Tag Archives: cal clutterbuck

Taffe Reassigned To Houston

After two games with the Minnesota Wild, Jeff Taffe has been reassigned to the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League.

Taffe had an assist in each game with the Wild while skating on a line with Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley. The Hastings, Minn., native was the fourth Minnesotan to skate for the Wild this season and 11th all-time.

The move likely means that Cal Clutterbuck is ready to come back to the lineup on Tuesday when the NHL-leading Wild travels to Winnipeg, and tries to extend its win-streak to eight games against the Jets.

Wild World Championship Update

Last week, Dennis Endras started things off the right way for players with Wild ties at the IIHF World Championship. He posted a shut out of Russia in the opening game of the tournament. He appeared to set the tone for some other players of interest to Wild fans.

Mikael Granlund has had himself a nice showing through two games in helping Finland go 2-0. The 2010 first round pick tallied a power play goal in a 5-1 win over Denmark, becoming the first Team Finland player born in the 1990’s to register a goal in World Championship competition. In a 3-2 shootout win over Latvia, Granlund picked up assists on both regulation goals and would have been Finland’s final shooter in the shootout if not for Mikko Koivu sealing the win with his patented backhand roof shot on the glove hand side. Koivu also has an assist through two games.

Finland’s next opponent will be the Czech Republic, which is also 2-0 thus far.  Martin Havlat is tied for the team lead in scoring with a goal and two assists, while Marek Zidlicky has one helper.

Brent Burns and Cal Clutterbuck each have a point for undefeated Team Canada, with Burns notching a goal and Clutterbuck assisting on a Travis Zajac tally in a 9-1 rout of France. Canada is currently trailing Switzerland, 1-0 in the final game of pool play.

Clutterbuck And Burns To Represent Team Canada

It was announced on Wednesday that the Wild will have two representatives on Team Canada at this year’s IIHF World Championship, which begins April 29 in Slovakia. It will be the third World Championship appearance for Burns and the first for Clutterbuck.

Burns and Clutterbuck will be considered veterans on a roster stacked with young talent including: Matt Duchene, Jordan Eberle, Evander Kane, Jeff Skinner, Chris Stewart and John Tavares. The unquestioned stars of the team will be Rick Nash and Dion Phaneuf on defense.

Team Finland has yet to announce its roster, but it’s expected that Mikko Koivu will be on the roster.

Team USA released the names of the first 16 players on the roster, and it features three Minnesotans. Defenseman Mark Stuart (Rochester) will be joined by forwards Blake Wheeler (Minneapolis) and Chris Porter (Faribault). Former UMD Bulldog Tim Stapleton has also been named to the team.

Zidlicky Back at Practice; Schultz Family Addition

The Wild was back in action Friday morning, albeit at a suburban ice rink thanks to Kenny Chesney’s concert at Xcel Energy Center tonight. That didn’t stop the Wild from having an intense practice that lasted more than an hour and saw the team work on quite a few things, including breakouts and ending the day with physical battles around the net.

The big news this morning was that Marek Zidlicky returned to practice for the first time since suffering a lower-body injury nearly two weeks ago in Vancouver. Zidlicky’s addition was dampened by the fact that Cal Clutterbuck was ill and did not practice. Whether Cal and Marek can play tomorrow, or the Wild goes with seven defensemen, or the the team needs to recall a player from Houston (Warren Peters cleared waivers and was reassigned to Houston today) will all be determined tomorrow.

“I feel much better today, so we’ll see tomorrow,” said Zidlicky. “I felt well. I felt much better. So, I’ll try a hard practice tomorrow morning and will see after it.”

While Head Coach Todd Richards couldn’t yet determine if Zidlicky or Clutterbuck would be in the lineup against St. Louis, he did say that none of the team’s current injured players – Barker, Harding, Latendresse, Scandella and Sheppard – would play tomorrow.

Beyond the Wild trying to end its homestand with a win, tomorrow’s game against the Blues should be very interesting because of the team’s earlier two games this season. If you recall, the Wild grabbed a 5-4 shootout win in St. Louis on Feb. 11 before hosting the Blues the next night in St. Paul, coming away with a 3-1 win on Hockey Day Minnesota. Both games were very physical, the last of which ended with a skirmish between the teams at the final buzzer, most noticeably when Clayton Stoner did this to David Backes:

Stoner joked about facing Backes at Hockey Unplugged this Wednesday saying, “Do you think he’ll want to or what? Well I don’t know; when you got beat up on the playground, did you ask the guy to go again?” Stoner then said in all seriousness they’ve each had good nights against the other and seemed to give the same sentiments when asked about another set of back-to-back games with the Blues.

