Minnesota Wild (4-5-1) 9pts (3rd in the Northwest)
2.10 Goals For per Game (27th in the NHL)
2.80 Goals Against per Game (17th in the NHL)
22nd ranked Power Play (16.2%)
11th ranked Penalty Kill (82.9%)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #11 Zach Parise ~ 6G 4A = 10pts
2. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 2G 6A = 8pts
3. #77 Tom Gilbert ~ 3G 4A = 7pts
4. #15 Dany Heatley ~ 4G 2A = 6pts
5. #7 Matt Cullen ~ 1G 3A = 4pts
Top 3 PIM's:
1. #28 Zenon Konopka ~ 46 PIM's
2. #27 Mike Rupp ~ 12 PIM's
3. #4 Clayton Stoner ~ 9 PIM's
1. #32 Niklas Backstrom (3-4-1) 2.76GAA .902%SP
2. #37 Josh Harding (1-1-0) 2.92GAA .885%SP
Nashville Predators (5-2-3) 13pts (2nd in the Central)
2.10 Goals For per Game (26th in the NHL)
1.80 Goals Against per Game (1st in the NHL)
17th ranked Power Play (18.8%)
13th ranked Penalty Kill (81.6%)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #10 Martin Erat ~ 3G 4A = 7pts
2. #33 Colin Wilson ~ 3G 4A = 7pts
3. #18 Brandon Yip ~ 2G 3A = 5pts
4. #8 Kevin Klein ~ 1G 4A = 5pts
5. #11 David Legwand ~ 2G 2A = 4pts
Top 3 PIM's:
1. #16 Rich Clune ~ 24 PIM's
2. #6 Shea Weber ~ 13 PIM's
3. #22 Scott Hannan ~ 11 PIM's
1. #35 Pekka Rinne (4-2-3) 1.81GAA .933%SP 1 SO
2. #30 Chris Mason (1-0-0) 1.00GAA .967%SP
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It may just be a coincidence, but the last time the Minnesota Wild played the Nashville Predators, the Houston Aeros were in Milwaukee to play the Admirals (Nashville's American Hockey League affiliate) the following day. Just last night, the Aeros were back in Milwaukee for a game. Both games saw the Aeros coming out as the victors. The first game, it was as if the prospects were saying, "well we know the big club lost last night, so let's get this one back." Hopefully last night's 5-2 win against the Admirals serves as a good luck charm.
In both games (in which I was in attendance), I saw things that I wish were present in St. Paul. First off was skating. Teams that can skate well are often at a better advantage than a team that cannot skate well. The Aeros not only can skate well, but they have a sense of urgency to their skating. They certainly were able to push the Admirals who did not have the same skating ability. It will be interesting to go back at watch the Admirals again this season (we have a flex season ticket package with Milwaukee) and see if the Admirals are a slower team, or if it's just that the Aeros are just that much more superior in their skating. Even better, the Aeros are running four solid lines, that know their roles and execute them to the best of their abilities. In fact last night, the line that gave the Admirals the most grief was the checking line of Stephane Veilleux, Jake Dowell, and Brent Bulmer. The Admirals had no answer for them. Other players that looked fantastic were David McIntye and of course Jason Zucker, who I'll get to later. And one cannot forget the two goal effort last night of Justin Fontaine. While the shots on goal were fairly even, it seemed that Milwaukee's shots were either not the best of quality or they ran into a Matt Hackett who was on top of his game last night.
The Aeros are playing tonight in Rockford, Illinois. If the Aeros play well again tonight, especially players like Zucker, and the Wild struggle tonight in St. Paul, do not be shocked to see at least one call up. One must remember that Jonas Brodin was called up after the first Aeros game in Milwaukee just last month. The Aeros were going from Milwaukee to Grand Rapids, Michigan. It would be easy for Chuck Fletcher to make the call to have Zucker get himself from Rockford to St. Paul. This would be an optimal time to do it, as after tonight's game, the Wild will be heading out on a two-game trip to Calgary and Vancouver. As there are once again line changes and different healthy scratched for tonight, another new young player called up might just be the wake-up call that those wearing a Minnesota Wild jersey desperately need.
So we shall see which version of the Minnesota Wild show up tonight. One can only hope it's not what we've seen lately. If they could only look like the young kids in Houston, we just might stand a chance tonight.