Tag Archives: Matt Cullen

Cullen Approaching 1,000th NHL Game

To see Matt Cullen skating around at today’s Minnesota Wild practice, you might think that he was just starting a National Hockey League career, not on the verge of playing in his 1,000th NHL game.

However, the 35-year-old – who still comes to the rink with the zeal of players half his age – will hit the milestone tomorrow night when the Wild plays the San Jose Sharks at Xcel Energy Center.

“It’s kind of funny to think that I’m that old already,” Cullen joked. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and certainly more than I ever could have dreamt of and to be able to do it at home is something special.”

The former Moorhead Spud star went on to play college hockey at St. Cloud State University for two seasons before making his NHL debut with the Anaheim Ducks in 1998.

“My first game was in Maple Leaf Garden,” Cullen remembered. “What stands out is that I lost the first faceoff against Mats Sundin right back to their point, and they shot it and the goalie saved it.”

Cullen’s line was immediately changed after the play.

“It was a short shift,” he said with a laugh. “It doesn’t seem like that long ago, that’s the funny thing.”

Playing all those games, Cullen is still humble and has perspective on his career, “I realize how lucky I am to be able to do this and I enjoy it everyday.”

Head Coach Mike Yeo and teammates talk about Cullen’s accomplishment, in a Wild TV video, here.

After practice, Yeo addressed Marco Scandella’s reassignment to Houston earlier today. With seven healthy defensemen on the Wild’s roster, Yeo said, “He’s a young player – doesn’t have to clear waivers – can go to the minors and its pretty easy for us to focus still on his development and make sure we give him a chance to go down and play some games and get his confidence back.”

“It’s a little bit easier to make this decision and handle it this way with a guy like that.”

Finally, Pierre-Marc Bouchard (lower body) again didn’t practice with the team today. He hasn’t skated since playing against Vancouver on January 4. Yeo said that Bouchard was going to get “checked out today,” so we should know more about his status tomorrow.

The Heater’s Back In Ottawa; Nystrom Could Be Back In Minnesota

The Minnesota Wild has placed forward Eric Nystrom on re-entry waivers today, meaning that he will rejoin the club tomorrow if he clears. Other teams have the option to pick him up, but if they don’t, Nystrom would join the Wild and another roster move would have to be made.

General Manager Chuck Fletcher said on Tuesday that the move was made with the purpose of bringing Nystrom back to Minnesota.

“He’s an NHL player,” said Fletcher. “He’s versatile. He can play center or wing.”

Whatever happens, Nystrom will not be with the club when it closes out a quick trip out East tonight against the Ottawa Senators. The Wild will go with the same lineup tonight that it used in New York yesterday.

The media mob was out in full force today, as it was two years ago when the Wild was in town. Canadian hockey towns bring out the news contingent anyway, but the equipment truck fire in 2009 brought more than usual, and Dany Heatley’s return has the same effect.

I didn’t get the chance to see Heatley’s media availability, but Head Coach Mike Yeo sang his praises and how great he’s been for the team on and off the ice. He also had some fun with the media throng when asked about the much-anticipated return.

“Coming back to an old building…you know the fans are going to be booing. But Cully’s an experienced guy and I think he’ll bounce back from it.”

Matt Cullen spent a brief stint with the Senators in their 2010 playoff run. He played 21 regular season games, and six playoff contests with the Sens before signing with the Wild in the offseason.

 

Wild Heads Back On The Road

Good Afternoon from St. Paul, where the Wild players are currently packing up their hockey bags and getting ready to head to the airport as they go out on the road once again. It seems like every time you turn around, the team is leaving for a road trip – but with the way the guys have played on the road this season, you can’t really complain about a lack of extended home stands.

This time, the Wild heads to Denver for a matchup with the Avalanche tomorrow and then to Phoenix for a game Saturday. Tomorrow’s game should be interesting because the Wild and Avs had some VERY physical contests earlier in the year, but the last contest between the two was relatively mellow – what type of game will it be tomorrow? Of course, both games have plenty of importance since they are Western Conference battles and the playoff race continues to get tighter, even when you think it can’t be possible.

