Found February 19, 2012 on Fox Sports North:
ST. PAUL, Minn. His first two NHL call-ups have been anything but routine for Wild forward Chad Rau. Rau, an Eden Prairie native, was called up in late January to make his NHL debut on Hockey Day in Minnesota. He then scored the game-winning goal against the Dallas Stars. Fast-forward to Sunday when Rau was recalled from the Houston Aeros and spent the entire night traveling to make it to Minnesota in time for Sunday's afternoon game against the Boston Bruins as part of Hockey Day in America. Give it to Rau; he knows how to make an appearance. Rau has two career NHL goals and both are game-winners as his wrist shot past Boston goaltender Tim Thomas helped the Wild to a 2-0 win on Sunday. Another Minnesotan, Matt Cullen, snapped his 15-game goalless streak and Niklas Backstrom made a career-high 48 saves for his fourth shutout of the season as Minnesota beat the defending Stanley Cup champions during a nationally-televised broadcast. Rau, 25, played in four games earlier this season before being sent back down to Houston. He was recalled for Sunday's game with captain Mikko Koivu out with an injury and Warren Peters serving a one-game suspension. "He's coming up and he wants to make a difference and I like that," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "He wants to come out and he wants to have an impact in the game. He wants to put his stamp on it. And we had a lot of guys like that tonight. This was a really strong game from our team. It was reminiscent of how we were winning games back when we were winning a lot of games, if you remember that time." With Rau starting the scoring, Minnesota snapped a seven-game winless streak. Rau wasn't even looking to shoot when he scored on a breakaway 10 minutes, 15 seconds into the second period. Rau received a nifty pass from Dany Heatley and headed up the left side with Bruins' all-star defenseman Zdeno Chara closing in. Wild defenseman Marco Scandella jumped into the play, but Rau made a last-second decision to shoot. Replays showed Rau wasn't even looking at the goal until firing his shot past Thomas. "Just kind of got lucky," Rau said. "I got the puck coming down the wing and saw Scandy jump in the rush, and thankfully he did or otherwise it would have been a tough play on a one-on-one with Chara. I looked to pass and saw Scandy was a little late, so I just last second decided to shoot and luckily it went in." Rau has scored 39 goals in three seasons with Houston and with more outings like Sunday, he could halt at least a little bit of the back-and-forth roster shuffling between the Wild and Aeros. Saturday, Rau was preparing for a road game against Abbottsford when he got the call from Houston general manager Jim Mill. Rau packed and took a shuttle an hour and 45 minutes to the Vancouver airport. After a stop in Los Angeles, Rau landed in Minnesota at 6:15 a.m. He had time for a quick pregame nap before he took the stage for Hockey Day in America. "I don't mind if there's hockey days going on," Rau said of scoring on both Hockey Day in Minnesota and Hockey Day in America. "I get a chance to come up here, so I want to play as hard as I can each opportunity." Cullen's goal might have had him feeling young again. He entered Sunday without a point in eight straight games and hadn't scored since Jan. 10. While his team has slipped in the standings, Cullen's been frustrated with his inability to score. Scoring his 12th goal of the season will at least provide some temporary relief. "It's tough," Cullen said. "You want to win really bad and you know you're supposed to help provide some offense and it definitely wears on you. It's nice to get one, but it's important to keep going and to continue to try and do more. When you're not scoring, you've got to try and help in other ways; just have to keep going and bring your best game because we're down to an important stretch here." Cullen's isn't the only one to earn a reprieve. After snapping the winless streak, the Wild also get three days off before facing the Florida Panthers on the road Thursday. "It's been a tough stretch and it's important we don't sit here and pat ourselves on the back too much. We'll enjoy it now. We're happy with the way we played, but we have to continue to build. We have a tough time ahead of us." Follow Brian Hall on Twitter.
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