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 remainder of the season and summer was filled with rehab and workouts getting prepared for tomorrow. The 36-year-old is feeling healthy and ready to get back in game action after the long layoff.
“It’s been a pretty long trip,” Backstrom said. “I think my body feels better than it did at the start of last year. But at the beginning of last year it wasn’t an eight or nine month break between games.”
Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said the Helsinki, Finland native looked strong in training camp and deserves the start. The bench boss would’ve like to get Backstrom in earlier, but because of the team’s schedule and the way that Darcy Kuemper started the season, this is his first opportunity to slot in the veteran.
“It’s a long time,” Backstrom said. “But it’s in the past and you just try to look ahead and focus on the next day.”
For Backstrom and the Wild, the next act is at 2 p.m. State of Hockey Time against LA.
Prosser, Folin Paired Tomorrow
After getting claimed off of waivers from St. Louis in the preseason, defenseman Nate Prosser will make his season debut tomorrow. The Elk River native spent his first five seasons with the organization before signing as a free agent with the Blues in the offseason. The 28-year-old is glad to be back in Minnesota and is primed to face the reigning Cup champs on the road.
“I’m pumped,” Prosser said. “Playing against a strong team and in a tough building.”
He’ll be lined up on the left point with Folin, something that he didn’t do a lot of last season. However, he believes that it will not impact his game.
“I don’t think it will make a big difference,” Prosser said. “It’s more about getting your feet going and being ready to go at the drop of the puck.”
The Lighthouse is happy to see Prosser back in the Wild locker room and always enjoys the sandpaper edge he brings to the back end.
“I’m ready to go and ready to get that going as well,” Prosser smiled.
Power Play Looks For Continuity
The Wild continues to look for combinations that will work on the power play. Through three games, Minnesota hasn’t capitalized on the man advantage, although it has been knocking on the door on multiple occasions.
Today, the groups were split into “veteran” and “young” units. One side saw Ryan Suter and Jason Pominville on the point, with Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek up front. The other group was comprised of Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter with Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin on the blue.
“I think the young group can really challenge the first group,” Yeo said. “Sometimes a young kid goes out there with an older guy and they defer. When those young kids are together, they’re a lot more comfortable making their plays.”
Previously, Minnesota had split the veterans, trying to spread the offensive wealth, but looks like it will go with a stacked first unit.
“You look at the personnel we have on that top group and there’s no question it should be a dangerous unit,” Yeo said.
For Parise, he thinks it might be a matter of getting comfortable with the PP units.
“Trying to find some consistency,” Parise said. “A lot of times we were going out with different groups every power play. I think right now, especially at the start, we want some consistency and go out with the same guys and learn off each other.”
Tomorrow's matinee game will be broadcast on Kool 108. Fans can tune in via Wild.com as well.