Speaking of Phoenix, they blew a lead last night to San Jose and the Sharks ended up winning 5-3, meaning the Wild’s stay 8th place and playoff position lasted about two hours. I talked to Matt Cullen about it after practice and thought some of the things he said were very interesting: basically saying that while it can at times be frustrating that the Wild’s winning and not making much headway in the standings, the team feels good because the tight standings are practically like a playoff race and the Wild is dealing with the pressure of that and winning.

As for practice itself, every Wild player was on the ice for a pretty fast-paced 45 minutes or so and looked like they’ve gotten rid of the All-Star rust. Todd Richards reiterated after practice that Jose Theodore will start in Colorado, adding that they made the decision before break. Regardless of Niklas Backstrom’s great play of late, they want to make sure they have both goalies to use down the stretch and Jose needs to get some playing time in. Listen to Todd Richards entire scrum with the media on this Wild PONDcast.

I saw photos last night, but I finally got to see the shirts honoring Andrew Brunette’s 1,000th NHL game that all the players and team staff got yesterday:

They’re pretty sweet up close. Brunette was on NHL Live this afternoon to talk about the milestone and will be honored with a pre-game ceremony at the next Wild home game Wednesday against the Avalanche.

Finally, in case you didn’t see it last night, I’ll leave you with video of Niklas Backstrom’s absolutely unbelieveable, amazing, jaw-dropping and a million other adjectives save on Jack Johnson in the shootout last night. Watch it here.

Update from Sunny Phoenix

Word from Phoenix, where it’s currently 70 degrees, is that Wild forward Matt Cullen is a game-time decision for tonight’s contest against the Coyotes. Cullen is questionable with a lower-body injury, but if he does play, Patrick O’Sullivan will be the healthy scratch up front for the Wild.

Niklas Backstrom will start in net tonight. The Wild blueline will look the same as the last game in Dallas, meaning Clayton Stoner will be the defensive scratch. Also, Former Army Ranger JB Spisso, who has worked with the Wild and other NHL teams as a motivational speaker throughout the season, is accompanying Minnesota on this road trip out West.

Check out the Wild back in action tonight at 8 p.m. CT on FS North (HD) and WCCO 830 radio.

Finally, Wild fans know how hot Martin Havlat’s been lately, but he’s starting to get attention league-wide now: check out Marty’s feature as the BlackBerry Player to Watch.

Nothing But Smiles And Laughter

From what I hear, Sunday’s practice was very interesting and there were apparently some angry words and actions on the Xcel Energy Center ice. I didn’t see any of that on Monday. It seemed that players and coaches were in a much better mood as a full day of practice wrapped up with a contest at center ice.

Players hooted and laughed as each skater took a turn firing a shot from the center ice faceoff dot into an empty net. Players had to go until they made their shot, and the last one to make one became the designated “Juice Boy.” It came down to Cal Clutterbuck and video coach P.J. Deluca whose final attempt was a wounded duck that missed by 10 feet.

After practice, Richards compared yesterday and today, saying it’s just like raising a kid. You have to be strict when needed, but you also have to help them. Today was about helping, and the Wild special teams got a lot of work and help, even though they’ve been good early in the season.

Richards was asked about the lack of production from even strength lines. He admitted he is thinking about shuffling the lines up, but he did not hint at what those moves might be, and he’s not sure he’ll try something new before tomorrow night’s game with Vancouver.

He didn’t get much of a chance to experiment today anyway, because Matt Cullen, Martin Havlat and Nick Schultz all missed practice due to illness. There is some bug making its way through the locker room, but Richards is hopeful that all will be available tomorrow. If not, the Wild may be forced to call down to Houston tonight.

The good news is that Brent Burns was on the ice, and his lower body injury doesn’t seem to be bothering him.

Finally, Richards touched on Pierre-Marc Bouchard, saying he looks good and everyone’s getting excited about him. Still, there is no timetable for contact. But I will say he looks good. It will be up to him when he feels good enough to take contact, but I have to think it could be getting close. As I type this, I’m watching him and Clayton Stoner skate some Herbies with Darby Hendrickson.

