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FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE
The love for Ilya Bryzgalov has swept through the State of Hockey like wild fire (pun intended). Not only has he been a rock in goal — helping the Wild earn the first wild card spot in the playoffs — but his personality has also shone through. And it’s tough not to like the guy.
So of course, the Russian netminder has been a hot topic around town lately. Chad Graff of the Pioneer Press talked with him about moving into a starting role while even Puck Daddy has jumped on board the Bryzgalov boat.
Those stories aside, Bryz also gave the State of Hockey something to laugh about. Monday night, as the Wild edged our neighbors to the north 1-0, the Jets fans jeered the goaltender, chanting “Il-ya. Il-ya,” over and over again. The whole arena was in on it. As the play was unfolding in front of him, Bryzgalov pumped his arms asking for more.
JUST JOSHING AROUND
Last week the Wild got some great, uplifting news. As it hit the ice for practice in Chicago, closing out a four-game road trip, Josh Harding was there to meet up with the team.
After battling with complications from MS for the latter half of the season, Harding got back in the cage, though there is no timetable on his return. Wild.com was there for the occasion and wrote up a nice little Lighthouse on it.
On the heels of his return to practice, Harding was also nominated for the Masterton Trophy last night. If he were to win again, he’d be the first player to earn the award back-to-back.
A few weeks back Wild.com featured Erik Haula and how he was working with his time on the lower lines — a role that was different from his typical top-six fit. Well, recently he got the opportunity to move up and he’s certainly using it to his advantage.
Graff chatted with Haula about the opportunity in front of him while Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune highlighted the former Golden Gopher in a recent column.
LET’S SPICE IT UP
When John Curry was called up from the Iowa Wild on April 2 and eventually backed up Bryzgalov the following day in Chicago, he became the fourth goaltender to don a Wild sweater in a matter of days — joining Bryz, Darcy Kuemper, and emergency signee Rob Laurie.
With Kuemper still recovering from an upper-body injury, we may see Curry, who is a Shorewood, Minn., native, get some playing time on his home-state ice.
But while that remains to be seen, Michael Russo looked into Curry’s interesting career path — which winds its way through the East Coast, Europe, Florida and finally back to the Midwest.
GRINDING IT OUT
It’s always said: players want to be the go-to guy. But sometimes they have certain roles they need to play.
Enter the fourth line.
It’s not an easy role to fill—limited ice time yet expected grit and energy. Russo talked with the grinders, looked into just what goes into their roles and their approaches to the game.
LEADING THE PACK
This season the Wild has seen some of its top guys sidelined with a slew of ankle/foot injuries as a result of blocked shots. Mikko Koivu was one of them. He opted for surgery in the hopes of still making it to Sochi. He wasn’t ready and had to bow out—forced to watch Finland earn Bronze.
Eventually he returned to the ice in early March but things still weren’t quite right. Fast forward a few weeks and the Captain is one of the hottest players on the team with 16 points (3-13=16) in the last 12 games.
Russo looked into Koivu’s turnaround and how frustrating the whole process was for the Wild’s fearless leader.