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Morning Skate: I will avoid any obvious puns

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Minnesota comes to town for the first time this season to play a Detroit team that won 7-3 last time it took the ice. Minnesota has a two game win streak going after beating Stevie Y's Lightning and then the Anaheim Ducks at home but will get a very tough test tonight in Detroit.

The Wild are lead in the goal department by Cal Clutterbuck (yes, really) but the trio of Mikko Koivu, Matt Cullen and Martin Havlat lead the team in points with 15-14-14 respectively. The Wild have a pretty even scoring distribution and are anchored on the defensive side by Brent Burns and Marek Zidlicky.

Jose Theodore has moved on from the Capitals to Minnesota to be the backup to Niklas Backstrom. Backstrom normally has Josh Harding behind him but a torn knee ligament sidelined Harding for the year. Backstrom has played the majority of the minutes in net for Minnesota and has a nice 1.91 GAA to show for it. 

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  • Jimmy Howard will start in net again for Detroit. This is his 8th consecutive start for him and it'll be important to see how he plays in the first period. Howard has come up with some big saves for the Wings over the past few games (end of 1st period, St. Louis) and for some reason I get the feeling that pressure will be on him early. You saw how the first period against the Blues started with the puck in Detroit's end far too often for all of our likings. Now, Minnesota isn't St. Louis (oh, so that's how geography works?) but you can bet that they've noticed the tendency the Wings have of getting slow starts. 
  • More on those slow starts, Detroit's 1st period GF to GA ratio is 15:14. The 2nd period is 23:14 and the 3rd period is 18:11. I guess it's good to start slow and finish with a bang right?
  • Detroit's offense has actually been pretty impressive production wise. They've scored three or more goals in six straight games and have scored fewer than three in only two games. They're tied with Washington for the league lead in goals/game at 3.63. Is this some early season luck or a sign of how good this team really is?
  • Hope you've got something planned for after the game that will keep you awake and excited because the Wild are about as exciting as Nicolas Cage reading the dictionary. But if you're looking for a Wild player to watch, Mikko Koivu should be the one.
  • Jonathan Ericsson has been pretty great of late and I like how he's played since returning from his injured back. Of course, since I lauded him just now, he will have a horrible game. 
  • Minnesota averages a league low 24.7 shots per game and third from the bottom 2.35 goals for per game. Will Detroit be able to focus a lot on offense with Minnesota having trouble with their offense?
  • Coach Mike Babcock has apparently decided to stick with the lines he used towards the end of the St. Louis game: 
    Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Franzen
    Cleary-Modano-Bertuzzi
    Hudler-Filppula-Abdelkader
    Miller-Helm-Holmstrom

    What do you all think about these line combinations?
  • Minnesota's injuries:

    Minnesota Wild Injuries

    Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)

    Player Injury Type Injury Date
    Josh Harding knee 09/25/2010
    Pierre-Marc Bouchard concussion 10/06/2010
    Chuck Kobasew groin 11/05/2010
    Guillaume Latendresse groin 10/26/2010

  • Player of the game: I'm going to pick Johan Franzen. With Babcock putting him on the top line with Zetterberg and Datsyuk, there's no reason he shouldn't produce
  • Score Prediction: 3-1 Detroit. I'm still a bit cautiously optimistic about this team because they're still struggling in certain areas 
  • Tampa Bay beat Philadelphia 8-7 last night. After one period it was 5-4 Philly and at the end of the second it was tied 7-7. Steven Stamkos had a hat trick and two assists while Martin St. Louis added five assists on the night. Dan Ellis and Sergei Brobovsky both had sub .650 save percentages and both teams used two goalies. Keep in mind that Philly is at the top of their division and is a very good team still. Yikes. 
  • Toronto beat New Jersey 3-1 last night and New Jersey now has as many losses as the Wings have wins. Brett Lebda was scratched by the Maple Leafs last night. So, of course, they won. 
  • Narf.