It’s time to start fresh here at Minnesota Wild headquarters. Sure, the last time the Wild skated on the Xcel Energy Center ice, it was basking in the glow of a stupendous come-from-behind home victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Wild players happily skated through their drills, enjoying the team’s new policy of practicing at home before flying to a new city and crashing at a four-star hotel.
The team was 1-1. The players were mostly healthy through two games. The day was sunny and gorgeous, and the Twins had beaten the Detroit Tigers. Life was good.
Since then, the Wild lost five road games, saw three key players go down with injuries, and returned home 1-6, in last place in the Western Conference. Plus, the Twins were swept out of the playoffs.
Believe it or not, life is still good on the corner of West Seventh and Kellogg. Once again, it’s sunny and warm outside. The Wild is home for one game, where, let’s not forget, it’s undefeated (1-0-0). Two injured players (Petr Sykora and Martin Havlat) took the next step toward returning to the rink by skating on their own before the Wild’s Monday morning practice. It’s very possible that Havlat will be able to play on Wednesday night against the Colorado Avalanche.
And, there’s more help arriving.
Though the recently acquired Chuck Kobasew won’t be in town until tonight, it appears that the high-energy winger will be in the lineup on Wednesday and ready to go.
Head Coach Todd Richards is looking forward to getting him in the action.
“He’ll make our team better, without a question,” said Richards following Monday’s Kobasew-less practice. “He’ll add some speed that we need, and he’s got a scoring touch. But he provides some grit, too.”
Kobasew also brings some big game experience. Last season, he picked up three goals and three assists for the Boston Bruins, who were eliminated in the second round by Carolina. He was a key cog on the Calgary Flames team that made a run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004. He was the Frozen Four’s Most Valuable Player when he helped the Boston College Eagles to the 2001 NCAA Championship.
“He’s a great competitor,” said Nick Schultz, who played with Kobasew on Canada’s silver medal-winning World Championship team in 2002. “He’s going to fit in well. Hopefully he can help spark us a bit.”
That shouldn’t be a problem if Kobasew can produce 20 goals as he has done in each of the last two seasons in Boston, picking up a career-high 22 in 2007-2008, and 21 last year.
“Coming to a new team, you just want to do what you can and not try to complicate things, and just be a part of the puzzle,” said Kobasew shortly after news of the trade reached him.
In the trade, the Wild sent Craig Weller, who was trudging along with the Houston Aeros, along with a 2011 second round draft pick and 2009 fourth rounder and current Harvard Crimson forward Alexander Fallstrom to Boston.
The 6-foot, 190 pounder is only 27, and should be entering the prime of his career. He is repeatedly talked about as an energy guy that will scratch, claw and battle in the corners, in front of the net, and pretty much anywhere else covered in frozen water.
Considering the Wild is without another guy that fits that description in Cal Clutterbuck
, it will be nice to have that player that opponents have to think twice about as they chase down a loose puck. Players who fit that gritty description (see: Wes Walz, Derek Boogaard and Clutterbuck) tend to endear themselves to the Xcel Energy Center crowd rather quickly.
Kobasew, who will wear number 12 when he suits up on Wednesday, got a head start on that by singing the praises of his new supporters.
“It’s one of the nicest, if not the nicest arenas in the League,” he said. “The fans are great. Every time I’ve played there it’s been a packed building and extremely loud. That’s fun to play in front of every night.”
And, he’s keeping positive despite the Wild’s road woes.
“It’s still early.”
Definitely early enough for a fresh start.