'Rusty' Christensen breaks loose with pair of goals

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 11, 2012 - 10:10 PM

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Erik Christensen has been waiting for this for a long time.

Christensen, acquired by the Wild in a trade in early February, came to Minnesota from the New York Rangers not having played much. He was a center with some skill who had a bit of rust to work off.

He could be getting close to rust-free. Christensen, who had not registered a point in 15 games since joining the Wild, scored two goals in Sunday's 4-3 loss to Calgary at Xcel Energy Center.

They came two minutes and 20 seconds apart in the third period. The first came only 27 seconds after the Flames had taken a 2-0 lead.

"It's difficult," he said. "You haven't played much hockey. I was scratched the majority of the time I was with New York this year. And when I did play, it was five, six, seven minutes. It took me a lot longer than I thought it would to kind of feel back into a groove. Tonight I definitely felt good."

The first goal was unassisted. Christensen got the puck near the blue line, then skated into the left circle and beat Flames goalie Mikka Kiprusoff between the pads. The second goal came from the right circle. Christensen came out of the corner, got a pass from Jared Spurgeon and beat Kiprusoff high.

"He was brought in to score, to shoot pucks," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "We all felt if he could get one, he would hopefully break loose after that. It didn't take long to get another one after he got the first. So let's hope that's something to build off of."

Gilbert adjusting

Wild defenseman Tom Gilbert, who came to the Wild from Edmonton in the Nick Schultz trade Feb. 27, is enjoying just about everything about being back in his home state. Most recently, that has especially included the on-ice part of it. One day after the trade Gilbert, who brought a reputation as a puck-moving defenseman, was put into the lineup without having a full practice with the team. He didn't know the Wild's defensive zone scheme and he found himself doing more thinking than reacting.

But that's getting better. In Thursday's 3-2 shootout victory in Phoenix, Gilbert was a plus-2 and blocked six shots.

"He was really good," Yeo said.

Sunday Gilbert got an assist -- his first point with the Wild in seven games -- blocked a shot and was a plus-1.

Slowly, but surely, Gilbert is starting to show what he can do in the transition game, getting the puck moving out of the Wild's defensive zone.

"That game I really started to feel comfortable," Gilbert said. "Now I know the system. There is so much to learn -- penalty kill, power play, 5-on-5, neutral zone. But every game it's getting better."

Etc.

• Defenseman Clayton Stoner returned to action after missing 17 games because of a lower body injury.

• Still not feeling well, left wing Cal Clutterbuck missed his third game Sunday. Justin Falk (lower body) also missed his third consecutive game.

• Josh Harding, who sustained a lower-body injury in the Wild's game in Phoenix, was healthy enough to be the backup Sunday to starting goaltender Matt Hackett.

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