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Bryzgalov embraces new opportunity in Minnesota

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- Ilya Bryzgalov was gracious on his way out of Edmonton.

Tuesday, the Edmonton Oilers traded the goaltender to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.

"It was a great opportunity for me to play here," Bryzgalov said. "I was very excited to be part of the organization. I met a lot of new, great people here. I can't say enough good things about the fans and people who live in this city. I really enjoyed my time here."

Bryzgalov played in 20 games for the Oilers this season after signing with the club as a free agent in November. He had a 5-8-5 record with a 3.01 goals-against average, a .908 save percentage and a shutout.

Bryzgalov's play had improved steadily during his tenure with the Oilers.

"In the beginning it was very good," Bryzgalov said. "Then there were a couple of games in the middle that weren't very good. That's probably because of missing training camp and that other stuff. I think my last few games, the last five or six were good. I felt sharp and I felt good."

The Oilers started the year with the goaltending tandem of Devan Dubnyk and Jason LaBarbera. Bryzgalov became available after being bought out by the Philadelphia Flyers two years into a nine-year, $51-million contract.

He's heading to a team in need of a goaltender with starter Niklas Backstrom shut down for the foreseeable future, most likely the rest of the season, with an abdominal injury and backup Josh Harding struggling with the effects of multiple sclerosis. Harding was diagnosed with the disease in 2012 and has not played for the Wild since Dec. 31, 2013.

"It's a new challenge, a great opportunity to play for a team battling for a playoff spot," Bryzgalov said "I'm glad I have the opportunity to be with a playoff team, battling for the playoffs. I hope we are able to make the playoffs and do some damage there and compete for the Stanley Cup. It's a great opportunity. I will do everything in my power to give the team the best chance to win."

Bryzgalov had been rumored to be on the move after Ben Scrivens signed a two-year, $4.6-million extension with the Oilers on Monday. It became inevitable once the Oilers acquired Viktor Fasth from the Anaheim Ducks earlier Tuesday.

"I'm at the age right now where I'm just focusing on my job, and am not paying attention too much about the surroundings and the rumors and all that other stuff," Bryzgalov said. "I had a great conversation with [Oilers GM] Craig [MacTavish]. He's a very good person. He explained some things to me, I said I appreciated the opportunity for letting me play here. It was a great conversation.

"It's the NHL, it's a business and management is doing everything in the best interest of the team. The main reason whatever they do, is because they want to improve the team."

Originally scheduled to back up Scrivens against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, Bryzgalov will now be making his way to Minnesota.

"That's the toughest part right now," Bryzgalov said. "I have to pack all my stuff, return my rental car and try to reach the owner of my apartment to hand him the keys."

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