The game Operation was good for a laugh as a kid as you watched someone struggle to extract the wishbone or funny bone without causting the patient’s buzzer to go off. Of course, in the real world such medical procedures are no laughing matter. Lately the Minnesota Wild are resembling a small hospital or clinic with the amount of players succumbing to injuries. That has meant younger players are being given more opportunities and its been a mix of both good and bad.
The Arizona Coyotes feel like the near decade-long cycle of futility is finally at an end as they sit atop the Pacific Division. To try to solidify their hold as the division leader, Coyotes General Manager John Chayka would swing a deal with the New Jersey Devils to bring in former 1st Overall pick Taylor Hall to the club. The Wild are coming off a loss to the Golden Knights while the Coyotes earned a victory over the Sharks in Hall’s first game with his new team. Can Minnesota earn a big road win in Arizona?
1st Period Thoughts: The two teams had good energy to start, but open ice was tough to find. Minnesota would get lucky with Arizona being caught with too many men to get the first power play of the game. The Wild’s power play looked disorganized and struggled mightily just to enter the offensive zone. The Coyotes would try to counter attack shorthanded and it was Brad Hunt taking a hooking penalty to slow down Brad Richardson. After a small amount of 4-on-4 hockey the Coyotes went on the power play. Arizona did not have much trouble getting set up in the offensive zone and they moved the puck well to set up Phil Kessel and Hall with prime shooting opportunities. Minnesota just couldn’t get a stick on the puck to clear the zone but some Arizona misses allowed them to escape unscathed. Arizona looked confident while the Wild seemed to be just a bit off in its execution on passes. Devan Dubnyk had to be sharp as the Coyotes would dart into the Wild zone and fire a quick shot and then look to pounce on a potential rebound. The Coyotes’ defense did a pretty good job at forcing Minnesota to settle for shots from the perimeter. Taylor Hall and Minnesota’s Carson Soucy would get sent to the penalty box for cross-checking. The ice was now a bit more open 4-on-4. Minnesota didn’t seem to know what to do other than defend through the first minute of 4-on-4 play. Eventually they’d break out of the Wild zone with speed and it was Eric Staal setting up Matt Dumba near the top of the crease but for whatever reason he wasn’t able to create a shot on goal. Darcy Kuemper wasn’t tested much at all throughout the first period, as Minnesota only seemed to have time to just shuffleboard the puck on goal. The Coyotes had a dangerous chance from its 4th line as Christian Fischer set up Richardson for a chance that Dubnyk was just able to fight off, which was uniquely advantageous for a few luck folks who were using the DraftKings app for Indiana. Arizona kept applying pressure and a bad turnover by Matt Dumba turned into a near wrap around around chance for Hall but instead he’d keep the puck and dish it to Kessel for a shot that trickled through Dubnyk and in. 1-0 Coyotes. A few minutes later the Wild’s 4th line would get pinned into its own end as the Coyotes were outworking the Wild in just about every facet of the game. The Wild were probably fortunate to only be trailing by one going into the 1st intermission.
2nd Period Thoughts: Minnesota seemed to have some jump in their legs to start the 2nd period and they’d get of to a fast start as Ryan Donato raced in and beat Kuemper with a nice shot just left of the left faceoff dot. 1-1 game.
GOAL. Ryan Donato beats Darcy Kuemper blocker side to tie the game.— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 20, 2019
The Wild kept their foot on the gas and the 4th line would give the lead as some good work down low by Carson Soucy led to him passing it to a crashing Marcus Foligno who lifted a puck just underneath the crossbar behind Kuemper. 2-1 Wild.
