Remember, remember, the 12th of December....
The Minnesota Wild had just completed a seven game winning streak that had catapulted them to the top of the Western Conference standings, and Kyle Brodziak, the team's hottest player, had 7 points during that winning streak. A day later, the Wild suffered a loss in Winnepeg that some assumed was just a blip on the radar. On the second night of their back-to-back set, the Wild hosted the Hawks, the conference's second place team, in a nationally televised statement game for both squads. The Wild overcame two seperate deficits, the second of which coming on a Mikko Koivu tally with just 5 minutes left in the third, and then, this happened. The fact that Kane pulled that move off almost made giving the Wild an extra point worth it.
The Hawks game was the 2nd of what would become an eight game losing streak for the Wild. Since the 12th of last month, the Wild have taken just 7 points in their last 13 games, and find themselves fighting for the 8th seed with Los Angeles and Dallas. With just three points in those 13 games, Kyle Brodziak's slump has mirrored that of his team, as the Wild have only managed 3 or more goals just 3 times in that same time frame.
San Jose acquisitions Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi haven't been the offensive shot in the arm that the Wild were looking for when they said goodbye to Brent Burns and Marty Havlat this past off season. Setoguchi missed time due to injury earlier this season, and wasn't able to square off against his former mates in last night's game after getting scratched for going all Ferris Bueller on yesterday morning's team meeting. And then there's former impact forward Dany Heatley......
The Wild potted 4 goals at home vs the Sha-arks last night, but had to scrape out a shootout win after coughing up a 2 goal lead with just three minutes left to play in the final frame. While things aren't exactly humming along for Minnesota these days, they're not exactly the Columbus Blue Jackets either. They're typically stingy in the goals against department (5th in the league @ 2.35), despite their propensity to allow about 32 shots/game to reach their netminders. As the discrepancy between shots against and goals against suggests, the Minnesota goaltending tandem of Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding has kept the team in most games.
The Hawks enter this game looking for two much needed points before the big Detroit-San Jose back-to-back this weekend. Due to their recent struggles, it'd be nice to assume that the Men of Four Feathers won't be taking these two points for granted and looking ahead to the weekend, but perhaps a goaltending change could help with that issue. Ray Emery gets a somewhat surprising start this evening (despite the fact that he got the win the last time these two teams met), when many assumed that his next start would come on Saturday or Sunday. Razor wasn't bad in his last start in Philly, and was the victim of a tough bounce and some sloppy defensive play. The Wild don't have much of a powerplay, and they don't manage too many shots per game, so if Emery is able to stay in rhythm, he should have a successful evening.
Since I'm writing this the night before, I'm not entirely sure what the Hawks' line combinations will look like, but if they stay the same as what Q ended with on Tuesday, I'll assume that the Hayes-Bolland-Hossa line will see a lot of Seto-Koivu-Heatley. It will be fun to watch (33rd) birthday boy and recently named All-Star, Marian Hossa, get another game to breath some more life into Dave Bolland, while The Jimmy does his power forward thing on the left side. "Jimmy doesn't like Dany Heatley's face, Jimmy wants to pound Heatley into the glass to see if he can break that awkwardly long visor. Jimmy's gonna get his sweet ass in front of Backstrom's face and tuck home a couple of Marian Hossa rebounds."
This could be the type of tight contest in which a powerplay goal could make the difference for the Hawks, but I feel like I say that just about every other home game. Maybe one of these days Q will wise-up and use Steve Montador's cannon of a shot on the left point of the 2nd powerplay unit, as opposed to Dave Bolland looking like a rat out of sewer in that role. Nah, John Scott will become Zdeno Chara before Q consistently goes with all Dmen on the back end of each powerplay unit.
If the Men of Four Feathers don't look ahead to the weekend, this is a home game that a top 3 seed should win coming off of a "two points is two points" effort against the Jackets. Let's go Hawks!