Game #67: Minnesota Wild vs Colorado Avalanche, Tuesday March 8, 2011 at 7:00pm CST, Xcel Energy Center [GAME PREVIEW]

Game #67: Minnesota Wild vs Colorado Avalanche, Tuesday March 8, 2011 at 7:00pm CST, Xcel Energy Center [GAME PREVIEW]

Wild

Game #67: Minnesota Wild vs Colorado Avalanche, Tuesday March 8, 2011 at 7:00pm CST, Xcel Energy Center [GAME PREVIEW]

By

Record Pts Div. Rank G/G GA/G PP% PK%
Minnesota Wild (34-25-7) 75 3rd NW 2.56 (24) 2.56 (10) 20.3% (7)

83.7% (9)

Colorado Avalanche
(26-31-8) 60 4th NW 2.80 (11) 3.43 (30) 18.8% (10) 76.5% (30)

 

Minnesota Wild
Top 5 Scorers: G A Pts
1. #24 Martin Havlat 20 37 56
2. #9 Mikko Koivu 15 34 49
3. #8 Brent Burns 16 25 41
4. #15 Andrew Brunette 15 21 36
5. #7 Matt Cullen 12 24 36
Top 3 Penalty Minutes: PIM
1. #16 Brad Staubitz 125
2. #8 Brent Burns 88
3. #4 Clayton Stoner 62
Goaltenders: GAA SV%
1. #32 Niklas Backstrom (20-16-4) 2.36 .925
2. #60 Jose Theodore (12-8-3) 2.58 .921
Colorado Avalanche
Top 5 Scorers: G A Pts
1. #26 Paul Stastny 19 31 50
2. #9 Matt Duchene 21 28 49
3. #23 Milan Hejduk 19 28 47
4. #4 Jean-Michael Liles 6 36 42
5. #54 David Jones 23 14 37
Top 3 Penalty Minutes: PIM
1. #55 Cody McLeod 149
2. #28 David Koci 56
3. #3 Ryan O’Byrne 55
Goaltenders: GAA SV%
1. #31 Peter Budaj (13-13-4) 3.17 .897
2. #30 Brian Elliott (0-3-1) 3.94 .890
.


“If you feel empty, so used up so let down, if you feel so angry, so ripped off so let down, you’re not the only one, refusing to back down, you’re not the only one, so get up, let’s start a riot, a riot, let’s start a riot, a riot, let’s start a riot” are the lyrics of Seven Days Grace‘s hit song Let’s Start a Riot.  It sort of describes how I’ve felt a bit the last few games.  The team has teased Wild fans with good play in short sequences but it has not had the consistency that allowed it to claw back into the playoff picture.  The Wild could use a little anger to fuel a bit more urgency in its game as it plays teams that stand in its way of qualifying for the post season.  Last Sunday’s game against Buffalo was a perfect example of the way the team has played as of late.  Showing some resilience by battling back to tie the game at 2-2, but only to take the foot completely off the gas pedal and wasting a great opportunity with some incredibly careless play with the puck more or less gave the game away to the Sabres.  It was embarrassing.  Yes the point gained was helpful, but there is something to be said for the way a team loses or wins.  If you could describe it in athletic terms it was a player tripping over their own shoelace.  The loss cost Minnesota a potential opportunity to gain more ground but even the point caused the team to advance two places in the standings.  Check it out…


#1 Vancouver Canucks ~ 67GP  (42-16-9)  93pts
#2 Detroit Red Wings ~ 656GP  (39-19-8)  86pts
#3 San Jose Sharks ~ 66GP  (38-22-6)  82pts
#4 Chicago Blackhawks ~ 66GP  (37-23-6)  80pts
#5 Dallas Stars ~ 66GP  (36-23-7)  79pts
#6 Calgary Flames ~ 68GP  (35-24-9)  79pts
#7 Phoenix Coyotes ~ 67GP  (34-23-10)  78pts
#8 Los Angeles Kings ~ 66GP (36-25-5)  77pts
—————————————————————————-
#9 Minnesota Wild ~ 66GP  (34-25-7)  75pts 
#10 Anaheim Ducks ~ 66GP  (35-26-5)  75pts
#11 Nashville Predators ~ 66GP  (33-24-9)  75pts

