Wild await new equipment, date with Senators
WILD (17-14-3) at SENATORS (17-13-4)
Minnesota 8-2-0; Ottawa 4-6-0
This is the only meeting of the season between these teams. Ottawa rallied from a three-goal, first-period deficit to claim a 5-3 victory in St. Paul, Minn., on Feb. 14. Owen Nolan scored twice in the first period for the Wild, but the Senators struck back with three in the second to tie it and went in front to stay on their second shorthanded goal of the game by Daniel Alfredsson
early in the third.
The good news is nobody got hurt, but the Wild are in the midst of dealing with a serious matter after a truck fire Friday damaged much of the team's equipment. Team officials were able to gather replacement equipment, which was loaded on a plane bound for Ottawa in the early hours of Saturday morning. What kind of distraction this might prove to be for the players remains to be seen.
"I've never heard of anything like this in my life," forward Martin Havlat told the Ottawa Sun
. "When I first heard about it, I thought it was some kind of a joke."
The beat goes on for Minnesota, which has won nine of its last 11 games and is surging up the Northwest Division standings. The Wild played a sound road game Thursday in Montreal, taking the lead late in the first period on a Mikko Koivu goal and getting 30 saves from Niklas Backstrom in a 3-1 victory.
"Early in the game, you get the lead and you get the team going, and I think it's important on the road," Koivu said. "We did a pretty good job defensively, even if they had a lot of shots. In the third period, we tried to keep it tight in the middle and obviously Backstrom played a great game, so that always helps."
Ottawa returns home after losing Friday to New Jersey for the third time in as many meetings. The Senators were within 3-2 in the third before Devils defenceman Bryce Salvador ripped a shot from outside the Ottawa blue line that goalie Brian Elliott
deflected up into the air. On its way down, the puck went off his back and into the net, as the Senators lost 4-2.
''I thought we were playing a good game. I thought we were still in good position to win,'' defenceman Alex Picard said. ''If that doesn't happen, maybe the outcome is different. That was a big momentum breaker.''
Backstrom is on top of his game right now for Minnesota. He's won four consecutive starts, giving up a single goal in the last three and shutting out Colorado prior to that. Koivu has a goal and two assists in the last two games and leads the team with 33 points.
Picard has goals in consecutive games for Ottawa. Forward Mike Fisher
had his five-game point streak snapped in New Jersey.
Concussions have sidelined Wild defenceman Brent Burns and forwards Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Petr Sykora and Andrew Ebbett, though the latter could return on Saturday. Nolan is also out with a leg injury.
A torn right MCL will sideline Senators forward Jason Spezza
for the next 6-8 weeks. Forward Nick Foligno
will miss at least two weeks following arthroscopic knee surgery. Knee injuries have forwards Shean Donovan and Chris Neil
out and goalie Pascal Leclaire
remains on injured reserve with a fractured cheekbone. Both Neil and Leclaire could return Wednesday, when the Senators play at the Pittsburgh Penguins in their final game before the two-day Christmas break.
The injury to Spezza means the Senators will need more out of players like Milan Michalek
. After coming over from San Jose in the Dany Heatley trade, Michalek scored 15 goals in his first 25 games. In his last nine outings, he's recorded just a single assist and has a minus-8 rating.
Players can be very particular about their equipment, which makes Friday's calamity with Minnesota something that bears watching as this game plays out.
"Looks like we're going to try to play, I guess," forward Andrew Brunette told the Minneapolis Star Tribune
following a players' meeting Friday night.
Backstrom didn't seem to have any doubts the team would soldier on.
"You can't worry about this. You can't hide behind this. You can't find any excuse," he told the paper.
Meanwhile, goaltender Mike Brodeur will make his NHL debut tonight for the Senators. Brian Elliott
had started the previous 14 games since Leclaire went down with his injury in late November.