GOAL. And just like that, Marcus Foligno gives Minnesota the lead.— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 20, 2019
Moments after that, the Wild nearly cashed in again as Jared Spurgeon redirected a pass on goal that went off the crossbar and out. The Coyotes try to answer back and Lawson Crouse had a great chance to do so but was denied by Dubnyk. Donato would eventually work the puck out of the Wild zone and as he charged towards Arizona’s end he was hooked by Oliver Ekman-Larsson for a penalty. Minnesota had a good initial opportunity on the power play as Hunt was set up for a blast from the high slot that was blocked aside by Kuemper. The Wild had much better pressure on the man advantage as they set up Dumba for a few big slap shots, to help Minnesota build some offensive momentum. The Coyotes would answer back with a hard working shift led by Hastings, Minnesota-native Derek Stepan. The hustle of the line was able to draw a hooking penalty on Soucy. On the Coyotes’ man advantage, the Wild had better puck pressure than they did on their first penalty killing effort making it difficult for Arizona to feel comfortable. Eventually they would settle in and Jakub Chychrun would fire a shot by a well-screened Dubnyk. 2-2 game. The Coyotes kept causing the Wild problems on the forecheck as Crouse had a chance that had Dubnyk looking back towards his cage in search of the puck before he managed to cover it up for a whistle. Minnesota would take the lead back in the latter half of the period as Ryan Hartman turned on the jets to split the Coyotes defense and beat Kuemper high glove side. 3-2 Wild.
GOAL. Ryan Hartman scores to reclaim the Wild lead. What a shot.— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 20, 2019
The Coyotes would go back on the attack after a bad pass by Ryan Suter nearly turned into disaster in the form of a 3-on-1 the other way. Yet good hustle by Spurgeon to disrupt the saucer pass by Vinnie Hinostroza before it could turn into an Arizona scoring chance. A few minutes later it was Carl Soderberg setting up Nick Schmaltz for shot from the slot that was denied by Dubnyk. The Coyotes were activating their defense and this was giving Minnesota issues as Hunt was able to sweep away centering pass by Stepan as he was looking for a trailing Ekman-Larsson. Minnesota would counter punch with a goal late in the period as Mats Zuccarello would swing a pass over to Hunt who hammered a shot on goal that Kuemper stopped and Zuccarello gathered it up and dished it over to Staal who chipped it in. 4-2 Wild.
GOAL. Big slapper from Brad Hunt, then Zuccarello sends a perfect pass to Eric Staal for the score to double the Wild lead.— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 20, 2019
Kevin Fiala would get tagged with a high-sticking call late in the period that drew the ire of Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau who felt Ekman-Larsson embellished on the play. Minnesota’s penalty killers was playing assertively and the Wild made it difficult for Arizona to get set up in the offensive zone. Dubnyk would make a big save on a redirection by Stepan and the Wild were able to keep their two-goal lead going into the 2nd intermission.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Coyotes had less than a minute of power play time left to start the period, but they’d make the most of it as a failed clearing attempt in the closing moments of the man advantage gave Ekman-Larsson one more chance. He’d wind up and fire a slap shot on goal that would sneak through Dubnyk, 5-hole (soft goal). 4-3 Wild. A few moments later it was Victor Rask sending a puck up into the stands for an obvious delay of game penalty. The Coyotes power play moved the puck efficiently setting up their point men for shooting opportunities. Arizona would tie the game as Parise partially blocked a shot Chychrun and the Coyotes defenseman would gather it up and rip it by Dubnyk. 4-4 game on Chychrun’s 2nd goal of the game. Minnesota would answer right back as Hunt would take a puck down low and he’d beat Kuemper on a sharp angle shot going top shelf over the shoulder of the goalie to make it 5-4 Wild.