That’s all from today’s skate. Don’t forget about tomorrow’s 8:00 p.m. start against the Canucks. Also, the first of the Year Ten team bobbleheads will be given to the first 5,000 fans through the gates. Mikko Koivu will be tomorrow night’s figurine.

Cullen, Burns Sit Out Sunday Practice

Just a quick update on this beautiful fall Sunday. Wild PR guru Aaron Sickman sends along the following information following today’s practice at Xcel Energy Center.

Matt Cullen missed practice today due to illness, but he is expected to be fine in time for Tuesday’s game against Vancouver. Brent Burns also sat out due to a lower body injury suffered last night. Todd Richards said there is an 80% chance that he’ll be in the lineup on Tuesday.

The Houston Aeros lost their first game of the season last night. Robbie Earl and Jean-Michel Daoust scored the goals in a 3-2 loss.

That’s it for today. We’ll talk more on Monday. Go Vikes!

Finland Day Four/Five

For whatever reason, it feels like I’ve been in Finland longer than four days. Don’t get me wrong, I love this place. But my hotel room is starting to look and smell like a pack of Finnish reindeer had a party in it. Normally, I’m not one to utilize the housecleaning, but I’m going to have to relent. If anyone on the hotel cleaning crew is reading this, my apologies.

Today’s blog is going to inlcude last night’s game, and then the events of today (there weren’t many).

Last night, the Wild nabbed its first and only win from the preseason. First, the game stuff.

The Wild beat Ilves Tampere, 5-1, but were tied after two periods before beating Sami Aittokallio four times in the third.

Cal Clutterbuck was huge, burying three goals for his first hat trick since “two weeks before camp started at the St. Louis Park Octagon Camp.” All three of Clutter’s goals came on quick wrist shots from around 15 feet away. He was on a line with Matt Cullen and Casey Wellman, and they looked great all game long.

The other two goals were scored by Marek Zidlicky and Chuck Kobasew, and they were the prettiest two goals. Zidlicky worked a give-and-go with Mikko Koivu (who is rather popular here), and then kicked the puck from his left skate to his stick and then fired a wrister through traffic.

Kobasew fought off a defender in front of the net, and with the puck laying between his opponent’s leg, he jammed it on goal and under Aittokallio. Kobasew was upstaged on the play by a jubilant John Madden, who slapped his stick on the ice and then picked up the puck. He said it was his first point ever in Finland. He played here last year with Chicago, and also played two games for I.F.K. during the lockout.

The team bussed back to Helsinki through the darkness and made it back after midnight. That prompted Todd Richards to call off Tuesday’s practice citing the lack of rest his guys have had in the last two weeks.

The team did appear at Hartwall Areena on Tuesday, however. The 100+ Wild fans that traveled from Minnesota were treated to a lunch with the entire team. General Manager Chuck Fletcher gave an opening speech and answered some questions from the fans. As usual, he had some good one-liners, saying the team has really bonded here in Finland…maybe too much considering they spent all Saturday together on Sauna Island.

He also mentioned that the team will have to make the two cuts prior to Wednesday’s game. Those two players have been told they have been placed on waivers, but he didn’t say who they were. We’ll be able to post the names once they are claimed or clear waivers.

Once Chuck was done, the players then entered the arena restaurant which had a castle-style feel to it. The players spread out among all the tables to break bread and sign autographs for the fans. Even Bruce Oreck, the U.S. Ambassador to Finland was in attendance near the end.

The players have the rest of Tuesday to themselves. Tomorrow will be the final practice in preparation for Carolina on Thursday. The Canes arrived in Helsinki last night and were on the ice at Hartwall Areena for the first time today. They lost to SKA-St. Petersburg last night, but I can’t imagine they are too broken up about it. From all accounts, it sounds as if they were just happy to get out of there with everybody’s limbs still attached. Apparently, the Russian team was taking a few too many liberties with the skilled players.