The Sports Daily > Crease and Assist
GAME PREVIEW: Wild vs. Stars 1/20/2013 @ 7:00PM CST at Xcel Energy Center

Minnesota Wild  (1-0-0)  2pts  (1st in Northwest)

4.00 Goals For per Game (8th in the NHL)

2.00 Goals Against per Game (17th in the NHL)

13th ranked Power Play (28.6%)

1st ranked Penalty Kill (100%)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #15 Dany Heatley ~ 2G, 0A = 2pts

2. #11 Zach Parise ~ 0G, 2A = 2pts

3. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 0G, 2A = 2pts

4. #96 Pierre-Marc Bouchard ~ 1G, 0A = 1pt

5. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 1G, 0A = 1pt

Top 3 PIM's:

1. #28 Zenon Konopka ~ 7 PIM's

2. #22 Cal Cutterbuck ~ 2 PIM's

3. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 2 PIM's

Top Goaltender(s):

1. #32 Niklas Backstrom (1-0-0)  2.00GAA  .926%SP

2. #37 Josh Harding (0-0-0)  N/A






Dallas Stars  (1-0-0)  2pts  (1st in Pacific)

4.00 Goals For per Game (7th in the NHL)

3.00 Goals Against per Game (21st in the NHL)

6th ranked Power Play (50%)

15th ranked Power Play (60%)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #68 Jaromir Jagr ~ 2G, 2A = 4pts

2. #13 Ray Whitney ~ 1G, 1A = 2pts

3. #21 Loui Eriksson ~ 1G, 1A = 2pts

4. #3 Stephane Robidas ~ 0G, 2A = 2pts

5. #11 Derek Roy ~ 0G, 1A = 1pt

Top 3 PIM's:

1. #36 Philip Larsen – 6 PIM's

2. #4 Brendan Dillon – 2 PIM's

3. #10 Brendan Morrow – 2 PIM's

Top Goaltender(s):

1. #32 Kari Lehtonen (1-0-0)  3.00GAA  .925%SP

2. #41 Christopher Nilstorp (0-0-0)  N/A

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Zenon Konopka  Zenon Konopka tangles with Cody McLeod

The Minnesota Wild certainly knows how to tease its fans.  After an awful first period where the Wild looked lost, out of shape and overmatched by the Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota would take full advantage of their opponent's lack of discipline and strike twice on the power play which was part of a 3-goal 2nd period to transform the game.  In that 2nd period, the team looked more calm and under control and the lines started exhibiting more chemistry and by the end of the game the team performed as if it had more than just one week of training camp under its belt.  

Wild fans return

Dany Heatley looked re-energized and hungry as he pumped in two goals from the top of the crease and Zach Parise delivered on his promise to go all out on all of his shifts.  Parise charged fearlessly into the corners to dig out pucks and made many of the little plays that ultimately turned into scoring chances, and that was when he wasn't firing the biscuit on goal himself as the 8 shots he registered attest to.  But that's not to say there wasn't some juggling throughout the season opener.  Pierre-Marc Bouchard bounced from the 3rd line up to the 2nd line where he is probably more well-suited even before the 1st period was over.  Bouchard's late, 3rd period goal would seal a 4-2 victory for the home team and its fans who packed Xcel Energy Center with the 6th largest crowd in franchise history with over 19,298 going through the turnstiles.  

Ryan Suter, while he registered no points was a huge stabilizing presence along the blue line that the team hasn't had since Kim Johnsson was on the team.  Suter played smart, and did a fine job of holding the offensive zone allowing the Wild to sustain its offense longer a trait that is important but doesn't show up on a stat sheet.  Devin Setoguchi looked very fast all game long and he also was quite physical as well dealing out some big hits throughout the game.  Zenon Konopka did not hesitate to get involved with his fists, challenging Colorado's Cody McLeod early in the 1st period.  It may not have been the slugfest some fans were hoping for but make no mistake Wild fans, Konopka will always stand up for his teammates and will not hesitate to try to spark his team with a fight.  However, Konopka might wish he could be a bit more careful the next few weeks as he was gouged pretty horribly by a Jan Hejda high stick that gave him a mighty large zipper on the bridge of his nose to the tune of 30 stitches.  Ouch!  

One area of concern for me was the play of Niklas Backstrom.  Sure, he gave up just two goals but he looked really erratic in the crease and flopping around all over the place all game long.  Still, a win is a win.  Tonight the Wild will go with Josh Harding between the pipes, which is something we should expect to see a lot this season with so many back-to-back games.  Harding of course is the Wild's 'feel good' story of the forseeable future as he both tries to prove he's worthy of being a #1 goalie but also deal with his own battle with multiple sclerosis.  However I wouldn't expect opponents to feel sorry for Josh when he's in there.  

With a shortened season there is no rest for the wicked whether they be bloggers like myself or NHL teams and so after that 21-hour hockey marathon that is Hockey Day Minnesota the Wild have a game this afternoon against the Dallas Stars.  The Stars are coming off a 4-3 win over the Phoenix Coyotes last night and their aged line of 40-year olds Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney should not be discounted because of their advanced maturity. In fact, Jagr and Whitney had a tremendous opening night demonstrating their consumate professionalism and ability as athletes to stay in top physical shape.  Jagr currently leads the NHL (yes you read that correctly) in points with 4 (2 goal, 2 assists); and Whitney is not far behind with a 2 point night (1 goal, 1 assist) to his credit.  The Stars could be even better as they are without their young talented scorer Jamie Benn who is in the midst of a contract hold out.  I am so glad I have Jamie Benn on my fantasy team!?!?  Loui Eriksson traditionally plays well against the Wild and he is working well with the two well-seasoned veterans.  

The gritty team captain Brendan Morrow along with former Wild forward Eric Nystrom and Vernon Fiddler make the Stars bottom 6 pesky and physical.  But Minnesota's biggest challenge will be solving 6'4" Finnish netminder  Kari Lehtonen.  Lehtonen has done well against the Wild in the past, so Minnesota will have to use the same mantra it used last night which was be selfish and shoot the puck.  This is not a time for the Wild to try to be fancy and generous by hoping to set up teammates with a pretty goal.  If the Stars decide to give Christopher Nilstorp his first start of the season, Wild fans should know he's a very capable goaltender who had been playing very well for Dallas' AHL affiliate before the end of the lockout.  The more pucks they can put on Lehtonen the more they will wear them down.  Dallas' defense is fairly young and inexperienced and I think the Wild can use that to their advantage.  If their first game back from the lockout didn't push our guys physical limits a bit, a back-to-back may expose holes in the players' conditioning but considering our opponent is going through the same thing its all equal.  

Maybe we'll find out what sort of team we really have this early evening.  

Jack Jablonski & Jenna Privette