By Brian Stensaas
Welcome to the start of a new week, the second-to-last of the season. The Wild this week has two biggies: tomorrow against Vancouver and a Friday night showdown with Calgary. The team did have practice earlier this afternoon, but most of the veterans were given the day off. No Backstrom, no Brunette, no Nolan, no Koivu, no Gaborik. It wasn’t totally bare on the ice, however. Fourteen skaters did take part in practice, which culminated with one of those famous half-ice 3-on-3 shinny tournaments.
OK let’s get on with some news. I’m still waiting to hear back officially from assistant GM Tom Lynn on some injury updates, but Brent Burns and Pierre-Marc Bouchard both will be out tomorrow because of concussions. Derek Boogaard, who has missed the past four games with upper body soreness, skated on his own this morning. And Cal Clutterbuck, who missed part of last night’s game after being slashed, practiced today and appears to be just fine. Goaltender Niklas Backstrom (lower body) must be feeling better, too, because the Wild no longer has an emergency need for Anton Khudobin. He flew back to Minnesota with the team last night, but was to rejoin the Aeros.
Also today, Minnesota signed 19-year-old center Cody Almond to an entry level contract. Almond, the Wild’s fifth round pick (140th overall) in the 2007 draft, scored 168 points in 230 games with WHL Kelowna. He established new career highs in goals (33) and assists (33) in 70 games this season for the Rockets. Kelowna opens a WHL semifinal series against Tri-City on Friday.
And the end of the season means its time once again for fan appreciation details. Read the Wild’s plans for you all below:
SAINT PAUL/MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – The National Hockey League’s (NHL) Minnesota Wild announced today that the team will honor fans for their continued support of the Wild as part of Fan Celebration Week during the team’s final three home games of the 2008-09 regular season. Fans can sign the Team of 18,000 flag at the March 31, April 3 and April 7 home games at the Community Relations Booth. The flag will be hung at Gate One for the regular season finale April 10. Xcel Energy Center gates will open at 6:00 p.m. for all games. The following events and promotions will take place during Fan Celebration Week at Xcel Energy Center.
Friday, April 3 at 7:00 p.m. vs. Calgary Flames presented by Xcel Energy
• The first 3,000 fans will receive an Energy Detective Kit presented by Xcel Energy
• 18 game-used and player autographed sticks will be given away during the game
• In-game text-to-win a team autographed stick
• All fans will receive a Team of 18,000 magnet as they exit the arena
Tuesday, April 7 at 7:00 p.m. vs. Dallas Stars
• Wild players will give the “Jerseys Off Our Backs” to lucky fans in a special postgame ceremony
• In-game text-to-win captain’s jersey
• Nominate an All-Star Wild fan for the opportunity to win an autographed Niklas Backstrom All-Star jersey
• 3M Coaches of the Year recognized in a special pre-game on-ice ceremony
Friday, April 10 at 7:00 p.m. vs. Nashville Predators presented by AT&T
• All fans will receive a Wild scratch-and-win card with a chance to win prizes, including Minnesota Wild merchandise and player autographed sticks and jerseys
• The first 5,000 fans will receive an AT&T/Wild commemorative coin
• AT&T and the Wild will honor the greatest Minnesota-born hockey player and the greatest Minnesota boys’ high school hockey team as selected by fans
• The Toyota Three Star Award will be presented to the Wild player who accumulated the most Three Stars of the Game points during the 2008-09 season. The Minnesota Wild and Toyota will donate $5,000 on behalf of the winning player to a charity of his choice. Previous winners are Marian Gaborik (2007-08, 2006-07, 2001-02), Brian Rolston (2005-06), Dwayne Roloson (2002-03, 2003-04) and Manny Fernandez (2000-01).
• All fans will receive the final mug in the State of Hockey Greats coffee mug series presented by FOX Sports North as they exit the arena