As tight as things are you can start to see how the field is starting to stretch out.  No longer is there a logjam of just tied teams from 5th to 11th, now a four points separate that position.  With 3 point games, like the one last night between Dallas and Los Angeles which ended in a 4-3 overtime with for the Stars which vaulted them into 5th place, it makes it particularly difficult to gain ground on those teams that are ahead of you.  Tonight, as the battered and beaten Avalanche come to town they will have a bit of a chip on their shoulder as they probably blame the Wild for derailing their season.  How?  Right out of the gates it was the Colorado Avalanche leaving most of the rest of the division in its dust, and Chris Stewart was outstanding.  Everything seemed to be going Colorado’s way until the Wild played the Avs on November 27th, 2010.  In that game Stewart decided to fight Kyle Brodziak and in the process broke his hand.  Stewart’s injury was the start of a series of additional injuries that conspired to turn the team’s fortunes.  Combine that with some unimpressive goaltending and you had the makings of a free fall in the standings where Colorado currently sits in 14th place in the Western Conference today.  I have little doubt they’d love to play the role of spoiler and ruin Minnesota’s attempt to battle its way back into the playoffs by giving them a loss on home ice. 
    
Stewart would be traded just prior to the trade deadline, as would be goaltender Craig Anderson who was dealt to Ottawa for former Wisconsin Badgers’ star Brian Elliott.  Anderson has rediscovered his form with the Senators while Elliott appears to be in an NHL career death spiral.  Minnesota made no moves of significance at all.  The team has not been very good since the trade deadline, going 1-2-1 since.  Are the players feeling down because the team didn’t make a move?  Possibly, but it seems strange since it was team chemistry that allowed Minnesota to climb all the way to 5th place in the Western Conference at one point in February.  So why would they want changes to their roster?  Its tough to say, but if it is indeed post-deadline pouting then its both ill-timed and disappointing.  The Wild simply had far too little to offer apart from a few bluechip prospects and picks, neither of which would be a smart idea for an organization trying to rebuild its pool of young developing talent. 

The lack of a deadline move, coincided with the team losing its captain, Mikko Koivu to a broken finger.  The loss of Koivu’s minutes, ability to win draws as well as his offensive production has meant the rest of the team has to step up to replace all of those things and as the 1-2-1 post-deadline record indicates those results have been mediocre at best.  Koivu is expected to return in a week or so, but can the team turn its fortunes around in the meantime without him?  Wild.com’s Glen Andreasen reported that the team may actually have the return of Guillaume Latendresse this evening.  The Wild have missed Latendresse’s scoring ability all season and the possibility of his return was seen as another reason the Wild didn’t make a move for a scorer (which would’ve been quite expensive judging by the prices team’s paid to trade for those players) was because they felt he’d be ready to return which would be just as good if not better than making a deal for one.  Before anyone celebrates too much at Latendresse’s return to the Wild, please remember that his injuries were due large in part to his lack of training in the offseason that had him report to training camp woefully overweight.  Latendresse still managed to be fairly productive in his short time with the Wild, scoring 3 goals and 6 points in 8 games before being saddled by a sports hernia and groin issues.  A few surgeries in early December and he has been rehabbing since although its only been in the last few weeks that he’s managed to start skating again which is why his “maybe” status is a bit surprising.  I highly doubt Latendresse will amaze us early on, but as players, coaches, management always tell you that a player who has been on the shelf with an injury gets in shape pretty quickly once they start playing again.  Minnesota certainly could use a boost, even if it has to wait a few games before Latendresse gets back into game shape. 

There is no other way to slice it, this is definitely a must win game for the Wild.  Even dropping an overtime game to the Avalanche would be painful.  The margin of error for the team is getting thinner by the day, and Minnesota should worry less about things out of their control (whether other teams win or lose) and focus on what they can control.  Hopefully we see some fire tonight or this Wild fan may try to start a riot! 
   

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