November 30, 2011
I can't imagine there are hordes of people outside of Minnesota and Edmonton waiting with bated breath for Wednesday night's tilt between the Wild and the Oilers, especially when there are games on the evening's schedule that appear far more entertaining. But there's at least one really good reason to watch this one instead.
No, it's not Ryan-Nugent Hopkins, CBC. Stop screaming.
In fact, it's not any of the prototypical stars of either team. This is the rare match where some of the best entertainment promises to be when the fourth lines are on the ice. Brad Staubitz(notes) and Darcy Hordichuk(notes) are pretty much guaranteed to go at it at some point, especially considering what happened last time. From Mike Russo:
Staubitz, 27, the Wild's fourth-year fourth-liner, averages six minutes a game, but in the first period of Minnesota's 5-2 loss to the Oilers on Friday, he was baited into eight minutes of penalties -- interference, roughing, roughing and cross-checking -- by Hordichuk, an 11th-year NHLer.
Early in the first, Hordichuk, 31, took a run at Staubitz, who cut his left cheek.
Later in the shift, Hordichuk hit Staubitz again. Staubitz went back after Hordichuk, who fell quite easily before a frustrated Staubitz jumped on him.
See the strange scene for yourself. Hordichuk gets his licks in, and when a frustrated Staubitz tries to engage him, he drops to the ice like a kid throwing a temper tantrum in the mall.
Hordichuk would later claim he opted out of the impending fisticuffs because, at the end of his shift, he didn't have the energy for the scrap. But one assumes that the opportunity to goad Staubitz into four minutes in minor penalties wasn't lost on him either. There are more honourable ways to decline a fight than going down like you've been shot by Indiana Jones.
Clearly, this bothered Staubitz, because the next time he and Hordichuk came together, he made sure those four minutes were earned on his terms.
Will he be more in control tonight? Mike Yeo expects -- nay, demands -- so. Again, from Russo:
"We've talked. We've talked," Yeo said. "Whether it's a Staubitz or anyone else on our team, we're the ones that are in control. I thought for a couple games we got away from that. Whether it was [Staubitz] or it was the next game, squirting Iginla with a water bottle, you know, we don't do those things. That's things that other teams do to us."
As for Staubitz, Yeo said, "He should be the guy that other people are trying to fight, and I think for the most part he's done that this year. He's not a guy that's taking penalties and retaliating. He's a guy that's initiating and stirring things up and being real physical. ... It should be on his terms. If he thinks he needs to change the momentum, then change the momentum however you have to do it. But let's not lose any momentum by going out there and reacting to something they did. And he's done that for almost the whole year minus a couple games."
Suffice it to say, Staubitz is likely hoping that, between he and Hordichuk, tonight's penalty minutes are evenly distributed and divisible by five. Expect the two to fight, likely very early. In the first intermission of last week's game, Hordichuk told Gene Principe, "Brad Staubitz thinks he's a tough guy. I've been waiting 10 years to fight him and I will tonight."
And then he didn't. Hordichuk would get called for a hook on Staubitz in the third period, but it wasn't the kind you throw with your fist. It was the lazy stickwork kind. Lame. For a guy waiting a decade to do something, that's kind of pathetic.
That said, one assumes Hordichuk's decade-long wait will come to an end Wednesday night. Unless he turtles again.