Minnesota Wild vs. Columbus

At this point in the Wild's still relatively young existence it seems risky to state that they are playing really freaking well. If they blow it again at the end of the season I don't want to be blamed for jinxing them. But, for your entertainment purposes, I'll throw myself on the possible jinx sword, because holy cow, they're making it fun to be a Minnesota hockey fan. Despite losing many veterans to injuries, and an acrid cloud of rumors, speculation, and animosity over whether the Wild will lock up all-time franchise lead scorer Marian Gaborik to a long-term contract, the team keeps on winning. Anchored by the superb goaltending of Niklas Backstrom, who is 8-3-1 allowing a scant 25 goals with a .931 save percentage, the Wild are succeeding by playing smart, defensive hockey. Backstrom and backup goaltender Josh Harding have combined to give the Wild the lowest goals against average in the NHL. Backstrom's handiwork between the pipes has been especially crucial early this season as the Wild find themselves missing Gaborik's goal-creating power and have lit the lamp only 32 times. The Wild are poised to add two more W's to their record this week against the Phoenix Coyotes, who have scored even fewer goals than Minnesota, as well as the lousy Columbus Blue Jackets. Tickets start at $24. Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn
Sat., Nov. 15, 7 p.m., 2008

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