A hot topic amongst Wild fans has been speculation that the Wild possibly being in the hunt for former Golden Gophers scoring machine Thomas Vanek. Vanek, who through no fault of his own became one of the league's most expensive players after he was tendered an offer sheet by the Edmonton Oilers that the Sabres felt compelled to match. The Sabres are a team that has been re-shaping itself after some bold talk from its billionaire owner Terry Pegula. Most of the big money moves Pegula and Sabres' GM Darcy Regier made failed miserably. Last season the team parted ways with long-time coach Lindy Ruff and somehow Regier kept his job with a comitment from ownership to rebuild the club through the draft. That is normally a long and painful process that is not being well recieved from one of the more intense fanbases of the NHL. Vanek a player who turns 30 this season is not likely to want to wait a few more seasons in the league's basement while the Sabres turn around their fortunes. So it sounds like the Wild really could have a chance at wooing the former Gopher sniper.
The Sabres have had a rough start, going winless in its first six games. The Wild have turned their rough start around to win their last two games. Can the Wild keep its positive momentum rolling? Minnesota caught some lucky breaks on Saturday in its 5-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars. With the Wilds still waiting for some of its top players to get going offensively, can they get it started tonight as Minnesota begins this 4 game road trip?
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1st Period Thoughts: It should not come as a shock to anyone, that Jason Pominville would take the opening faceoff. Combine that bit of energy, with what the Wild have been showing as of late, and we get a good start to the game. However, in these opening minutes, we didn't get to see the puck possession we've come used to seeing, you know the same kind of puck possession which is often described as "dominating' by our local broadcasters. That alone is one of the benefits of a national broadcast, is that we get a different take on our team, and we get a break from the cliches for a night. Although, NBC Sports' Pierre McGuire did utter the word "dominating." The scoring was came during a delayed penalty on Buffalo. Through hard work, speed and smarts, Kyle Brodziak found the back of the net with assists coming from Matt Cooke and Jonas Brodin. Shortly after the goal, the Wild found themselves on the penalty kill, but like we've seen in other game, Minnesota managed to get some nice offensive chances as their own while down a man. Minnesota continued to find ways to stay in the lanes, either preventing the puck from fully getting at Josh Harding or tipping them out of the zone. What is nice to see these days, is a Wild team that seems to be able to remain calm under stressful situations. For example, Keith Ballard slipped behind Harding's net when he was trying to move the puck out. Unfortunately no other Minnesota players were around him. He managed to poke it away a bit and get back up by the time he got some help. Harding remained calm, Ballard remained calm, as did the other Wild skaters. They could have easily tensed up, and found themselves with a tied up game. However, the break in the calm came with a fight between Clayton Stoner and Cody McCormick. The last five minutes of the the period saw Buffalo pushing back, and working hard along the boards. Hard work there makes you wonder if tonight will finally be the night that the Sabres are finally able to find their first win of the season. But no matter how hard Buffalo works along their boards, Minnesota still continued to outplay them in along the boards. What pleased me even more, is that even in the3 closing seconds, Minnesota continued to push for more goals. As a Wild fan from the very beginning, I can't tell you how much this pleases me.
2nd Period Thoughts: In my day job, I often complain about the technology of my work computer. It's gotten to the point where lights and electricity in general aren't considered technological problems. Well tonight in Buffalo, they seem to have had issues with their lights. When the teams came back to the ice for the 2nd period, there was a delay because they couldn't get the lights up to the brightness desired for game play. After a good five minute delay, the teams and the officials made the decision to go with the lights they have. So it's a little dimmer than what we're used to, and sadly it doesn't matter if you have HD or standard definition television. The delay seems to have benefited Buffalo, as they're the ones who have come out with their legs. Thankfully, it just took a couple of minutes for Minnesota to find their legs to start playing like the Wild team we've come used to when it comes to puck possession. Yet as time passes, you just have to keep hoping and hoping for another goal. We as fans know that a 1 or 2 goal game isn't enough to rest on. We know the team can cold on to the puck, we just need them to turn more of that "holding on to the puck" into goals. One thing that as Wild fans we finally got to see was a great penalty kill. As opposed to the penalty kill of the first few games of the season, where you just knew the opposition was going to score, we've lately seen a much more solid and on occasion, aggressive penalty kill. Yet, pain would come for Minnesota. When they failed to add to their own goals, and then Zach Parise turns the puck over in the neutral zone, Buffalo finds them scoring the tying game. Right now, we're seeing a bit of the "lost" Wild that we're used to. Minnesota needs to get their head back in the game. Minnesota would finish out the period with strong play, fed mostly by a power play chance. Even better, Jason Pominville found the back of the net with but one second of the power play time remaining. What's special about this goal, is that with tonight's goal, Pominville has now scored a goal on all 30 teams in the league. With just eight or so seconds left in the period, it's always good to end the period with the lead again. Now they just need to continue their game in the third.
