By Brian Stensaas
Whaddya know - I'm pretty much all alone in the Xcel Energy Center again. This time, I'm joined in the final half-hour of the day by the overnight cleaning crew and ... well, that's about it.
I've been here all day and really need to get home. But work is work, so here's a final blog post (until I'm back here in less than 12 hours for Sunday practice).
What a night for the Wild, which set a new record with its ninth win in December. The team came out full of evergy in the game, showing zero signs of being off for 48 hours per NHLPA policy. The team jumped at every puck, was winning battles in the corners and seemed to have an eye for all things hockey. It wasn't perfect, but the Wild put in 60 minutes of hockey I think. LIke I said, there could be some nit-picking I suppose. But just about every comment in the locker room afterwards was about tonight's effort.
Minnesota would strike, St. Louis would answer, but Minnesota would get right back in there again. Those are fun games to watch. And five goals in the third period? Can't ask for more thrills than that.
Guillaume Latendresse continues to prove that a change of scenery can be nice. The guy who Montreal shipped here for Benoit Pouliot late last month had two goals tonight and now has six in 13 games since coming here.
Minnesota's defense tonight shined on offense. Shane Hnidy's goal was a rocket of a wrister that found the top shelf because Blues goaltender Chris Mason was totally screened by Antti Miettinen. And Kim Johnson's third goal in 31 games (he had two in 81 games all of last year) came because he won a foot race out of the Wild's zone on a botched Blues' play. He was able to get it over Mason, too, and by a sliding/helpless Roman Polok.
Marek Zidlicky was good, too, especially on Latendresse's second goal (the game-winner). On that play, Zidlicky's effort with the puck dancing around various Blues players set up his shot to the net. The rebound went right to Latandresse, who popped the sucker right in.
Eric Belanger stuck out to me tonight, too. He drew three penalties and won 11 of 13 face-offs.
The only downer, really, was Chuck Kobasew going down with what looked to be a nasty knee injury about midway through the third. His knee got up close and personal with Keith Tkachuck's right in front of Nik Backstrom and Kobasew went down in a heap. He was helped off the ice clearly favoring his left leg and coach Todd Richards did not sound too optimistic, though details are not yet known.
Derek Boogaard missed tonight's game, too, but it's a minor thing. Richards called holding him out a "maintenance decision." Apparently Boogaard tweaked something last week (or should that be 'this week?' I don't know. I've switched to water and am losing steam) against Edmonton.
OK - some tidbits:
Backstrom improved to 7-1-1 in his last nine at home
The Wild's penalty kill was 4-for-4 and hasn't allowed a goal in its last 16 chances (that's dating to Dec. 12)
Zidlicky leads Minnesota's defenders with 18 assists and 21 points.
The Wild scored first for just the fifth time in the last 19 games, but has scored first in back-to-back games for the first time since a four-game stretch Nov. 7-13
I am now really, truly going to go home and assess the snow situation on my property in Apple Valley. I swear I'll keep the swearing to a minimum.
I'll check back tomorrow after practice.