Friday

2-5-10: DFTU

Hello again everybody...

Once again, we've made it to the end of the week.

And once again the brain wizards have asked me to work a weekend shift. Okay, it's only half a shift really, but it's still Sunday night, and who the hell wants to work on Sunday night I ask you?!

Not me, I can tell you that.

Near as I can tell, we're no closer to actually getting someone hired. Oh they keep winging people through the studio as part of their interviews, but strangely, that's the last time they're ever seen. Maybe there's some sort of “Studio Coordinator Black Hole” that keeps swallowing them up? Perhaps there's an alternate universe where bizarro-WCCO has more Studio Coordinators than they know what to do with?

Maybe I should quit my bitching and get on with the column? You're right...

It'd Friday, and that means Update time. And once again, there's plenty to update on lots of teams.

Off we go!

”An ardent supporter of the home town team should go to a game prepared to take offense, no matter what happens.”
- Robert Benchley (1889 - 1945), American humorist


Ardent?! I'll show you ardent!

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That's because it's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment...

Dan's Favorite Teams Update

Minnesota Wild: The Wild are 28-25-4, giving them 60 points. They're 4th in the Northwest Division, and 11th in the Western Conference, 4 points out of the 8th seed.

The Wild have played three games since we last updated. Two of them were on the road, and both of those were losses. The Wild are now 9-19-2 on the road, one of the worst road records in the league.

Conversely they're 19-6-2 in the friendly confines of the Xcel Energy Center, including last night's 4-2 win over Edmonton.

The disparity is troubling, but in the short-term, it benefits the Wild since they began a 5-game home-stand last night that will take them to the Olympic Break. It's a crucial stretch for the Wild as they try to get themselves into playoff position. They kicked things off right with a win over Edmonton last night, and the rest of the games are winnable too: Philadelphia, Phoenix, Atlanta and Vancouver.

Okay, the Canucks game will be tough, but if you're going to make any noise in the post-season, you're going to have to beat a team like Vancouver anyway.

The hot story with the Wild right now is their goaltending health. I mentioned in last week's DFTU that Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding were both a little beat-up.

A week later, not much has changed. Backstrom went from being out due to a back injury, to being out due to some sort of alien flu virus that has had him out for longer than you'd suspect it would take to get healthy. I'm not saying there's something hinky going on in the Wild's injury reporting. But plenty of the guys have had some form of the flu this year, and they haven't been out as long as Backs has been. And nobody questions his toughness, so it's definitely a quandary.

I actually had a chance to speak to Harding last Friday night, and when I asked how he was feeling, I got the standard, “Oh, I'm fine.” Well he was fine til he re-tweaked his hip in Saturday's game in San Jose.

That force the Wild to start Dubers (I'm still not going to try and type his full name) against Dallas, and that didn't go well at all. A 4-2 loss doesn't sound that lopsided, but at least two of those goals were decidedly soft. So much so, that the Wild turned around and recalled Anton Khudobin from Houston, and when it turned out Harding could go against Edmonton last night, it was Khudobin backing him up, not Dubers.

But Wade shouldn't grab that ticket back to Houston just yet. Last night, Harding tweaked the hip again - albeit making a spectacular save - and his readiness is once again in question.

Hopefully this situation corrects itself. If Backstrom can get over this - swine/bird/dog flu - whatever it is, and get back between the pipes, that will allow Hards to rest his bum hip. After that, things sort themselves out. If we start hearing reports of Backstrom needing to spend a week in a Jamaican hyperbaric chamber, then the Wild may be in trouble.

I ran down the list of opponents earlier, but not the days, so... the Wild take on the Hammer-hated Philadelphia Flyers tomorrow night, then it's three days off til they face Phoenix on Wednesday and the now Kovulchuck-less Thrashers visit next Friday night.


Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers are 17-5 (7-3 in the Big Ten). They're in second place in the conference, and ranked 16th nationally.

… for now.

Because after Tuesday night's 18-point beat-down of 5th-ranked (and previously undefeated in the Big Ten) Michigan State, that ranking is likely to rise.

Sure there's a huge risk of a hangover loss on the road at Michigan tomorrow, but that's a game the Badgers can, and should win. If so, you'll see them knocking on the door of the top 10 in the polls.

Not that the polls mean much in college basketball - they play virtually no role in seeding for the NCAA Tournament - but it's a nice honor none the less.

I have to tell you, I'm still floored at the ease with which Wisconsin handled the Spartans. Earlier that night, I received a text from a co-worker asking if I thought Bucky had a chance of covering the two-point spread that he was considering wagering on (if recreational gaming were legal, mind you). I'll be honest, even though Wisconsin was at home, I told him I'd stay away. Michigan State is a very good basketball team with perhaps the best coach in the Big Ten. No way I saw an 18-point win in the mix for the Badgers.

But when you shoot nearly 51% against a club that you hold to 37% shooting, that can happen. It's still somewhat worrisome that the Badgers got out-rebounded (31-25 in favor of Sparty), but I shouldn't nit-pick when my club beats their second Top-5 opponent of the season.

I still can't find much of an indication of when Jon Leuer will be back. But hopefully it's sooner than later. The Badgers have played admirably without him, and obviously that win over the Spartans was huge. But they're still going to need his presence inside as they head down the stretch in the Big Ten and on to the NCAA Tournament.

