It's not often a third-line center is mentioned amongst a team's most valuable contributors.
Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo means it every time he says it.
In Yeo's eyes, Kyle Brodziak does much more than simply eat ice time until Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu jump back over the boards. Often, it's Brodziak's group that will be charged with shutting down an opponent's top line.
Brodziak is a key cog in the Wild's typically-stingy penalty kill. He even saw time on the team's power play last season.
In many ways, Brodziak is the Wild's version of a Swiss Army Knife -- imagine a role on a hockey team and chances are, Brodziak has filled it.
"That's kind of what I need to do," Brodziak said. "I think I'm the type of player that's capable of playing whatever situation the team needs me in."
"Every night that he steps on the ice, he has a huge role and a huge impact on the game for us," Yeo said. "He's a very, very valuable piece to our puzzle."
During the Wild's 2011-12 campaign, Brodziak was forced to morph into several different roles. After starting the year on the third line, an injury to Koivu forced Brodziak to play top-line minutes.
He responded by posting the best offensive numbers of his career.
"If someone is not playing well, or somebody gets hurt, then I gotta be ready to step up and do that job the best I can," Brodziak said. "I feel I am capable of it."
Yeo feels he's capable of it too. It's why he insists people forgive Brodziak for an admittedly down year during the lockout shortened campaign last season.
"First off, my message to him is he does not need to apologize for last season," Yeo said. "This is a guy that started the year sick, this is a guy that didn’t have the luxury of a real training camp, didn’t have the luxury of having practice time to be able to battle through some of those things and a guy that we used awfully hard last year.
"Are we going to sit here and say that we were perfect last year? No we weren’t. But at the same time, we did some good things and he was also part of that."
Before the season began in January, Brodziak came down with pneumonia and lost 15 pounds. When the season began, he says he wasn't close to being 100 percent ready.
"The energy level, obviously, wasn't there," Brodziak said. "I was able to get through it and get the weight back on, but didn't ever really fully recover my game."
Yeo said the slate is clean for Brodziak heading this season. The Wild expect him to fit comfortably on a line next to veteran left wing Matt Cooke, signed from the Pittsburgh Penguins over the summer after Cal Clutterbuck, a friend of Brodziak's, was traded to the New York Islanders for Nino Niederreiter.
"We're both capable of skating, playing physical, we both think the game pretty well and hopefully we can be an effective line, whoever we play against," Brodziak said.
While the effects of the pneumonia plagued Brodziak all season, he said he's felt better since the middle of 2012-13. Now, armed with a productive summer and a normal training camp routine, Brodziak appears primed to put together a rebound season for a Minnesota squad looking to reach the playoffs in back-to-back years for just the second time in franchise history.
"Just personally, I feel like there is a level to my game not everybody has seen yet," Brodziak said. "I know I'm going to get there and hopefully, when I get the opportunity to do whatever role is open, I'm going to make the best of it."
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