Wild play at home in front of non-sellout crowd for first time ever, hysteria ensues

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wild.JPGWho says history doesn’t happen in the preseason? The Minnesota Wild managed to do something in their 5-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues that they’ve never done before. They managed to not play the game in front of a sellout crowd. With an announced crowd of 16,219 it marked the first time in franchise history that the Wild played in front of anything less than the “team of 18,000” in St. Paul.

While some Wild fans, blogs, and executives alike lament the disappointing turn out, getting hysterical about not selling out a preseason game and losing a mythical streak is a bit much. Having Wild owner Craig Leipold go so far as to write a letter to the fans about this brings “hysteria” to a entirely new level.

Thankfully Michael Russo of The Star Tribune is here to tell us that all is not exactly lost.

The NHL counts regular season and postseason in active sellout streak, so technically the Wild has a 382-game sellout streak still intact. But it’s brilliant. The Wild makes a huge deal of it now, and now if they don’t sell out Game 3 or 5 or 7 of the regular season, we make it just a footnote in print.

Incidentally, the Wild has still not sold out opening night, so tickets are still available if you’re interested.

The streak was going to end some time in this day and age of a rocky economy, tons of good entertainment and sports choices in this area and the fact that the Wild’s missed the playoffs for two years in a row and hasn’t been past the first round since 2003.

The reality is, put a winner on the ice, the fans will flock again. But the honeymoon’s over. It’s time to win.

These are the sorts of rough days the Wild had to expect going through and changing things up from a staid and uninspiring style to what coach Todd Richards is doing now with the Wild. Simply flipping a switch from one style to another doesn’t work overnight the way many fans wish it would. You need the right personnel to play the game and for the Wild right now, they’re caught in the middle with guys that brought up in Lemaire’s system and former GM Doug Risebrough’s uninspired scouting.

Wild fans are upset and they want a winner that plays a style they can get excited about. That’s a lot to ask for when going through such turnover within the organization and Wild fans are finally responding (perhaps a few seasons too late) with their wallets that mediocrity won’t cut it. Minnesota fans can’t ever be accused of being bad hockey fans, Minnesota is the most hockey-mad state in the union. They do know when they’re not being given something worth spending boatloads of money on though and the Wild the last few years certainly haven’t been that.

Video: Canucks escape Arizona with another win for the moms

at Pepsi Center on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
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With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.

After beating the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the Canucks held on for the 2-1 victory in Arizona on Wednesday, despite being without Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alex Edler (broken fibula) and Derek Dorsett, who was scratched from the lineup due to illness, as per Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.

It was only a few days ago, following a home loss to the Calgary Flames, that it felt like the Canucks’ playoff hopes were essentially dashed. They fielded their healthiest lineup in months and couldn’t score and couldn’t win.

Two quick wins later, they’re two points out of a Wild Card spot in the West, despite getting outshot in Arizona.

Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.

Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

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A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

“He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”