Sunday practice update: Wild had a real good, hard-working practice this morning. Owen Nolan didn't practice because he's sore, but coach Todd Richards says it's nothing major. Petr Sykora didn't practice. No update from the team, but he's got a headache from being hit in the head by Dallas' Steve Ott last night.
Wild players all were talking about the hit this morning and how the league "better suspend" Ott. We will see. Unlike Derek Boogaard's elbow last year on Brandon Prust, there wasn't an outcry on this one in Canada, like for instance this link (watch the YouTube) with the broadcaster actually naming what the suspension should be (five games) and then Boogaard amazingly enough getting five games.
Well, Ott took a leaping elbow into the head on Sykora in my opinion. The league allegedly wants to rid head shots, well, then throw the book at Ott, too. Or maybe Stephane Robidas for his textbook boarding on Mikko Koivu last night that was somehow missed.
Anyway, that's it from here. Wild will leave an hour earlier Monday for Toronto because GM Chuck Fletcher has arranged for the coaches and staff to attend the Hall of Fame inductions, which will be a thrill. Richards played briefly with Brian Leetch and "got lit up" by Steve Yzerman in his last NHL game. "I got a scolding."
And for all of you emailing me and commenting on the game story on startribune.com/wild about the 3 Stars last night, email Let's Play Hockey, not me. Unlike most teams in the league that do a media pool or rotate among impartial beat writers, Let's Play Hockey does it every night at Wild games. Even Brent Burns had to be convinced to go on for the second star last night, saying, "I had eight penalty minutes." Of course, that wasn't as laughable as Kyle Brodziak getting the first star in a 5-2 loss to Vancouver or the Wild getting two stars in a home loss to Nashville.
Speaking of emails, I know, I know, I am weeks behind replying to many of you. I'll try to get to them as soon as I can. Apologies.
Good evening from the Xcel Energy Center press box, where I'm ready to pack up and get out of this magnificent arena.
I watched warmups from the lower bowl tonight with a couple friends, a vantage I normally don't get to see. This really is an amazing building when full, and tonight was legitimately full. Biggest crowd of the season of an announced 18,558 -- 10 people short of the capacity overflow sellout. They couldn't scrounge of 10 other bodies? Come on
Great hockey game tonight as the Wild came out strong and kept it going for its best 60-minute performance of the season. Even in the second when the Stars tied the score on two power plays, the Wild really only had one minor two-minute lull. And in the third, nobody can accuse the Wild of sitting back on this night, preserving a 3-2 lead by outshooting Dallas 11-7.
The only sour note of the evening was Petr Sykora leaving the game midway through the third on what coach Todd Richards felt was a questionable hit by Dallas' Steve Ott. Ott took a jumping leap into the head of Sykora, and Richards thought Sykora's head might have hit the glass. Hopefully we get an update on him Sunday, but he's still in the hospital getting looked at as of late Saturday night.
The Wild had two power plays drawn in the first 2:23, and even though it didn't score, the Wild generated the momentum that Todd Richards often talks about.
Wild outshot the Stars 17-4 in the first and outscored them 2-0 on Cal Clutterbuck's first career shorthanded goal and Mikko Koivu's first goal in eight games.
But in the second, with Koivu in the box, Dallas first cut it to 2-1 on Loui Eriksson's first of two power-play goals when Nick Schultz accidentally redirected a centering pass by Niklas Backstrom. As Schultz said with a laugh, if it goes backdoor, Backstrom doesn't have a chance, but if it hits Schultz's stick, Backstrom doesn't have a chance.
Then, with Brent Burns taking out his frustration on me (just a joke) by taking the third of four minor penalties (borderline call), Eriksson scored again on a beauty of a redirection of Brad Richards' shot that was meant to be a pass because, well, he's Brad Richards.
Tie game though, but the Wild was playing well and got rewarded when just like Schultz, Marek Zidlicky put a puck in his crease and Stars defenseman Nicklas Grossman put it in his net for Zidlicky's first goal of the season and the eventual winner.
Zidlicky played his best all-around game of the season. He was a stud, winning battles all over the ice. Martin Havlat had his best game of the season even though he didn't get a point. Just schooling defenders left and right, setting up chances and shooting the puck. Benoit Pouliot played very well in his return to the lineup. Cal Clutterbuck was great (six shots). He played the power-play point on a 4-on-3, which I'll write about in my follow notebook for Monday.
-- Clutterbuck's goal was the Wild's first shorthanded tally of the season. He tries that shot everyday in practice, but the Wild goalies know it's coming, so they just hold their glove up high when he comes down the wing. So Clutterbuck joked that he tried it on a goalie, Alex Auld, he figured didn't know it would be coming. Clutterbuck ignored Koivu slapping his stick on the ice for the pass. Great line by Clutterbuck on that in the game story.
-- Koivu's fourth goal of the season and team-leading 13th point was Koivu's first goal in eight games since Oct. 21.
-- This was Niklas Backstrom's 99th career win. He made 19 saves. He's 13-2-4 in his last 19 decisions here at the X. In games after he's pulled, he's 13-2-4 with a 1.94 goals against average and .927 save percentage. In his last 10 after being hooked, he's 9-0-1 with a 1.57 GAA and .944 SP.
-- Kyle Brodziak had an assist to extend his point streak to three games to tie his career-high.
-- Shane Hnidy posted his first shorthanded assist of his 493-game career.
-- The Wild's 11-2-4 in its last 17 home games.
OK, that's it. The Wild opens a four-game road trip Tuesday in Toronto. Rachel Blount will be in Toronto, and at the Hall of Fame inductions to write a column Monday.
I've got Sunday's practice. Brian Stensaas has got Monday's practice and I'll be joining the team in Tampa on Wednesday to pick up the rest of the road trip in Tampa, Washington and Raleigh.
If we get a Sykora update Sunday, I'll update the blog.