The Lighthouse Shines In Dreary Chicago

Hello from Chicago, where the only thing drearier than the cold, gray air is the general attitude of pretty much everyone in this great city. Apparently, they have an American Football team in this town and I guess they lost a big game yesterday. It sounds as though the guy in charge of throwing the football is not the most popular guy in town, and I’ve seen pictures of him, he looks like a pretty grumpy guy. But then, so does everyone in Chicago today.

The only people with smiles on their faces appear to be the Wild players, who, by all accounts, had a thoroughly enjoyable rookie dinner last night. They were graced by the presence of Charles Barkley and Michael Strahan, and no, that’s not a misprint. Those two superstars-turned-broadcasters happened to be at the same restaurant, and eventually spent close to an hour with the entire Wild team.

They had some fun at the expense of the rookies in attendance and they shared their stories of rookie dinners gone by. Apparently, there was also an argument about which fast food chain is better between Barkley’s Taco Bell and Strahan’s Subway.

Needless to say, there were plenty of Barkley-Strahan stories being tossed around on the bus this morning. I did not get any word on whether or not Barkley gave some golf swing advice to Pierre-Marc Bouchard.

Speaking of this morning, you might have thought the Wild would have a rough practice after a night of fun, but Head Coach Todd Richards liked what he saw today in a high-energy practice. There were some entertaining one-on-one battles at the end, most notably between Mikko Koivu and Kyle Brodziak, who has some of the funniest celebrations you will see. The goal of the day, however, was scored by none other than rookie Clayton Stoner, who undressed John Madden and then roofed one from in tight on Niklas Backstrom. That drew some serious howls in Johnny’s Ice House, the Blackhawks’ practice facility.

Nick Schultz skated today, as he did yesterday, and he is just fine. He will be ready to go tomorrow, which means we likely won’t see a defensive callup just yet. The news wasn’t as good in regards to Marco Scandella. According to Richards, he skated yesterday and “it didn’t go great.” Scandella will likely have to be shut down for awhile, and fortunately, he’ll have a week to do that after tomorrow’s game.

Because of the Chicago Bulls taking on the Milwaukee Bucks tonight, the Wild dressed at the United Center and rode the bus a mile to the rink. It is rather entertaining to watch fully padded goaltenders Nik Backstrom and Jose Theodore try to maneuver into some seats on the bus.

Tomorrow will be a huge game in the final contest before the All-Star break. The Blackhawks currently sit seventh in the West, three points ahead of the Wild. But, the Hawks are coming off a dismal effort yesterday against Philadelphia, and they’ll be looking for a rebound performance.

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