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Wild's Vanek feeling healthy, more used to teammates

by NHL.com Staff / NHL.com

Minnesota Wild forward Thomas Vanek said he's aiming for 30 goals this season, and feels that it's possible because he's healthy and has a better feel for his linemates.

Vanek had 21 goals and 52 points last season, his first with the Wild. They were the lowest totals of his career in an 82-game season. However, he told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that he played the second half of the season despite having two hernias and a detached left groin. He had surgery to repair his injuries in June.

"It's fun to be able to walk up stairs again and get out of bed without pain and actually go outside and throw the ball with my kids," Vanek said.

Vanek also struggled adjusting to new linemates and changed his game from shooter to more of a playmaker, which affected his goal total.

"Years past I don't think I was as much of a playmaker as last year," Vanek said. "Review my year; I don't think I had a whole lot of chances from in front of the net or the slot. I was more on the outside trying to create space and making plays. I always felt like that was in my game, but not for every shift. I more find the open spaces and wait for that hole, but last year I was more of a distributor than my 10 years before. It took me a lot longer to figure out my game."

During his recovery Vanek lost weight and worked on his skating with professional skating expert Diane Ness, and said that also will improve his game.

"She's amazing," Vanek said. "Everybody knows I'm not the smoothest skater to begin with, but she did wonders, I think. … I do think you can become more efficient. And I feel great right now."

Vanek also feels great about his game. He could start the season on a line with Charlie Coyle as his center, a frequent pairing last season. Vanek said he saw Coyle, 23, grow as the season progressed.

"I can't play the middle," Vanek said. "It's a hard position. I shouldn't say I feel bad for [Coyle], but he was in a tough spot. As a power winger they put him down the middle and he worked hard at it, and I tried to talk to him about how I can support him and make him better. Not only did my game get better, I thought his game got better, too. Hopefully he can continue."

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