Not certain this goal is actually possible pic.twitter.com/CbsAhkvMl1— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) December 20, 2019
The Wild were not done yet as Eric Staal set up Zuccarello out front that he just sort of redirected on goal as the shot went off the right post and in. 6-4 Wild. The Coyotes would answer back barely a minute later as Clayton Keller would skate into the slot where he beat a well-screened Dubnyk who couldn’t see the puck until it was by him. 6-5 Wild. The Coyotes would nearly cash in again just 10 seconds later as Hall fired a shot that Dubnyk held onto. Minnesota would counter with a great rush of their own as Parise set up Soucy for a breakaway and the big defenseman moved in and nearly beat Kuemper with a wrist shot. On the next shift a scoring chance for Foligno after an ice pass by Hartman nearly gave the Wild a 2-goal lead but as the puck was punched to the corner by Kuemper but as Staal chased after the puck he’d hook Ekman-Larsson who dove to try to draw a call. Ekman-Larsson would get the hooking call he was looking for but he was tagged with an embellishment call of his own to the ire of the home crowd. With the ice a bit more open 4-on-4 the Coyotes nearly struck off the rush as Hall turned on the jets to fly by a few Wild defenders but he was denied by an acrobatic save by Dubnyk. Minnesota seemed to relish the open ice as they won the small races for loose pucks and they were able to keep offensive pressure on the Coyotes. The Wild would extend its lead a few minutes later as Foligno nearly ground former Roseau Ram Aaron Ness into board dust as he eventually fed a pass to Suter who walked in and went forehand to backhand on Kuemper that beat him underneath the arm. 7-5 Wild. Minnesota kept attacking because anytime a Wild player shot a goal it seemed to sneak by or through Kuemper even if it didn’t go in. A few minutes later Kuemper would fall to the ice apparently in pain after steering aside a one-handed shot by Hartman as he laid on the ice as the Coyotes’ training staff went out to attend to their goalie. He’d be helped off the ice as he slammed his blocker in disgust just before leaving the ice and Antti Raanta would skate out there in relief and his team trailing by two. Raanta wouldn’t be out there long as 39 seconds later he’d skate off the ice to give the Coyotes’ an extra attacker. Minnesota put out its 4th line with the Coyotes’ net empty. Arizona moved the puck very well and the Wild failed to clear the zone 2-3 times and luckily Dubnyk was able to make the save with lots of traffic near his crease. Arizona would take its timeout with a minute left in regulation. Minnesota went to its veterans in the final minute and they played strong along the boards to clear the zone and ultimately led to an empty net goal by Luke Kunin to seal an 8-5 victory.
~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Fiala, Jordan Greenway, Luke Kunin, Ryan Donato, Ryan Hartman, Marcus Foligno, Victor Rask, Nico Sturm, Luke Johnson, Ryan Suter, Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Carson Soucy, Brad Hunt and Jared Spurgeon. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. Nick Seeler and Brennan Menell were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Mats Zuccarello, 2nd Star Jakub Chychrun, 3rd Star Marcus Foligno
~ Attendance was 15,582 at Gila River Arena.
Wild Prospect Report:
LW – Adam Beckman (Spokane, WHL) ~ the winger is starting to light the lamp more regularly lately and that continued on Tuesday night as he had two goals on 6 shots in Spokane’s 5-4 loss to Victoria. He earned 3rd star honors for his effort and finished the evening a +2. Beckman has 22 goals, 51 points, 8 PIM’s and is a +25 in 31 games.
F – Nikita Nesterenko (Chilliwack, BCHL) ~ the skilled winger had an assist in Chilliwack’s 4-3 loss to West Kelowna on Tuesday. The Brooklyn, New York-native has 12 goals, 30 points, 21 PIM’s in 34 games.
D – Simon Johansson (Djugardens, SHL) ~ the offensively gifted defenseman is off to a modest start as he has a goal and 4 assists in 17 games this season.
High School Hockey Report:
Let’s Play Hockey has released their latest rankings going into the Holiday week. Here are their rankings as of Wednesday, December 18th, 2019 for both Boys and Girls in Class A and AA respectively.
#3 Rochester Lourdes
#4 Cloquet / Esko / Carlton
#6 Proctor / Hermantown
#7 Chisago Lakes
#9 South St. Paul
#5 Eden Prairie
#6 Maple Grove
#7 Forest Lake
#10 Brainerd / Little Falls
#3 East Grand Forks
#5 St. Cloud Cathedral
#8 Duluth Denfeld
#9 Thief River Falls
#10 St. Paul Johnson
#1 Eden Prairie
#2 Maple Grove
#6 Benilde-St Margaret’s
#7 White Bear Lake
#10 St. Thomas Academy