First, a Healthy and a Happy New Year everybody! It's always appreciated that you come over to the Star Tribune for your Wild coverage, and I look forward to another year in the press box chair.
2009 didn't end very well for the Wild, which is a shame because it was an ugly final two games after such a great 10-win month.
But the Wild looks like a team with dead legs right now. It's played a ton of hockey lately, and there's no let up in the near future, so it must figure out a solution to get the lack of oomph out of its bodies. The Kings have played a lot of hockey, too, and they didn't look like it. Heck, they played in Calgary on Wednesday night. Every team in this league has played a ton of hockey. It's an Olympic year, and you've got to play every other night (at least) just about.
And the Wild's put itself in a position where it can't afford losing streaks because as you've seen, despite the hot streak since Nov. 20, the Wild has made up very little ground in the standings because the NHL's a league where some games are worth two points, other are worth three. That makes climbing torturous.
Tonight, the Wild just couldn't keep pace with the energetic Kings in the first period. The Owen Nolan-Eric Belanger-Cal Clutterbuck line had big trouble in its own end. Belanger and Clutterbuck were on for the first four goals. Nolan was on for three. Kim Johnsson was also on for the three first-period goals.
Coach Todd Richards finally broke up the No. 2 line, but the Wild just didn't have it tonight. Even in the third, the Wild took nine shots, but two in the first 13:57.
Not much more to say because it's New Year's Eve, and I've been in this seat since about 10 a.m. and want out!
-- The Wild went 10-6 this month, tied for the most wins in a month in team history.
-- It was the Wild's fifth three-goal loss of the season, second at home and second to the Kings.
-- Andrew Brunette scored his team-leading 12th goal and ranks second with 34 points.
-- Nolan scored his 10th goal, his 14th consecutive year with double-digits
--Tonight was the 500th game in a Kings uniform for Sean O'Donnell, the Wild's first-ever captain.
Lastly,with Jacques Lemaire on the visiting bench, the Wild will hold a pregame video tribute to Lemaire before Saturday’s game against New Jersey. I just want to hear a montage of all his funny one-liners after practices and games.
It will be the first return to Minnesota for Lemaire and one of my all-time favorite players that I've covered, three-time Wild 30-goal scorer Brian Rolston.
Rachel Blount's covering the Wild's practice and the Devils' practice tomorrow, and she'll write a Jacques Lemaire column for Saturday. I'll be at the Devils' practice, too, to get some of the Americans like Zach Parise for a story on the U.S. Olympic roster being announced on NBC.
I'll try to blog later on the evening.