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Stewart As Familiar With The Wild As Anyone

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

If there's a player more familiar with the Minnesota Wild than newly signed forwad Chris Stewart, he's probably already on the Wild roster.

Stewart, who is a year removed from a 20-game tenure with the Wild, spent this past season with the Anaheim Ducks, under Bruce Boudreau, now the coach of the Wild.

It's a tangled webbed that has seen paths cross, but on Friday, had Stewart's return to Minnesota to an organization and city he's quite fond of.

"For me, that's kind of where I wanted to be, was Minnesota, for sure," Stewart told "Especially with my experience before that I had in Minnesota, it was a first class organization. The boys were great, down to the training staff. They took care of you. It was first class. On top of that, them being a team who's on the cusp, who's trying to get over the hump, and do some damage, and win a Stanley Cup, win now, that's where I am in my career. It made the most sense."

Stewart said he spoke to Boudreau over the phone a couple of days ago, got off, and instantly knew he wanted to reunite with his former team and bench boss before the logistics of a contract were even discussed.

"The one thing I was impressed with him last year was how good of a team guy he was," Boudreau said. "He stood up for everybody. Anybody that was picked on, he would go right up to them and he knew how to handle it for us. And he can play."

Stewart broke his jaw, an injury that kept him out about seven weeks, but prior to that, had been used in an expanded role for the Ducks.

"Just before he got the broken jaw, him, (Ryan) Getzlaf and (David) Perron was playing really good as our number one line, and we were playing good as a team," Boudreau said. "He can move up and down. Last year I had him on the first line or the fourth line. It depends on how deep we are. I really like to use four lines."

Stewart said philosophy is why he's not worried about what his role is specifically defined as. He's familiar with Boudreau's philosophy when it comes to player usage, and knows it suits him.

"He's going to roll four lines, and that's kind of what you need to win in the NHL today," Stewart said. "I've always been the kind of guy who's going to earn my ice time. I'm not too worried about buying into where I'm going to be placed in the lineup. My play will dictate what I deserve."

Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher said he's always been a fan of Stewart. He said having Stewart will help the Wild add size on the wing, and with Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter, will have good size on the outside.

"More physical, maybe, but bigger, (to) control the walls better, and be able to establish better offensive zone play," Fletcher said. "We had a stat that our folks came up with. We were one of the worst teams in the league last year on puck recoveries. Does that speak to size? Possibly.

"We didn’t seem to have as much offensive zone play last year. Clearly we need to shoot the puck a little bit more often, but if you can't get the puck, it's hard to shoot it. This was a big part of fixing that problem in terms of generating more offense, generating more shots. We'll be able to recover pucks a little bit better than last year."

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