He may be young. He may cause Wild head coach Jacques Lemaire to yank out his combover. But, he may just end up being the best two-way defenseman in the Wild’s lineup.
Brent Burns, in his second NHL season and his first as a defenseman is looking mighty comfortable on the blueline for Minnesota. Yes, the happy-go-lucky kid from Ajax, Ontario always seems comfortable in any situation. But considering that he was drafted by the Wild as a forward and notched six points (one goal, five assists) in 36 games his rookie season, Burns has been a bright spot for the Wild early this season.
With size, speed and a canon of a shot, Burns has shown he can contribute at both ends of the rink, in any situation. The defender has seen a healthy dose of special teams play, and he showed his offensive prowess with a beautiful set up to Pierre-Marc Bouchard’s goal in a 4-1 win over Anaheim on Sunday.
Burns skated deep into the Anaheim zone along the boards and sent a perfect pass to the front of the net where Bouchard simply put his stick down to deflect it in.
"That one was all Brian Rolston," said Burns, telling the story of what happened on the play. "When he took an earlier draw in the zone, he told me to skate in along the boards. But I wanted to shoot from the point, so I did. I didn’t even get it close. So the next time, (Rolston) said, ’Would you just listen to me and skate in along the boards?’ Sure enough, I get the puck and ’Butch’ is all alone in front of the net.
I told Rolston I want a headset in my helmet so he can tell me what to do on every play."
Headset or not, Burns knows he’s got a long way to go, but he says the coaching staff has encouraged him to jump up in the play when he can.
"They tell me to pick my spots and know when to attack and when not to. I’ve gotten a lot more confidence since my rookie year. The big thing is just experience. I’ve got to learn to slow down because I’m a little overzealous at times. But I’ve got to choose when to go and when to stay back, and that’s coming along."
No more push backs. No more delays. The coaches, trainers and player agree. Marian Gaborik is ready to come back.
Gaborik had been nursing an injured groin that he strained in an informal skate the day before training camp opened. He was unable to suit up for any of the seven preseason games, or the first six regular season games. It’s been a long wait for the Wild’s all-time leading scorer.
"I feel good and I’m excited," said Gaborik after his final full practice on Tuesday before his season debut tomorrow night. "I feel ready and hopefully it’s going to be a good game. I’m looking forward to playing the new game."
Gaborik’s return is made even more attractive by the new rules in the NHL that limit the amount of clutching and grabbing he’ll see. He should also benefit when he uses his breakaway speed to catch a two-line pass.
"Hopefully they don’t stop calling the obstruction stuff. For me, I will have to adjust and hopefully it won’t take me a long time. But when I get the puck and can use my speed, hopefully the other side can’t hook me so I’ll try to use that as much as I can."
A Ship Without A Captain
The Wild’s captain, Alex Henry, will miss Wednesday night’s game because of a strained groin. Henry is on the injured reserve, meaning the Wild will not have to make room on the roster for Marian Gaborik when he is taken off the injured list.