Confident Wild, and thousands of Wild fans, invade Detroit; Warning: Clutterbuck to wear mike on NBC

Posted on April 4th, 2009 – 2:49 PM
By Michael Russo

Coming to you from God’s country — Detroit.

Hey, guess what? My hotel room overlooks the old Tigers Stadium, which is pretty cool. In 1997 or 1998 or maybe 2002, can’t remember, I had a blast there when I went to a Tigers game with a bunch of hockey writers during the Stanley Cup Finals.

You would not believe the excitement and anticipation going on right now in this city for Sunday’s matinee between the Wild and Detroit Red Wings.

It’s strange, but for some reason, sports fans from North Carolina and Connecticut and East Lansing and, most bizarre, Villanova, Pa., have flocked to Detroit because NHL matchups just don’t get bigger than the Wild and Wings. I mean, who knew there were so many Wild fans in Delaware County?

Planes were full. Hotel rooms are like going for $500 a night. Downtown was just a carnival atmosphere with all sorts of neat outdoor activities. It’s awesome that the Wild’s finally gotten onto the map because of this battle for the postseason.

The Wild had an extremely loose, up-tempo practice today. Kim Johnsson said he was really, really good.

This is one confident team right now after last night’s rare 60-minute effort and 4-0 victory over Calgary. Jacques Lemaire talked at length today again about how proud he was that the team finally listened to the coaches and played the counterattack style he’s been begging for.

Now, the Red Wings’ goaltending might be ECHL-worthy, but we all know the Wild does not play well at the Joe. In fact, typically, when the Wild plays at Joe, the puck, well, it’s just a rumor. Wild players never, ever, ever, EVER have it. As the boys said today, in February’s blowout loss here, it seemed Detroit had the puck on its sticks for 50 of the 60 minutes. The Wild was outshot 43-23.

So Sunday will be a very different game than playing a depleted Calgary team, and Lemaire said the Wild will have to be good without the puck. Cal Clutterbuck, the NHL’s hits leader, said it’s imperative the Wild is in the Red Wings’ faces rather than just watching their skilled players like last time here.

Speaking of Clutterbuck, I have a really funny story for tomorrow. But Clutterbuck, the master of all trash talkers, will be miked tomorrow on NBC. Let’s just say, NBC better have alternative programming to switch to if that seven-second delay is inoperable for some reason.

For the story, Clutterbuck gave me his five best (and clean) trash talks of the season and which players were the recipients. It was a riot.

OK, everybody that should be healthy is healthy, meaning the unhealthy guys are still unhealthy (got it?)

I must write now because I hear some green felt calling my name.

“All in.”

By the way, here is the studio set Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury will be in:

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