“They’re the type of team that always plays hard, they play with a lot of grit, so when you’re matched up against those teams and especially another home-and-home with them, it’s going to be a battle,” said Stoner. “Going into the game you know that it might be an extra-intense game, especially with what’s on the line with us, wanting some redemption in a sense that we lost the last couple of games here.”

Richards also spoke about facing the Blues, saying, “I think players remember; we all remember, especially how that one game ended here at home. St. Louis is playing hard right now and we’ve got to be ready for that.”

In some off-ice news, the Wild family grew by one when Nick Schultz’s wife, Jessica, gave birth to the couple’s third child this morning. Schultz was at practice today and was all smiles when talking about 6-pound, 2-ounce Sydney Marie. “It was pretty quick,” said Schultz. “Luckily it happened when it did, which was nice to be around for it.” Congratulations to the Schultz Family!

For the full recap of this morning’s Wild practice, listen to today’s PONDcast

Clutterbuck And Koivu May Both Be Back Tonight

The Minnesota Wild has just wrapped up its morning skate in Vancouver, and the news is sounding good. Head Coach Todd Richards is saying that Cal Clutterbuck and Clayton Stoner are both in, and that Koivu is a gametime decision.

When Koivu was asked if he’ll take pregame warmups, he said, “we’ll see.” One would think that if he wasn’t going to, he would have just said “no.” And one would also think that if he’s taking warmups, he’s playing.

What a huge boost this would be to a team in need of a win against the best team in the Western Conference tonight. Of course, here in Minnesota, we always brush off that label when it comes to the Canucks. It doesn’t matter where they are in the standings, the Wild always seems to have its best ready. To have their best, it helps to have their best players and Koivu and Clutterbuck fit into that category.

Expect Niklas Backstrom to get the start in this most gargantuan of games.

I’m aware of some consternation as the result of two shutout defeats from last week, but I did some research and data analysis. By my calculations, a 4-3 loss counts for the same amount of points as a 4-0 loss, thus rendering the “shutout” tag irrelevant. Also, the Wild remains four points back of eighth place Calgary, with two games in hand, so the playoffs are still there for the taking with 13 games to play.

And, if the Wild can bag a couple wins over a too cool for school Vancouver team, and a Sharks team that has lost three of four, things are going to get very interesting come the weekend. Following this road trip, the Wild will play five of their next six games against teams on the outside of the playoff picture. The only exception is Montreal.

My point is, things are far from over.

And finally, as a product of the great white North, I have to comment on perhaps the most tension filled hockey day that the Duluth area has ever seen. On Saturday, Hermantown (which is basically a Duluth suburb) fought should-be Double A school St. Thomas Academy to the very end in an overtime defeat in the Class A state finals. That night, my alma mater Duluth East, fought Eden Prairie, a school with a student population right around 1 million, for three overtimes before finally succumbing. All the while, the UMD Bulldogs were tangling with St. Cloud State in a three overtime thriller to get to the WCHA Final Five. FYI – the Bulldogs won.

For folks who saw any of those three games, I’m willing to bet they won’t forget any of them. To use a cliche, those games are why we love hockey. So thanks to all the players and coaches and fans who were involved for creating those memories.

Now then, don’t expect triple overtime tonight in Vancouver, because it’s impossible. But, expect a Wild win, and it will be so.

O’Sullivan On Waivers; Khudobin Likely Starter

It seems like a long time since the Minnesota Wild has held a normal practice at Xcel Energy Center, which may explain why there was a fairly large media contingent at today’s practice.

Fortunately for all the media bottom feeders, there was plenty of news coming out of the scrum with Todd Richards, who was sporting a Team Canada hat after losing a bet with Equipment Manager Tony Dacosta on who would win the World Junior semifinal between the United States and Canada. We all missed out, however. If the U.S. had won, Tony would have had to put on red, white and blue face paint. Let’s hope the same bet is made next year.

First off, Patrick O’Sullivan was placed on waivers today and did not practice. There’s no word on what will happen to O’Sullivan if he clears, but it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll be in a Wild uniform again.

“Consistency,” said Richards. “He can do some good things with the puck in the hard areas, but we need more of that on a consistent basis.”

