.  I know I enjoy watching teams (players, coaches, management and especially fans) whine and gnash their teeth when a lowly team beats their more vaunted team.  Teams that are on the cusp of the playoff picture often provide the best entertainment, because they need every win and point to get them into the post-season.  However, it’s also great enjoyment watching the teams in the playoffs jockey for their position in the playoff picture.  If you can prevent a team from having home team advantage, so much the better.

In years past, when the Wild just missed the playoffs by a spot or two, being a spoiler was fun.  The thought was, well if we’re missing a playoff spot, let’s make it as miserable for those who are going to make it.  However, this year, the Wild aren’t going to miss the playoffs by a spot or two.  There is a distinct possibility that they just might get a top five, if not a top three, pick.  The Wild haven’t had such a prized pick in a true draft since their first draft when they selected Marian Gaborik third overall.  I know, I know, we got Beniot Pouliot in 2005 with the 4th overall pick, but that doesn’t count.  First, Pouliot was a bust for us and secondly, we got that fourth overall pick simply because of some bingo balls in a big drum.  If the Wild somehow manage to get into that third spot, they actually have a shot at the first overall pick because of that little thing called the draft lottery.  And just a casual perusal of this year’s draft eligible players, you truly want the best pick possible as this upcoming draft is one of the weaker ones in recent history.  For a team like the Wild who finally has an excellent pool of prospects, you want to keep that pool nice and deep.

With the Wild’s recent two-game winning streak, they’re wreaking havoc with playoff teams and those on the cusp.  I don’t care who you are, but beating Vancouver is always fun.  If there’s a fanbase that needs to be taken down a notch or two, it’s the Canucks.  And then there were the post-game antics of Calgary head coach, Brent Sutter.  He actually kicked a garbage can after the Flames’ loss in St. Paul on Thursday night.  That right there makes me smile.  However, the Wild just might be playing spoiler with themselves.  Right now, they would have the fifth overall pick.  While the chances that they’d get ahead (and by that I mean get behind) the Edmonton Oilers are slim, they could drop below both the New York Islanders and the Montreal Canadiens.  There’s no hope for any of us bottom dwellers to overtake the Columbus Blue Jackets unless one of us wins the draft lottery.  And that my friends would be the ultimate spoiler, because I truly do not want to see that team with the first overall pick.  I’d much rather that pick go to Edmonton.  Why?  Because at least I can trust the Oilers to develop that pick and to actually have some success, unlike the Blue Jackets.  Plus, the few fans left in Columbus are about as annoying as those in Vancouver.

Spoiler is fun.  Well until you spoil yourselves.  Hopefully Minnesota can work out some sort of perfect balance to make things difficult for other teams while not making things difficult for themselves when it comes draft time.  We shall see.

Injury Report

Minnesota:  Mike Lundin (lower body),  Guillaume Latendresse (concussion), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion, groin),     Niklas Backstrom (lower body), Justin Falk (leg), Matt Kassian (groin), Jared Spurgeon (concussion), Marco Scandella (lower body, probable)    

Jochen Hecht (concussion), Matt Ellis (knee)

Jack Jablonski  Jenna Privette

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