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Niederreiter Takes Aim at 30 Goals

Forward scored career-high 25 last season but is looking for more

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- Wild coach Bruce Boudreau was asked on Friday what Nino Niederreiter needed in order to reach the 30-goal plateau for the first time in his career.

"Five more goals," the coach quickly fired back with a smile.

Niederreiter's 25 goals last season were a career high and were third-most on the Wild, but for each of the past two seasons, Niederreiter has been talking about what it would mean to reach the 30-goal mark. 

"I definitely want to reach it, 100 percent," Niederreiter said. "I know it's a tough plateau to reach and it's something I want to accomplish."

Why stop there, Boudreau asked rhetorically.

Video: Niederreiter Has New Goal in Mind

"With me, I would say why are you going to limit yourself to 30? If you can get 30, you get more," Boudreau said. "I'm sure if he looked back at how many chances he missed, if he put those in ... If he plays aggressive, and he shoots the puck, he scores. When he tries to dangle and be too cute, he doesn't." 

Niederreiter said he worked on the entirety of his game over the summer in an effort to notch a few extra goals this season and reach 30. He saw firsthand what a commitment to a 200-foot game meant for Mikael Granlund last season, as he was able to transfer consistent defense into an offensive explosion, outdistancing his previous point highs by wide margins.

While Niederreiter has at times been a force in his own zone, improving his play in that end of the rink has a chance to translate in the offensive end as well.

"You gotta be solid defensively to reach that 30-goal plateau," Niederreiter said.

The owner of a brand new, five-year, $26.25 million contract he signed on July 30, Niederreiter said he doesn't feel any additional pressure to try and live up to his new deal.

It's one of the reasons why he didn't even ask for no-trade or no-move protection in his contract. He knows that if he lives up to his end of the bargain, the Wild won't want to trade him. 

"I think he's getting better," Boudreau said. "I think he got better as the season went on, and I think 30 goals is just around the corner."

Niederreiter has spent the entirety of training camp attached to the left hip of centerman Eric Staal, with whom he played for a bulk of last season as well. 

While Zach Parise had been pencilled in to play the wing on that line, a sore back has limited his availability during camp. Tyler Ennis has played in his place, and more recently so has Charlie Coyle.

Coyle was plopped with the group mid-game on Thursday and was there for practice as well on Friday, and he should be there when Minnesota suits up for its preseason finale against the Dallas Stars at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday.

It's a line that has size, skill, and perhaps most importantly, familiarity. 

"They played together last year and when Coyle was with them, they were successful," Boudreau said. "That's why last night, I just thought let's put them back together and see what they look like."

The results were encouraging.

After a bit of a ragged start for both Niederreiter and Staal, the line was outstanding after Coyle was placed on it. Coyle even scored the winning goal in the final seconds of regulation. 

Now Boudreau hopes the group can build on that performance and go into the regular season with some momentum.

"I feel like with [Staal], we always talk a lot," Niederreiter said. "And with [Coyle], I'm comfortable playing with him. Having him on the line right now, it feels great."


Roster moves

The Wild moved even closer to its Opening Night lineup on Friday when it assigned defenseman Carson Soucy to Iowa of the American Hockey League and released veteran forward Ryan Malone from his professional tryout.

Malone made a quality impression, especially with his teammates in the dressing room, and he will continue with Iowa on a tryout.

If Malone makes the team in Iowa, he would likely be signed to a one-way contract with the AHL team, making him eligible to compete for Team USA at the Winter Olympics in February.

Boudreau didn't rule out a potential reunion down the road if it makes sense for both sides.

"There's a guy who'd been off for the last two years, and there's a guy whose infectious personality -- like he was always positive, and if you give him the puck around the front of the net, he could score," Boudreau said. "As the players became more ramped up, speed became a little bit of a hindrance to him, but at the same time, he did great, he's going to go down to Iowa, and he'll be a great leader for that team, and who knows what can happen?"

The Wild's training camp roster now stands at 24 players.


On the injury front

Matt Cullen (lower body) and Matt Dumba (ankle) each practiced with the team on Friday and appear likely to play in Saturday's preseason finale. 

Boudreau said Parise's back continues to improve and the hope is he will be practicing with the team, in full, by Monday. He will not play against the Stars but hasn't been ruled out for the season opener next Thursday at Detroit.

"We're hoping; there's no real update except that he keeps getting better and better," Boudreau said. "Hopefully by practice Monday ... we'd like to see him go full-bore on the ice."

Defenseman Ryan Suter was the only other regular not to suit up in Kansas City on Thursday. He's uninjured and is expected to be in the lineup versus Dallas.

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