As mentioned, the Badgers travel to face Michigan on Saturday and then return home to face Illinois (also a 7-3 team in the Big Ten) on Tuesday night. It's a tough stretch for the Badgers, but they certainly started it off on the right note!

Oh, and of course, there's that arch-rival game against the Gophers looming on February 18th.

Yes, we're talking about the same Gopher program which has finally cut ties with troubled freshman Royce White, who said he was leaving the University because he “doesn't feel safe” and believes that the campus police “doesn't answer to anybody and can do whatever they want”.

Yup, that's it Royce. The cops are out to get you. Never mind that you were caught red-handed trying to shoplift at the Mall of America and assaulted the security guard who caught you. And let's just forget the fact that you're about to go to trial for criminal trespassing in relation to a laptop that was stolen out of a campus dorm room and “anonymously” returned to its owner.

None of that is relevant when the police are out to get you. I just can't figure out why Gopher A.D. Joel Maturi sounded relieved when commenting on your departure?

On the plus-side, White now is part of a nifty piece of trivia. After all, how many schools can lay claim to the distinction of losing their #1 basketball recruit and their #1 football recruit (local product Seantrel Henderson who decided to join a soon-to-be-sanctioned USC program over joining Brew's Crew here in Minnesota) on the same day?!!!

Well done, Minnesota!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was this week's “Golden Gopher Cheap Shot” brought to you by Badger fans everywhere and Tires Plus - who's currently running a 3-for-the-price-of-4 special... just like the Gophers who lose two recruits after spending a bunch of money wooing them, and lose one more to Wisconsin for free!


Maple Grove Crimson: The Lady Crimson Basketball team is 19-2 (12-0 in the Northwest Suburban Conference). They're in first place in the conference, and ranked 4th in Class 4A.

Ho-hum. Another week, three more 25+ point victories for the Crimson.

I'm almost starting to wonder if they're getting a bit bored. And I say that only partly in jest. Knowing their coaching staff, there's no way they're being coddled. But part of me wonders if there isn't some impending let-down ahead for Maple Grove.

No loss is ever a “good thing”. But perhaps stumbling in one of their last two games against Centennial and Osseo might give the ladies a wake-up call ahead of the post-season?

I talked to Coach Cook after their 83-50 win over Champlain Park last night and he's of the opinion that winning the conference title outright, and beating Osseo for only the 2nd time in his four years with the program will be far better for the players' confidence, than a reality-check loss would be for focusing them for the ultimate goal, a run at the State Title.

Knowing how competitive he is, I can't say that surprises me. Knowing the experience his staff has, I'm confident they'll be able to make the most out of whatever happens - win or lose - down the stretch.

And for anybody concerned with the margins of victory that the Crimson have been piling up, just know that against Coon Rapids, 20 different Crimson hit the floor, and against Blaine the number was 15. Even the back-ups want to play hard folks. It's not Maple Grove's fault if the opponents can't stop them.

If that let-down's coming, it's not likely to happen this week. Andover (Tuesday) and Elk River (Friday) are next up in the Crimson's hit parade. Maple Grove owns 20+ point wins over both of those teams already this year.


Minnesota Twins: The Twins are the defending American League Central Champions.

And defend it, they just might.

Last night, rumors started to surface - and around 10pm, they were confirmed - that the Twins have signed 4-time Gold Glove second baseman Orlando Hudson to a 1-year $5 million contract.

Season-ticket package purchased: check. Progress on the Mauer contract: check. Filling a hole at second base as well as the two-hole in the line-up: check.

Yep, this has been a pretty damned good week for my favorite baseball team!

Hudson hit .283 for the Dodgers last year, with 9 home runs, 35 doubles and 62 RBI. He brings experience, speed and terrific defense to a club that needed a little extra speed after trading Gomez for Hardy.

And speaking of Hardy, how many clubs out there would be interested in a Hudson/Hardy double-play combo? I'm guessing more than a few.

Look at these line-up options:

Span (CF), Hudson (2B), Mauer (C), Morneau (1B), Cuddyer (RF), Kubel (DH), Young (LF), Hardy (SS) and Harris/Punto (3B)

Or, if Young struggles at the plate, you could go:

Span (CF), Hudson (2B), Mauer (C), Morneau (1B), Cuddyer (RF), Kubel (LF), Thome (DH), Hardy (SS) and Harris/Punto (3B)

No, those line-ups aren't better than what the Yankees can run out there, but I know at least 10 other AL skippers that are jealous when they see the tools that Gardy has to work with now.

Even Star-Tribune beat writer, LaVelle E. Neal, III, is excited. Last night he tweeted: “This is my 13th year on the beat. This is the best team the Twins have had going into spring training.”

With the right mid-season pitching addition, this club is set up to not only defend it's Division Championship, but maybe (finally) do some damage in the post-season.

Is it Opening Day yet? (No, but there are only 36 days until I get to head to Phoenix for some Spring Training goodness... oh, and to visit my folks. Love you, Mom and Dad!!!)

Yes, I'm a wee bit excited by the possibilities.


That's going to wrap things up for this week. Hope you all feel sufficiently Updated!

I'll be back on Monday (perhaps with the return of a segment that's been gone too long? Well see).

Until then, thanks for reading!

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