Cam Ward wins goalie duel with Niklas Backstrom as Hurricanes beat Wild 2-1

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camwardshutout.jpgThe Carolina Hurricanes are a team that places an incredible amount of emphasis on the production of two players: goalie Cam Ward and forward Eric Staal. While Staal was snubbed in both games in Finland, Ward is one of the main reasons why the Canes will leave Helsinki with a maximum four out of four points in those contests.

Ward’s 41 out of 42 saves and perfect shootout performance out-dueled Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, who stopped 36 out of 37 shots in real time and then stopped 2 out of 3 shootout attempts.

Carolina Hurricanes 2, Minnesota Wild 1 (SO)

Who knows if the Hurricanes will keep first round pick Jeff Skinner at the NHL level beyond the nine games they can play him in before a year of his entry-level deal expires, but so far Skinner is making a pretty compelling argument to stay. He made a nice hustle play as Backstrom left his net, creating enough havoc before getting the puck to Jussi Jokinen who fed fellow Finnish-born forward Tuomo Ruutu for Carolina’s only regulation goal. Skinner also scored the game’s lone shootout goal, so he essentially tallied the “game winner” in this one.

The Wild clearly took this game more seriously than the last, at least in the early going. The team rained 18 shots on Ward in the first period and 30 in the first two frames, but were out-shot 15-4 in the third period. Minnesota renewed their sense of urgency in the overtime period, though, hammering eight shots on goal in just five OT minutes.

You cannot blame Wild captain Mikko Koivu for this loss, that’s for sure. The Finnish-born center had an outstanding game, as he assisted on Andrew Brunette’s power-play goal, won an astounding 21 out of 25 faceoffs and put eight shots on goal in the contest. After a great game yesterday, Brandon Sutter must have been abused by Koivu in the dot because he only won one out of 19 faceoffs in this game and did not register a point in this low-scoring game.

While Minnesota must leave this game frustrated, they’ll at least register one point out of a possible four thanks to it being a shootout loss. After going 2-2 in his first four games last year, Ward didn’t win his third game until December 16 (more than two months later), so the Hurricanes are hoping this is a sign of a better start – for the goalie and the team – than they saw in the 2009-10 season.

Uh oh, Marian Hossa might be injured after awkward fall

Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa, left, talks to center Jonathan Toews during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

Video isn’t yet available, but My Regular Face’s GIF captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

Report: Wild will tab John Torchetti as interim head coach

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via Iowa Wild
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As many expected, the Minnesota Wild will make John Torchetti their interim head coach, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo.

(He’s not the only one to report as much, as TSN’s Bob McKenzie also stated that he’s likely to take the job.)

The team itself hasn’t made an official announcement about Torchetti, and the reasoning is probably simple enough: he’s coaching their AHL affiliate the Iowa Wild on Saturday night.

Torchetti is no stranger to the NHL, although he’ll probably be frustrated if this opportunity doesn’t turn into a full-time gig. He was also an interim head coach for the Los Angeles Kings and Florida Panthers.

As of this writing, the Wild are in a three-way tie for the first spot outside of the West’s wild card mix, although they could sink a bit depending upon how Arizona and Vancouver handle the one game they have in hand on the Wild.

More importantly, Minnesota’s currently three points behind Nashville for the final wild card spot.

That’s not an impossible goal for Torchetti. For whatever it’s worth, Sports Club Stats gives Minnesota a 34.7 percent chance to make the playoffs.

(Note: photo via the Iowa Wild.)