3rd Period Thoughts: It seems that a late period goal by your opponent's former captain doesn't do much for creating a sense of goodwill on the ice. Buffalo came out clearly ready to push back, most notably, physically. Minnesota is going to have to find a way to withstand the physical game. I know for myself, I'd gladly like to see the puck possession game return, because the less time that Buffalo has the puck in their zone the happier I'll be. One trend that makes me nervoise, is that Buffalo has been winning the shot totals. I've certainly appreciated the fact that finally Minnesota was able to outshoot their opponents, and I can only hope this change won't become the norm. And the lack of shooing was clearly demonstrated on the power play off of the high sticking penalty by Henrik Tallinder. Instead of players like Mikael Granlund shooting, we have to watch them pass and pass, when they have either a lane to shoot at or at very least to create a good rebound opportunity. Minnesota would get another power play opportunity thanks to a too many men call on Buffalo. Unfortunately, Minnesota was unable to pad their lead. So we have to continue, biting our nails just hoping the Wild will be able to pull out the win. Through some hard work, luck, and the fact that Buffalo is just unlucky, Minnesota was able to hold on. For a season that started out as it did without any wins, it's nice to finally see a 3-1-2 record. Now we just have to see how we can handle a red-hot Toronto team, and at the Air Canada Centre no less.
~ Wild roster tonight was as follows: Keith Ballard, Clayton Stoner, Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Jaren Spurgeon, Matt Dumba, Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Justin Fontaine, Dany Heatley, Torrey Mitchell, Stephane Veilleux, Kyle Brodziak, Nino Niederreiter, Matt Cooke, Zenon Konopka, Jason Pominville, Mikael Granlund and Josh Harding. Darcy Kuemper served as back up.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star, Jason Pominville; 2nd Star, Brian Flynn; 3rd Star, Jonas Brodin.
~ Attendance was 18,111 at First Niagara Center.
~ The Iowa Wild split their weekend series with Oklahoma City by scores of 1-0 in Saturday's win and 4-2 in Sunday's loss. Brett Bulmer led the way for the Iowa Wild offensively with a goal in each game. Jason Zucker earned a match penalty in Sunday's game which opened the door for a two goal surge in the 3rd period as they stormed to a 4-2 win. The Iowa Wild's next game is Saturday in Charlotte.
Wild Prospect Report:
RW - Adam Gilmour (Boston College, H-East) - The Freshman was put on Boston Colleges' top line along with workhorses Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold. Boston College rolled to a 7-2 win over RPI on Sunday. Gilmour finished the game a +1 with 1 shot on goal.
D - Gustav Olofsson (Colorado College, NCHA) - The lanky Swedish-born, American-raised defenseman helped the Tigers roll to an 8-4 win over the United States Development Program's U-18 squad Saturday night. Olofsson had 2 assists and was a +2 with 3 shots on goal. The points do not count towards his college totals but he's still being used on Colorado College's top pairing along side Aaron Harstad.
D - Nick Seeler (Nebraska-Omaha, NCHA) - The Eden Prairie-native helped the Mavericks rally back after a Friday loss to Bentley to avenge that setback with a 4-2 victory on Saturday night. Seeler had an assist and was a -1 in the game with 2 shots on goal.
D - Dylan Labbe (Shawinigan, QMJHL) - Labbe chipped in an assist in a 5-1 loss to the Rimouski Oceanic. The 6'2" defenseman has 1 goal and 7 points in 9 games.