Richards later pointed out that the Wild claimed O’Sullivan when there were still questions about if and when Pierre-Marc Bouchard would get into the lineup. Now that Bouchard is back and healthy, the Wild didn’t need two of the same type of wingers. The team already has playmakers on the wing like Andrew Brunette, Martin Havlat and Bouchard. “We need something different,” said Richards.

Jose Theodore also did not practice today due to a sore hip. Richards said he saw the doctor yesterday and they’ll wait to see how he feels tomorrow prior to a huge matchup with the eighth place Colorado Avalanche.

“More than likely, Khudobin will get the start and we’ll see if Theodore can back him up,” said Richards.

It sounds like the Wild will call up Matt Hackett from Houston as a precaution. But that would be the only move, at least for now. Richards is satisfied with going with the 12 healthy forwards and six defensemen currently at his disposal.

Finally, there will be a feature story on Wild.com in the next hour or so about the intensity of the rivalry between the Avs and Wild, which was ratcheted up after the last meeting. After some chippy play, Cal Clutterbuck lashed out with some pointed comments about two Avs players, and then saw a Denver beat writer call him a “coward” in a blog post.

As silly as that was, give credit to that beat writer who showed up to today’s morning skate and had a long talk with Clutterbuck about his game, and many other things. As always, Cal was more than happy to talk and had some gems.

He was talking about how his reputation as a “dirty” player is unwarranted because he gets called for so few penalties, and almost no boarding, charging or checking from behind calls. I asked him if he’d ever been called for a head shot and he said, “I got one my first year in Vancouver, but it was on (Alexandre) Burrows, so we’ll forget about that one. It’s a wash.”

He said he won’t be surprised if Avalanche players target him, “but what else is new?”

That about does it.


Friday Practice Update: Team Talk, New Lines and Clutterbuck “Banged Up”

Happy Friday, State of Hockey legion. After a holiday lunch with the staff down at Wild headquarters, I thought I’d throw up a late post about this morning’s Wild practice.

After a disappointing loss to the Ottawa Senators last night, I was interested to see the type of practice the Wild would have this morning at Xcel Energy Center. And while the practice itself was a typical skate, if not for a little short so the team could get to the airport and fly to Calgary, it was a moment before practice that stood out.

At the beginning of practice, players arced around the white board on the glass as they normally do when a coach is outlining a new drill or something he wants to focus on in the practice. The only difference this morning is that it wasn’t a drill they were talking about. In a rather calm conversation, Head Coach Todd Richards spoke before John Madden, Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette and other leaders on the team talked. Watching from the stands, it looked more like students responding to their teacher’s questions, than giving a speech to the team.

When he was asked about the talk during his scrum with the media, Richards was noticeably succinct saying they were “just having a friendly conversation.” When pressed for a little more on the subject, Richards would only say, “We just talked about last night’s game. That was really it. Just wanted to have their thoughts on last nights game.”

When I asked if the players that were talking during the gathering spoke up on their own or if he was asking them questions, Richards responded, “A couple guys spoke up on their own, otherwise, I asked questions to certain players.” And while he was completely amiable discussing the topic, it was pretty obvious that Richards wasn’t about to share any more details on the discussion.

The entire talk on the ice only lasted a few minutes, but it was a pretty unusual moment and something I haven’t witnessed at a practice before. Certainly, it had some meaning for this team as it tries to get back on the winning track.

As for the practice itself, the team worked on a variety of drills including breaking into the offensive zone, as well as PP and PK. Clutterbuck was the only player missing from the ice today. Richards said Clutter was “banged up” but his status for tomorrow night’s game in Calgary was uncertain because Richards hadn’t spoken with the training staff yet. But Clutterbuck did fly with the team to Calgary.

As for the rest of the lineup tomorrow night, Richards said he had not decided who would start in net tomorrow and would probably make the decision on the flight. Matt Cullen practiced and Richards said he is expected to return to the lineup tomorrow night. If both Cullen and Clutterbuck play, as Richards said, “We’ll have to make a decision of who’s in and who’s out.”

Practice featured some new lines, including Chuck Kobasew skating on line with Koivu and Brunette, along with Patrick O’Sullivan on the wing with Cullen and Antti Miettinen. Richards said, “We may go into the game tomorrow night with them.”

Finally, as the team gets ready for a home-and-home series with a tough division rival, Richards said the focus is not the rivalry with Calgary, but coming away with wins. “Right now, it really doesn’t matter who we’re playing, whether it’s division, non-division – two points is two points. And we have to get points in games, regardless of who we’re playing.”