Tag Archives: Niklas Backstrom

Zucker Set To Debut; Backstrom and Falk Back

Minnesota hosts the Florida Panthers tonight and there is a wide range of news coming out of Wild camp today, so I’ll try to catch you up on everything.

Jason Zucker will make his debut in a Minnesota sweater and will wear number 16. He’s the 45th player and 14th rookie to suit up for the Wild this season. See the Wild TV pre-game video of Zucker, here.

Niklas Backstrom is set to make his first start in goal since suffering a groin injury on March 1 against the Montreal Canadiens. Backstrom backed up Josh Harding against the New York Rangers on Tuesday, but the cage will be all his tonight. Backstrom dressed as a backup for a few games, but suffered a different lower body and missed the Wild’s last road trip.

Justin Falk is expected to return to the blue line after missing nine games with a lower body injury. Falk has practiced with the team this week and is set to see his first game action since March 4.

Tonight also is the Wild’s tribute to the Minnesota North Stars “Back on Home Ice” celebration. More than 30 former North Stars are scheduled to be in attendance. A number of former North Stars were on hand at Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub yesterday, as St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman proclaimed March 29-31 North Stars Alumni Weekend. Check out the Wild TV videos of the North Stars Alumni and the mayor’s proclamation.

Finally, this is probably the coolest thing in gaming (video gaming not gambling) since NHL 94 (the year you could one-time the puck and create your own players. Mike Doyle broke Wayne Gretzky’s single-season scoring records that year, but I digress). EA SPORTS is letting fans pick the EA SPORTS NHL 13 cover player. Mikko Koivu and Niklas Backstrom are going head-to-head in the first round. Awesome right? Well, you can vote one of them through until April 11, here. For the full story on the cover campaign visit Wild.com, here.

Zanon Misses Practice, Will Play in St. Louis

Hi, Wild fans! Just a quick post today to make sure you’ve got the latest on all things Wild since I’ve got some things to do for Hockey Day Minnesota on Saturday. The guys on the Wild are just as busy, having a late practice this morning before hopping a plane to St. Louis in the next hour. The Wild will play in St. Louis tomorrow and then finish off the home-and-home when it hosts the Blues Saturday as the Hockey Day finale at 8 p.m.

Wild defenseman Greg Zanon was the lone Wild player missing from today’s practice, but since he’s Greg Zanon, I wasn’t that worried. Neither was Todd Richards who said after practice that Zanon is “just sore” from taking a puck to the elbow in yesterday’s game and should play tomorrow. Richards had some great lines about the toughness of NHL players today and their willingness to put their body in front of 100 MPH shots without blinking, and some especially funny quips about everyone’s favorite shot blocker. Hear his comments to the media in today’s PONDcast.

Richards must’ve been happy with last night’s win because he had some fun with the media, acting like he’d keep the goalie decisions for this weekend’s games a secret, before smiling and giving them away: Jose Theodore will play in St. Louis tomorrow and Niklas Backstrom will get the Hockey Day start Saturday.

Other than the lineup announcements, there wasn’t much news from practice. The West just continues to be unbelievably tight and the Wild continues to be forced to win to stay in the thick of things.

The Wild and Blues will face each other for the first time this season and Richards talked about how this weekend is a battle between the two organizations, with two Wild-Blues games and two Aeros-Rivermen games. Of course, the second AHL game will be at Xcel Energy Center Sunday at 1 p.m. Click here to get all the details, including specifics on Wild and Aeros autograph sessions.

Finally, kudos to the Wild video and game operations staff for an excellent job on the pre-game ceremony honoring Andrew Brunette last night. If you didn’t get a chance to watch the festivities, check it out here.

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.

Backstrom To Start; Staubitz Instigator Rescinded

Good early afternoon, State of Hockey legion. Hope you all had a little extra caffeine this morning to get you going after staying up late to watch the Wild win in Edmonton last night. I know I certainly needed some coffee to write today’s game preview after finishing last night’s recap. Be sure you’ve prepped with caffeine infused drinks tonight as it’s another late start out west when the Wild drop the puck in Calgary at 8:30 CT.  Oh, the tolls of back-to-backs.

As suspected the past few days, Niklas Backstrom has been confirmed as the Wild’s starting goalie tonight after serving as the backup for the past few games. Backs will get his first start since Dec. 31 after injuring his hip and missing four games. Backstrom has played well against Calgary recently, going 7-1-1 in his last nine starts (10 games) against the Flames, holding a 1.22 GAA, a.958 SV%, and two shutouts in those contests.

