Over and over Thursday, the day after the Wild's awful showing in that 4-0 loss to Chicago, one theme emerged: The players felt embarrassed and ashamed they had let down the fans. Yes, they heard the boos, and they agreed the catcalls were well-deserved.
Good timing, then, for tonight's fan appreciation celebration. After Friday's morning skate, players seemed as motivated by that as they were by the bag skate they endured the day before. They hear you, they value you, and they know how fortunate they are to be playing in this market.
"Tonight is a good time to show them the appreciation we have for them and thank them for how they treat us,'' said winger Guillaume Latendresse, who noted that fan support helped him reestablish his game after coming to Minnesota from the Montreal doghouse. "They know hockey. They know when to boo and when to cheer. And they know what they want to see from a guy. If you work, they're going to be behind you, even if they lose. Coming here and having the support of these fans has been awesome for me.''
"I came in with San Jose twice last year,'' said coach Todd Richards, a Crystal native who was a Sharks assistant then. "To come in here and be on the bench experiencing the atmosphere and energy in the building was great. Now, being here and experiencing it on an every game-day basis is amazing. There's a reason why we have a good home record. We have great support from the fans, and at times when you're flat, you can feed off the energy they give you. That's what makes playing here so special.''
Martin Havlat, who missed Thursday's practice, was ill Friday and was sent to the doctor. He didn't skate and will be a game-time decision. Richards wasn't sure whether Marek Zidlicky will play; he's still dealing with an arm injury. Cam Barker is back in the lineup for sure after missing three games with a bad ankle. And D Justin Falk was sent back to Houston today.
And just for fun, courtesy of Russo ... here is a link to a video from the Minnesota Nurses Association that includes a thank-you from several local pro athletes, including Derek Boogaard, to nurses around the state.