The last two meetings between these teams have ended in 2-2 ties. The Wild have taken at least a point out of their last six home games, but tonight a tie is probably not anything to be happy about. This next stretch of games is important, and the team knows it.
"This is the big push," said defenseman Willie Mitchell. "(Tonight) is the biggest game of the year. And after that, Friday will be the biggest game of the year, and Sunday. … I guess you don't need to keep repeating it." [<a href="#footnote">*</a>]
Jim Dowd sprained his knee in the Rangers game, and won't play tonight. Dowd downplayed the injury, and expects to be back fairly soon. Zyuzin is <em>still</em> out with his groin strain. Seems like a long time. Maybe it's more than a simple strain? Brad Brown returns tonight. I know some people don't think much of him, but I really liked the way he started the season, and he has been working very hard on his conditioning while he's been out, so I'm hoping he has a good game. No more injuries would be a good thing. Although we haven't been as unfortunate as many teams (like the Kings, for an obvious example), Lemaire thinks it's important to stay healthy. "Staying healthy is the only chance we've got," said coach Jacques Lemaire.[<a href="#footnote">*</a>]
With Dowd out we might see Bouchard or Burns tonight. Lemaire has been using them less than earlier in the season, continuing to bring them along slowly. But he is starting to sound just a little disappointed in their progress: "It's hard when you hand them the ball, and they drop it, to hand them another ball," he said. [<a href="#footnote">*</a>] (I wonder if that's a case of Lemaire throwing a little psychology out there. He usually doesn't say things like that, but when he has in the past you often find out later that he was having a little experiment in motivational techniques. )
So, do we see the 4-goal scoring team of the previous two games? I hope so (although I'm not sure they played all that great in NY).
Let's go with a streak: Wild 4, Kings 2
[*]<a name = "footnote" href="http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/sports/hockey/7914821.htm">Pioneer Press</a>
As the headline on Wild.com says, "Playoff Push Begins Tonight". A win tonight over the injury-ravaged Kings could be huge. When big wins are needed, teams tend to lean on their money-man. I predict a big second half for Marian Gaborik. He and the rest of the team needs to find their roles once again and make this one happen. As previously stated, Marian has done most of his damage in certain halves of seasons and hopefully that will all begin tonight. Going out on a limb...
Wild 5 Kings 2 (Gaborik 2, Walz, Brunette, Brown )
They started well. Good speed.. decent checking even. Then when the goals didn't go in, the big slump started. The Kings just wouldn't let them get back in the game, despite that nice string of power-play time. Lemaire said in the post-game that the guys just didn't have their minds in the game. He sounded pretty frustrated. I'm thinking everyone's getting pretty frustrated these days.
I dunno if any of you saw the game, or if this was talked about on the radio, but I was just reading the Star-Trib recap and it reminded me of the missed high-stick call on Walz.
Earlier, with the Wild down 1-0 midway through the second, Wes Walz made a glorious bid. Marian Gaborik put a shot on Roman Cechmanek, who made a blocker save. Walz readied to swing at the rebound when Kings defenseman Joe Corvo whacked Walz in the face from behind, opening a cut under his nose that required stitches.
Walz was stunned to see referee Blaine Angus standing in the near corner and calling nothing. This is the same referee who missed a similar high stick that badly cut Philadelphia's Jeremy Roenick earlier this season. Roenick threw a water bottle, ripped Angus, was suspended and ultimately apologized.
"Unlike some of the superstars, I can't afford a fine," Walz said.
"I had to calm down to try to listen to him," Walz added. "He said, 'I didn't see it.' My question was, 'Where were you looking? Because I was about to score in an empty net.' He couldn't answer."
I remember being really pissed at the time. It was at the opposite end of the ice from me, and _I_ saw it. I didn't realize the ref was Blaine "water bottle" Angus, but I remember saying loudly "What the hell was the ref looking at if he didn't see that one? Shouldn't he have been looking right at the freakin' play?" Ooo, was I steamed. We were still kind of in the game at that point, so it was easier to set me off. Walz was really angry, too. At one point I thought he was going to jump onto the ice to get in Angus' face.
Later on things got worse and I got too depressed to stay mad.
I saw the game and that specific play and can give you another look at it. Walz was turning at the time (sort of pivoting to get away from Corvo who he was tangled with) and when he countinued to sweep around (spinning of a sort) to get his shot off, Corvo was in his chest with his gloves and as Walz were going down and Corvo moving to stay with him the two sort of met with Corvo's stick and gloves sort of moving along Walz shoulders. Obviously he were clipped and as such, a penalty should have been called and I am LOATHE to defend "water bottle" as he has screwed the Kings so many times you can't believe it, but, where he were on the ice and how the whole thing happened as a spinning thing and the fact that the two lads bodies were together, it was a hard one for him to see and I can see why he missed it.
Would a better ref have been in a better position to have seen the play and maybe make the call? I would think so. What I think might have hurt Walz on in were that he dove after words and tried to make it look worse than it was. It were bad enough that it happened and the fact that he did one of those "MY GOD I JUST GOT SHOT IN THE HEAD" things with his arms might have impacted that idiot "water bottles" judgement.
Not knocking Walz, he were obviously shocked that no call were made as was everyone who saw it. I am just saying that maybe the Refs are numb to the over reaction moves and that it might be responsible for them hanging onto their whistles.
Either way, I feel that Corvo made contact with Walz face and that he should have been called on it. It weren't on purpose but that isn't required under the rules.
I would though, point out an interesting fact. In the games we have faced eachother, your team has recieved twice as many PP's and more than that were two man advantaves are concered. Loads of Kings fans have been whinning about this all season long. More so when we face eachother. Our teams have simmilar styles of play and neither play dirty so the discrepency isn't one that seems to be due to style of play or actualy infractions. I am not saying you lot cheat. I am saying that it is odd that we are always called for two times as many penalties when we face. If it were once in awhile, then certainly it could be that the Kings simply commited more infractions. The fact that it happens every time we face leads some to other ideas.
I thought it were a solid game that could have gone either way until Klatt scored. That seemed to have Rollie and from that point the team seemed to be off. What is interesting is that I would call Andy Murray a poor mans Lemaire. The two teams style are very close and they both are relying on stellar defencive trap systems to keep them close enough to steal a win if the other team makes a mistake. I would love to see the two teams face each other in the playoffs to see which of the two have it right.
Cheers mates. I hope that you lot get it back together and make the playoffs. It were grand seeing you there last year. You have the horses and one of the best coaches in the game, you should make it.
That's interesting. The Wild are the third least penalized team in the league though, sitting at 27th, and the Kings are in the middle of the pack, 13th. That would account for some of it; the Wild just don't take many penalties usually. The Kings have had more power-play opportunities that the Wild so far this season, sitting at tenth in the league with the Wild at 20th. Stats from espn. Not sure what to make of the discrepancy when the two teams play together. It'd be inetresting to see which penalties are called most often and who draws them... might reveal something about the style of play. 'Course, it could just be that we've paid off the refs.