In some (somewhat) unexpected news from this morning’s skate, it was announced that the NHL has rescinded Brad Staubitz’s instigator penalty for fighting with less than five minutes left in last night’s game. Staubitz said after the game he hoped the NHL would reverse the call on the ice because he was standing up for the Wild’s All-Star.. It seems the NHL agreed, so Staubitz will not be suspended for tonight’s game and Todd Richards will not be fined $10,000. I’d have to imagine that’s a nice feeling since a fee like that might send me to the Emergency Room.

Of course, Staubitz could be out of the lineup tonight if Richards decided to make him the healthy scratch, but for now the same lineup is expected in Calgary, meaning Cody Almond will watch from the press box.

Enjoy the rest of your day and don’t forget to catch the Wild as the guys go for three straight at 8:30 on KSTC-TV (HD), WCCO 830 radio and the always hysterical Glen Andresen on wild.com’s live, in-game commentary.

Harding Skates; Wild Heads East

It was a very low-key morning down at Xcel Energy Center today, but the media assembled got some much needed excitement when Josh Harding walked past and announced he skated earlier today. It was in fact the first time Harding has gotten on skates since his knee surgery a few months ago, and even if he only skated for a bit in sweats, it’s still means he’s nearly a full month ahead of schedule to return from the torn ACL/MCL he suffered in his right knee during the preseason. Harding said he’s never counted himself out for this season and continues to work just to get back in the lineup.

Since he’s back on the ice, Harding now has a stall in the Wild locker room for the first time this regular season:

Harding was all smiles as he talked with the media and said the skate “felt good” but also added that “you’ve got to take it easy, you can’t over push it.” When asked if he’d be returning in a few weeks, he answered, “I’d love to say, ‘Yeah,’ but it obviously just depends on how everything goes and you’ve got to be careful with it…we’re just going to take it week by week.” Harding joked of good friend James Sheppard’s return from injury, saying, “I’m trying to beat him back.”

As for the Wild players not on injured reserve, six players joined Assistant Coaches Rick Wilson and Darby Hendrickson for a optional practice before the Wild flies to New Jersey early this afternoon. Perhaps most noticeably, Marco Scandella was on the ice after missing last night’s game because of an illness. He was joined by Clayton Stoner, Brad Staubitz, Patrick O’Sullivan, Cal Clutterbuck and Jared Spurgeon.

In some other news, Niklas Backstrom declared himself good to go with no lasting effects of the collision with Scandella in practice last week. Backstrom told the media that at this level you have to practice how you play and the collision was “just part of the game.” He added that Scandella’s “a great guy” and he holds no ill will about the collision.

As for the lineups for the Wild’s contests on the East Coast this week, it is still unknown who will start because Todd Richards was not available to talk with the media this morning. But lucky for you, Wild.com brainiac Glen Andresen is traveling with the team on this road trip, so he’ll have all the lineup details for you this week, as well as some cool other features for wild.com.

Until Glen posts his first report from New Joisey, here’s today’s PONDcast from Kevin Falness to get you through the day.

Finally, don’t forget to watch the USA-Canada showdown in the semifinals of the World Junior Championship from Buffalo, N.Y., tonight on NHL Network at 6:30 p.m. CT. Good news for the Yanks: Wild prospect Jason Zucker and Jeremy Morin are both expected back in the U.S. lineup. It might not be a gold-medal matchup, but any game between the Canadians and Americans should be incredibly entertaining, especially during World Juniors. I couldn’t get Brad Bombardir to make an apparel bet again since he ended up having to wear my USA Hockey scarf the day after the U.S. gold last year, and Wild Equipment Manager Tony DaCosta wavered before refusing to commit, too. Looks like we’ve got some Canadians in St. Paul who aren’t too confident in the outcome! GO USA!

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.

Wild Players Take NHL.com Accolades

Remember, you still have through the week to vote on the Minnesota Wild’s top play of the week, but the NHL has already weighed in with theirs. Niklas Backstrom’s two biggest saves from last week made the Top 10 Saves of the Week on NHL.com, including his glove save on Jonathan Toews, which took the top honors.

Not to be outdone, Greg Zanon showed up with the third best check in the NHL.com Hits of the Week.