Wild Week In Review

By Chris Kitching

Minnesota received a scare April 1 in Edmonton when Darby Hendrickson was
hit in the eye by a puck that defelected off his stick, ending his season.

Hendrickson left the game in the second period and was evaluated by two eye
specialists in Edmonton before boarding a flight back to Minneapolis.

The forward has little vision in his left eye, but doctors say he isn’t
expected to have any permanent loss of sight.

“Right now, I can’t really see anything, but I do see floating objects in my
eye,” said Hendrickson. “It’s unfortunate that I won’t be able to play again
this season, but I’m fortunate considering what could have happened.”

No structural damage was found and Hendrickson has been ordered to remain in
bed for two weeks to help control the bleeding in the eye.

The 29-year-old Minnesota native attempted to block a pass by Oilers forward
Marty Reasoner when it deflected up the shaft of his own stick and struck
his left eye.

“I dropped like a ton of bricks. I’m cut above my eye, too,” Hendrickson
told the Pioneer Press. “When you get hit right in the eyeball, you know
it’s serious.”

As Hendrickson returned to Minnesota to recover, his teammates completed the
two remaining games of their Canadian road trip, thankful their teammate is
expected to make a full recovery.

Wild add Nebraska-Omaha prospect to the fold

The Minnesota Wild signed University of Nebraska-Omaha product Jeff Hoggan
to a contract on April 4, and have assigned him directly to the Houston

Hoggan, a native of Hope, B.C., was in talks with several teams, but signed
a deal with the Wild that included a $210,000 signing bonus.

The 24-year-old forward was named to the All-American Second Team last week,
and was an All-CCHA Team selection earlier this season, and is UNO’s top
all-time scorer.

“Just by signing, I’m that much closer to reaching my dream,” said Hoggan to
the Omaha World-Herald. “It’s exciting.”

The Week That Was (0-1-0-2)

Tue, Apr. 2: L 1-2 (OT) at Edmonton Oilers (25-32-11-8)
– Mike Grier’s overtime winner sends Minnesota packing.

Edmonton blew a 1-0 lead with less than five minutes remaining in the third
period when Richard Park banged home his ninth of the season at 15:01, from
Wes Walz and Andrew Brunette. That goal sent the Wild and Oilers into the
extra frame where Mike Grier won the game with 2:45 left in overtime. Manny
Fernandez stopped 30 shots for Minnesota while Tommy Salo got the win for
Edmonton. Minnesota picked up their 69th point in the loss, surpassing last
year’s total of 68.

Wed, Mar. 27: L 3-4 at Calgary Flames (25-33-11-8)
– Jarome Iginla’s three-point night propels Flames over the Wild.

If Minnesota was able to take any positive note out of Wednesday’s loss, it
would be Tony Virta recording the first NHL goal and assist of his career.
Hnat Dominichelli and Sergei Zholtok scored the Wild’s other goals, while
Jarome Iginla tormented Minnesota, scoring his 48th goal of the season and
adding two assists for the Flames. Fernandez made 32 saves in the loss while
Roman Turek picked up the win for Calgary.

Fri, Mar. 29: L 4-5 (OT) at Vancouver Canucks (25-33-11-9)
– Minnesota suffers second overtime loss in three games.

Brendan Morrison scored perhaps the biggest Vancouver goal this season,
dumping the Wild 5-4 in overtime, keeping their playoff hopes alive. Nick
Schultz, Virta, Antti Laaksonen and Aaron Gavey scored for Minnesota, Dwayne
Roloson had his personal five-game winning streak snapped, mading 22 saves
in the loss while Dan Cloutier got the win for the Canucks.

The Week Ahead

Mon, Apr. 8: vs. San Jose Sharks (42-25-8-3, 1st Pacific)
– Sharks coming off a huge 5-2 win over the Red Wings.

Wed, Apr. 10 at Dallas Stars (35-27-11-5, 4th Pacific)
– Desperately chasing Edmonton and Vancouver for eighth spot.

Fri, Apr. 12 at Phoenix Coyotes (37-26-9-6, 3rd Pacific)
– One of six teams in the chase for the final playoff spots.

Sun, Apr. 14 vs. Edmonton Oilers (36-27-12-4, 3rd Northwest)
– Tied with Canucks for eighth in Western Conference.

End of regular season.

Player of the Week

Rookie Tony Virta scored the first NHL goal of his career in Wednesday’s
loss to Calgary, and added an assist on Dominichelli’s goal. Two nights
later, Virta put in a second two-point game, scoring a goal and an assist
against the Canucks, allowing GM Doug Risebrough and Wild fans to breathe a
sigh of relief.

Virta, last year’s player of the year in Finland, was drafted by the Wild in
2001, their fifth pick, 103rd overall.

Virta had spent all season in the American Hockey League with the Houston
Aeros, recording 25 goals and 33 assists for 58 points in 67 games, before
Minnesota gave him his first crack at the NHL on March 21.

Trainer’s Room

After missing eight games since March 12, C Sergei Zholtok returned to the
lineup April 1 in Edmonton. Zholtok has been out with a separated shoulder
that was injured when he was checked by Ottawa’s Martin Havlat.

Wild Briefs: Wild prospect Frederic Cloutier has been named the
ECHL’s Rookie of the Year, Goaltender of the Year and Most Valuable Player.
Cloutier had a 28-5-3 record with the Louisiana Ice Gators, including seven
shutouts and setting new league-records with a 1.84 goals-against-average
and a .945 save percentage.