Evening from the Pepsi Center, where apparently outside it looks like Snowmageddon -- so much so that my flight Friday morning was preemptively cancelled hours ago. I was put on an afternoon flight Friday, but there’s a good chance I’ll be spending the night here.
So, why do I tell you this? Barring news, likely no blog Friday because I won’t make it to practice in Dallas because if all goes to plan, the earliest I’ll land is 7 p.m. However, after tonight’s game, I’d think it would be a very optional practice anyway.
Heck of an effort in the thin Colorado air tonight – 1-0 win, 37 saves by Niklas Backstrom, and because Colorado and Dallas lost, Wild's up by 3 on them for the eighth and final playoff spot. Down to five defensemen by the 7:04 mark of the second period because Clayton Stoner sustained a lower-body injury during a fight with Cody McLeod, the Wild was taxed as the Avs came on strong.
But the Wild played gritty, physical and threw its bodies in front of shots. The team blocked 26 in all – five by Nate Prosser and four by Greg Zanon. I think it was actually more, quite frankly. They’ve got Dany Heatley down for one. I remember three off the top of my head.
The biggest block came on the shift before Zanon’s goal. Colorado attempted its first shot of the game. The rebound wound up on McLeod’s stick with a gaping net in front. But Prosser blocked it. The Wild got a faceoff in the Avs’ end. Kyle Brodziak won it, Heatley sent it to the point and Zanon weaved his first goal since Oct. 15 through traffic. It was the 11th goal of his career and second career game-winner. It held up from 6:04 of the first to the end.
And what da ya know? Zanon talked to us tonight. He “had nothing for you guys” after the Nashville collapse and has lately been on a no-talk-about-me edict.
It’s a shame, too, because he’s a great quote.
“This is a tough place to play with the [thin] air,” he said. “You get caught out there for a couple long shifts in a row, and it’s tough to get your air back. When Stony went down, as a D corps, we just sucked it up and decided [to play] short shifts. The forwards did a great job collapsing down low to help us get the pucks out.”
Prosser, as usual, was money. The kid is so poised and he and Chad Rau had a bunch of Colorado College buddies at the game tonight. Also, DU’s Jason Zucker was in the coach’s office as usual after the Wild plays here. I’m not so sure the Wild second-rounder has ever seen a Wild loss here. It’s 10-1-2 in the past 13 visits.
Backstrom is money here, too. It was his fourth shutout vs. the Avs and he is 9-2-1 here all-time, 6-1-1 in his past eight with having allowed one or fewer goals six times. He is 20-5-2 all-time vs. Colorado with a 2.16 goals against average and .928 save percentage (2-4 in the playoffs though).
Mike Yeo’s been begging one of his goalies to seize control of the cage. Tonight was a good start for Backstrom. He’ll start in Dallas, where the Wild has lost 14 in a row.
Stoner is a question mark. The big question is who enters for Stoner if he can’t play: Marek Zidlicky or Mike Lundin. If it’s Lundin, the Wild better keep Zidlicky away from sharp objects and in seclusion.
That’s it for me. I’ll update the blog if there’s news Friday. Obviously, I’ll have a follow in Saturday’s paper and this Sunday, I’ll have a Wild insider in the paper looking at the trade deadline. Maybe I’ll mentioned Zach Parise and the Minnesota lovefest currently going on.
Also, check out this Kyle Brodziak story in Friday’s paper. Contract talks are about to begin.
OK, I’m going to go drive through a blizzard now.