Hollywood loves a comeback story, so it’s only fitting that Minnesota Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom will make his season debut in Tinsel Town against the defending Stanley Cup champion, Los Angeles Kings.
Last season’s script played out like a twisted drama for the 36-year-old, as he battled through injury appearing in only 21 games, by far his lowest total since coming into the League in 2006. The goaltender made his final appearance on Jan. 30 against the Colorado Avalanche, and was shut down for the season after undergoing corrective core muscle surgery in February.
The “Happiest Place on Earth” is right down the highway, but the Minnesota Wild (and Lighthouse) couldn’t be giddier about getting back into game action–five days after its last outing, a 3-0 road win against the Colorado Avalanche. Tonight, the Wild skates in the land of Mickey and Minnie, as the club faces the Anaheim Ducks.
For the Wild, it will be important to get off to a good start after the layoff and back up to game speed.
“Making sure that our battle level, our intensity and our pace of play is ready to go from the drop of the puck,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “When you’re playing the games and you’re in the swing of it you’re already at that speed.”
After a day of team building in the warm California sun, the Minnesota Wild reconvened in Orange Country at the Anaheim Ducks’ practice facility before taking on reigning Pacific Division champs tomorrow night.
Yesterday, the club was in Newport Beach for a team off-ice work out followed by a bonding golf excursion. Anyone who’s ever played 18 knows its one of the best way to create a rapport with your buds. The Lighthouse’s invite must’ve gotten lost in the mail (or didn’t want us hacking up the nice fairways and greens), but it was a good way for the team to refocus with so many days off between games.
“We knew that we wouldn’t be able to practice hard for four days,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “The idea was that we’d take a step back yesterday and let the players spend some time together and have some fun.
“Mentally, back off a little and we had a good hard practice today.”
Christian Folin was back home in Sweden when the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche faced off in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, the distance and time change didn’t keep him from following the electrifying series. Game 7 was on at around 6 a.m. local time and he had a comfortable spot to watch, as Nino Niederreiter scored the series-clinching goal in overtime.
“I was sitting on the couch and it was already bright out,” Folin said. “I remember watching the playoffs and it was a pretty wild building, so it should be a good experience tonight.”
Last season’s back-and-forth, seven-game series between the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche became an instant classic in the State of Hockey. The Wild rode a Nino Niederreiter overtime wrist shot in the deciding game past the Avalanche and into the second round.
With a new season and a budding rivalry building between the two teams, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo wants last year’s series to stay where it is: In the rear-view mirror.
Typically, when the Lighthouse references the phrase “goaltending duel” it is a confrontation between opposing netminders making body-contorting saves in a mano-a-mano showdown, leaving a pile of frustrated shooters shaking their heads in their wake.
However for the Minnesota Wild, the goaltending duel was a showdown during training camp for the team’s game one starter, an open competition between Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom. Coming into camp, both had things to prove for very different reasons.
When the Minnesota Wild brought NHL hockey back to Minnesota, Ryan Carter was a student at White Bear Lake High School. While the team was on the road, he’d stay up late after his own practices and games and watch televised Wild games, kind of like a hockey study hall. While observing more pro hockey was beneficial for his game, the late-night hockey cramming might’ve had an adverse impact in the actual classroom.
“My grades in high school probably weren’t as good as they should’ve been because I stayed up late watching the West Coast games back in 2000, 2001,” Carter joked.
The media poured into the Minnesota Wild locker room after practice and flooded around defenseman Matt Dumba. On the day that the team’s final training camp roster cuts were announced, reporters were intent on getting a few words with the rookie, who was one of the players fighting for a roster spot. As the moat of cameras and microphones surrounded Dumba, they spilled in front of the stall of his defensive partner from today, fellow first-year blueliner, Christian Folin. While Dumba was asked about making the team, Folin sat as calm as still water across the room in Nino Neiderreiter’s stall until a lane was cleared so he could hang his equipment and field questions himself.
With the Minnesota Wild's preseason in the books, the club has made a number of roster moves.
The Wild has placed forwards Cody Almond and Stephane Veilleux on waivers. The team also assigned forwards Joel Rechlicz and Kurtis Gabriel to the Iowa Wild, Minnesota's American Hockey League affiliate.
The club has released goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov from his pro tryout.
Minnesota has placed forward Justin Fontaine on Injured Reserve, retroactive to Sept. 27. Fontaine is out with a lower-body injury.
For a National Hockey League head coach, his club’s initial training camp roster probably looks a lot like a block of marble appears to a sculptor. There is a general idea, but lines and defensive parings are formed, and players emerge to contend for a spot in the lineup. As the camp goes on players are shed like layers of rock, assigned back to the minors or junior teams, and the team begins to take shape.
Today, the Minnesota Wild opening night lineup took a little more shape as the team reduced its training camp roster to 27. Minnesota assigned D Jonathon Blum, D Justin Falk, F Tyler Graovac, F Michael Keranen, F Zack Phillips, D Gustav Olofsson and F Joel Rechlicz to the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League (AHL) and placed Curt Gogol and Brett Sutter on waivers with the intent to assign them to Iowa.