Cullen humbled by team's tribute for 1,000th game

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 25, 2012 - 12:02 AM

The veteran was thrilled at how the Wild honored him for playing his 1,000th NHL game.

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The Wild's Matt Cullen reached for the puck after knocking down Philadelphia's Claude Giroux.

Photo: Matt Slocum, Associated Press

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DENVER - Matt Cullen was excited to just be one of the guys again Tuesday.

The Wild's eldest statesman, 34, was uncomfortable Saturday night with all the hoopla made over his 1,000-game accomplishment before playing Dallas.

Cullen was showered with gifts, including an outdoor sauna given by teammates at a postgame party.

"Unbelievable," Cullen said, laughing. "You're used to seeing watches or whatever, but that fits me perfect."

Cullen's father, Terry, and brothers, Mark and Joe, spoke of their pride during a highlight package as his family, including his wife, Bridget, and three sons, watched from the ice.

Throughout Saturday's game, wishes of congratulations were offered to Cullen on the Jumbotron by several ex-teammates, including Ray Whitney, Rod Brind'Amour, Eric Staal, Teemu Selanne and Doug Weight.

Of course, Cullen was chirped by Whitney, one of the league's biggest jokesters. Cullen's "mentor" said he assumed Cullen was getting close to 1,000 games when he saw Cullen's gray facial hair during a recent game against Phoenix.

"It was a different experience," Cullen said. "I mean, the Wild did such a nice job and it was more than I ever would have expected. I was nervous that one, my middle boy, Wyatt, would run out on the ice; he's a little animal. And two, you see your family and you're so emotional, yet you're ingrained in preparing for a huge game and you want it to be about the team."

Cullen was beyond thankful, especially to St. Cloud State's Morris Kurtz. His alma mater's athletic director presented Cullen with a massive frame of pictures of Cullen from every team he has played for, including Moorhead High.

"[Kurtz] is just the best," Cullen said. "Nicest guy. He insisted on paying for all the food. Like, insisted. Every single year, they come to my [Cully's Kids] weekend with St. Cloud State gifts for all 150 golfers. I mean, grill covers or chairs or golf bags. He's just so cool, so classy."

Mueller's recovery

Bloomington native Peter Mueller played his 10th game for Colorado after missing more than a year with a concussion, failing to get a point in the 3-2 loss to the Wild. In 25 career games with the Avs, Mueller has 24 points.

"It's good getting back in the loop," said Mueller, 23. "Coming to the rink, you're an average hockey player now, which is nice. It was a long road back."

Etc.

• With the Houston Aeros having two games during the NHL All-Star break, the Wild will re-assign a few players back to the minor leagues Wednesday.

• Wild 2010 second-round pick Jason Zucker, a standout at the University of Denver, attended Tuesday's game.

• With the trade deadline Feb. 27, Wild management held pro scouting meetings the past two days in Denver.

• The Wild's plane was significantly lighter on its return trip to Minnesota after the game. Because the Wild's next road game is Feb. 2 in Denver, the Wild left about 15 bags of equipment, underwear and shorts behind at Pepsi Center.

• Marek Zidlicky, Mike Lundin and Brad Staubitz were scratched for a second game in a row.

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