Coming Up On The Quarter Pole

If only the Minnesota Wild’s comeback victory over Detroit has been played on Saturday rather than Friday, we’d be reveling for three off days of bliss and excitement. As Dunder Mifflin’s Dwight Schrute would say, “If onlys and justs were candies and nuts, then every day would be Erntedankfest!”

Instead, the last game the Wild played was a 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers on home ice. Now, everyone’s in a tizzy for three days until the Wild gets back to action against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thanksgiving Eve, one of the biggest soda drinking nights of the year.

It will be the Wild’s 20th game of the season, meaning we’re essentially a quarter of the way through Year Ten. While there have been some bumps, let’s just pause and enjoy the fact that the Wild is right in the thick of this thing, and doing so with some serious scoring punch in the Al Shaver Press Box most game nights.

If last week is any indication, the right guys are starting to heat up as Mikko Koivu, Antti Miettinen, Martin Havlat, Matt Cullen, Brent Burns and Cal Clutterbuck all scored. If the majority of that group can heat up, and the goaltending stays somewhere close to where it has been, it’s all good in the State of Hockey hood.

All of those aforementioned players were on the ice for today’s long practice. John Madden and Marek Zidlicky did not skate because of some leg tightness, but they are expected to play tomorrow. Chuck Kobasew and Guillaume Latendresse also stayed off the ice.

Head Coach Todd Richards, the second-longest tenured head coach currently in Minnesota pro sports, said Clayton Stoner will likely play against Philly on Friday. The team may call up another forward before then, and it’s also likely to take a seventh defenseman on the road to Denver and Calgary starting on Saturday.

The highlight of my day was seeing Andrew Brunette donning a UMD Bulldogs hat after practice today. He must be well aware that the ‘Dogs are ranked number one in the country again after a sweep of Robbie Earl’s Badgers over the weekend.

And in more exciting Bulldog news, the captains for UMD’s men’s and women’s teams became the first to skate on the new Amsoil Arena rink today. The new building is set to open at the end of December, while just one more series remains at the old DECC, where I probably visited at least 1,000 times in my lifetime as a fan, player and concert-goer. In fact, my first-ever concert was front row at the DECC to Hootie and the Blowfish. Take that!

It’s a bittersweet time. The DECC had a ton of character and great sightlines for such an old building. As a kid, it felt like the biggest place in the world and a trip there was the highlight of the weekend (unless my dad agreed to take me to the House of Doughnuts after the Saturday night game). It’s a little sad that the 2011 National Championship banner won’t get to hang at the DECC, but the new arena is going to need some decorating and I’m sure will have a place for it.

Here’s a photo of the captains taking the ice for the first time.

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