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Best Of Hockey Unplugged - November 9

by Kevin Falness / Minnesota Wild
Hockey Unplugged is an event that Wild players and fans look forward to throughout the season. Unplugged host Kevin Falness engages in an always-entertaining Question & Answer period with two players, which is then followed by an autograph session. The last Unplugged appearance featured good friends and fellow Finns, Niklas Backstrom and Antti Miettinen. Those two fan favorites appeared at Park Tavern in St. Louis Park, and here’s the best of what they had to say:

Wild GameDay

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KF:    Antti, you suffered a concussion when Kings captain Dustin Brown blindsided you. What was your opinion on the hit?

AM:    I think it was a good hit. I don’t know what to say. Something weird happened there because it took me two days to realize what happened. I didn’t think it was a dirty hit though. His elbow was tucked in, so it was just a hockey hit.

KF:    Niklas, we know you had your ups and downs last season but this year you’ve been the backbone of this team. How good are you feeling?

NB:    I feel okay out there. It’s fun to play hockey again. It’s the same probably for every guy in the locker room. Even if it’s just hockey, your life is a lot easier when you win games. Every day is a lot more fun. At this point, for some reason I’m enjoying every second out there. I don’t want to say it’s easy, I don’t think it’s ever going to be easy to play at this level,  but if you have your confidence and believe in yourself, it’s like you go out there and you don’t have to think. You just play the game.

KF:    The cliché is that when a goaltender is playing this well, the puck becomes the size of a beach ball. Does that happen?

NB:    The puck is pretty small every day. I want to see that goalie that thinks it’s a beach ball.

KF:    What have you thought about the acquisition of Jose Theodore in the wake of the unfortunate injury to Josh Harding?

NB:    I feel really bad about what happened to Josh in the preseason. He had a lot of bad luck last year. He injured his hip, worked hard this summer and then injured his knee. It’s hockey. Injuries are part of the game and you fight through that. Hards is going to come back and he’s going to be even stronger.

Theo is a great guy, and he brings a lot of experience to the locker room. He’s a great goalie, really great guy and an awesome teammate. It’s fun having him play with us.

KF:    Antti, you’re into your third season with the Wild. How has it been?

AM:    Really good. I’ve been enjoying every day here, and so has my family. We have no complaints.

KF:    There’s an obvious connection between the two of you and Mikko Koivu because all three of you call Finland home. How nice is it having the three of you together?

AM:    It’s really nice, but I think we’re just one of the guys in there. It’s not like we’re the “Finnish Mafia” or anything. We don’t just hang out with just the three of us. I think we’re just part of the team, just like anyone else.

KF:    Is there anyone in particular that will tag along with the Finnish guys for lunch for example?

NB:    It depends. It could be the trainers with us, or any of the players. But now that Mikko signed that big contract, everyone wants to go to lunch with him.

KF:    He doesn’t seem like a guy that opens his wallet a lot though.

NB:    It seems like you know him pretty well.

AM:    Every day we’re trying to get that lunch, but no.

KF:    To start the season, you guys and the rest of the team spent a week in Finland. I would have to think that was an unbelievable experience. How many family members did you have there?

NB:    I think I had about 35-40 people that I got tickets for to each game. There was a lot of friends and family. It was a great experience for them, not just for the games, but they got to come down to the locker room, and see the guys and watch us practice. A lot of people back home that I grew up with, they don’t really get a chance to come over here and watch the games, so it was a great thing for them to see us there.

KF:    Antti, did you ever think something like this would be a possibility?

AM:    I never really thought about it, but the last year or so there was some talk about it and I thought that it could actually happen and I’m glad it did. The games didn’t go exactly as we wanted, but for us Finns, the team and the whole organization, it was a great experience.

KF:    What’s the deal with saunas over there?

AM:    I don’t know, I think they’re awesome. It’s a great way to spend time. Everybody on our team enjoyed it. We spent the whole day there (at Sauna Island) and had a nice dinner, and went swimming in the ocean. Just spent some time with the guys. That’s what we do in the summer there. We’ll go to the cabin, fire up the sauna, grill some food and jump in the lake and stuff like that. It’s really relaxing.

KF:    If I’m going to Finland, and I take my first sauna is there etiquette I need to know about?

AM:    Close the door when you leave the room, and don’t let the heat out.

NB:    If you throw water on the stones you can’t be the first one to leave. You have to suck up the heat.
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