For most NHL veterans, the thought of participating in a preseason game wouldn’t exactly get the hair on the back of their necks to stand in anticipation. But for a pair of Wild defensemen, tonight’s game in Edmonton means a little more than your typical Tuesday preseason game.
Jordan Hendry and Mike Lundin
are new faces in the Wild locker room, but have combined to play in more than 350 NHL games. Tonight they are paired as Head Coach Mike Yeo’s first defensive unit and both have reasons to impress the coaching staff.
Hendry is attending camp as a tryout player and Lundin signed with the Wild in July.
For Hendry, in accordance with playing for a permanent spot in the NHL, he will be skating in his first game since suffering a season ending knee injury on Feb. 27 while playing for Chicago.
“It feels great, 100 percent,” Hendry said. The Milo, Alberta native’s summer workout program was filled with both rehab and intense workouts. “It allowed me to come into camp in great shape and ready to compete.”
Competing at a high level isn’t something new to Hendry; he was a member of Chicago’s Stanley Cup winning team two seasons ago. He is bringing that experience to training camp.
“I come to every training camp trying to compete at the highest level,” Hendry said. “At the end of the day, I want to make it tough for management to send me home.”
Hendry knows he has little time to impress the coaching staff and wasn’t slated to skate tonight, but Yeo said he earned his way onto the trip north to his home province.
Hendry’s defensive partner Lundin played in Tampa Bay for parts of the past four seasons. Although he is under contract, the Burnsville, Minn., native knows there is a lot riding on the game.
“A lot of first impression are going to be made,” Lundin said. “It does add a little more pressure; you want to get off to a good start with all these people who haven’t seen you play too much.
“This is high-stakes at this level, preseason or not, for or the team and every individual to show what they have.”
Lundin expects some summer rust, but that is a part of preseason. Adding to the difficulty of adapting to game speed will be adjusting to Yeo’s new system. Both said their styles, as smooth skating and passing D-men, are suited for it. Even though they were on opposite training camp teams, each player complemented the other’s attention to defensive positioning and they believe their styles will mesh.
“I think you have to be a good skater to play in the system,” Hendry said. “To move the puck up to the forwards quicker and at the same time join the rush when you can but keep it (the play) in front of you.”
Tonight, along with evaluating individuals, Yeo will be gaging if individual players can make help the Wild a consistent winner.
“What we’re trying build here is a winning culture,” Yeo said. “I want to see guys who make winning plays.”
For newcomers Lundin and Hendry, proving that they can make winning plays may result in winning more it time in a Wild sweater.