When Jason Pominville
was leaving the hotel this morning for the arena, several Buffalo fans requested signatures on his old Sabres sweater. After playing nearly 600 games with the Sabres, tonight marks the first time he’ll skate at First Niagara Center as a member of the Minnesota Wild.
“Coming in through the door and having to go left instead of right was a little different,” Pominville said about going to the visitor’s locker room.
Last season, the 30-year-old was dealt from Buffalo on Trade Deadline Day and before the start of this season, signed a five-year extension with the Wild. Speaking to the media after the team’s morning skate, Pominville had nothing but good memories about his time in Buffalo and joked that he hopes Sabres fans remember the good times, too.
“Hopefully [fan reaction] will be better than the one Suter got in Nashville,” Pominville cracked.
It will be an emotional game for Pominville and he acknowledged as much. You can watch his full press conference here. Obviously, we’ve seen the kind of player Pominville is and we’ve quickly learning what type of person he is, too. After his press conference, pretty much every member of the Buffalo media on hand came up to the podium to shake his hand and wish him the best of luck with Minnesota. Not something you see everyday and it shows how much respect the Buffalo media has for Pominville.
On the ice, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo knows it’s an important game for the forward and wants him to settle in quickly. He tipped his hat when asked how he’d handle getting Pominville into the action.
“We’ll try to get him out there early, so there is a good chance he’ll be in that starting lineup,” Yeo said.
As for the rest of the Wild players, the lineup will remain intact from Saturday night’s 5-1 win at home against the Dallas Stars. That means tonight’s healthy scratches are blueliners Marco Scandella and Nate Prosser. Mike Rupp is on the trip, but is still not ready to make his season debut.
Goaltender Josh Harding will get his third-straight start in net. Yeo said after allowing only three goals in the last three games, he has earned the start and would be in the game regardless of Niklas Backstrom’s availability. Backstrom made the trip to Buffalo, but the veteran will sit tonight as he recovers from a knee strain. The team recalled Darcy Kuemper from Iowa of the American Hockey League and he’ll backup Harding.
As for tonight’s opponent, the Sabres have struggled out of the gate and still in search of its first win. However, Yeo doesn’t want to overlook this game.
“We’d be very foolish to come in with our guards down at all,” Yeo said. “The fact that they’re winless, we’re going to see a desperate team.”
Head Coach Ron Rolston liked the way his team played in the third period of its last outing against Chicago on Saturday, and said that his team needs to be the aggressors. Getting out to a quick start isn’t something the team has done yet; the Sabres haven’t held a lead all season.
On the other side of the Pominville trade, a piece the Wild gave up was prospect Johan Larsson, who will get into the lineup tonight. In four games with the Sabres this season, Larsson has yet to register a point, but has still impressed Rolston. The Sabres bench boss said after the morning skate that the forward is mature, competitive and a smart player. We’ll see him tonight as he’ll be in the Buffalo lineup.