Later tonight, two players make their returns to Minnesota. Both Marian Gaborik and Derek Boogaard will be in the Ranger lineup when they visit the Wild at Xcel Energy Center for what's expected to be a Wild atmosphere.
In his first year on Broadway, Gaborik missed the initial return with an injury but heard boos from the Minny crowd. It doesn't figure to change for the former Wild No.1 pick who spent the first part of his career with the expansion club, totaling 219 goals and 218 assists for 437 points in 502 games over eight seasons. While many allude to Gabby's five-goal game against the Rangers ironically enough two years ago, the highlight was when the talented Slovak helped carry Minnesota to the Conference Finals in 2003- netting nine goals and eight helpers for 17 points before falling to the Jean-Sebastien Giguere led Ducks.
Unfortunately, the superstar would be marred by injuries, including controversy his final year when fans questioned if he was sitting out too long under a coach he didn't like in Jacques Lemaire. For more on his Wild career, good Tweep Hockette had plenty to say on Gabby and Boogie's returns on a bizarre night that' ll include fans being handed out Marian Gaborik bobble heads commemorating the franchise's 10-year anniversary. Yikes.
As for Boogaard, he was a cult favorite and should be well received. Even if all he can do is fight, albeit not as much in his final Wild days, he's gotten more favorable reviews from a quartet of Minny bloggers who discussed the big night with Puck Daddy's Sean Leahy earlier today. Will Boogie drop 'em against a former teammate? Hard to say. New enforcer Brad Staubitz is much smaller and probably out of his league. Cal Clutterbuck not only delivers thunderous hits but now leads the Wild with seven goals, including three over his last four. It's unlikely that Colton Gillies would dress. Perhaps rook Matt Kassian (6-5, 252) will get his shot.
How will Gaborik feel? Will he be able to perform in an arena that treated him well for so long? His team needs a spark following the embarrassing 5-1 drubbing at the hands of the Avs. By far the worst loss of the season. The Rangers were barely competitive, giving us only a strong second half in the first where returning Colorado starter Craig Anderson made a few sparklers. But they came out dead in the second from goalie out with Henrik Lundqvist permitting three clunkers on 16 shots to get pulled by John Tortorella, marking his second straight poor outing. Tonight, King Henrik gets to watch Martin Biron, who was expected to start regardless. Can he provide a lift?
They'll need to play with more edge against what's sure to be a fired up Wild club out for redemption. Historically, the Rangers don't play well in this building. And they always seem to go into funks whenever they lose in Colorado. Especially around Thanksgiving. Are we about to see it rare its ugly head again? This team has proven they will compete, which is why last night was so disappointing. It was the first time they really looked like they quit. There also was the continued Mike Del Zotto regression in which the second-year defenseman had some dreadful turnovers and was on for four goals against, finishing minus-four. It's way past the point of motivational speeches. He needs to either be benched or sat out when Michal Rozsival returns.
We'll see what our team comes up with. They're paying tribute to Pat Burns in Montreal right now. God bless him!