So many talk about Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, the two key snipers who are newcomers to the Wild this offseason, but if the Wild’s going to end its three-year playoff drought, left wing Guillaume Latendresse must resurrect his career.
Latendresse was limited to 11 games last season because of myriad abdominal and hip injuries after arriving to training camp out of shape. But this September, Latendresse arrived in Minnesota noticeably thinner.
“It’s already behind me,” Latendresse said last year’s frustrating season. “I’ve worked my butt off. I worked really hard. Same as last year, I think. The only thing I did better was my nutrition. My nutrition was really a big key this summer. I like to eat. Everybody knows it. Sometimes it can be a battle for me, but I’ve been good with it and I feel really good on the ice.”
New coach Mike Yeo says Latendresse, who scored 25 goals in 55 games for the Wild two years ago, is critical to the Wild’s success.
“That second line… you need offense from that line,” Yeo said. “He’s a guy that can produce, and when he’s on top of his game, he’s real tough to play against. He should be very hungry coming off last season.”
NHL Team Report – Minnesota Wild – NOTES, QUOTES
–In the Sept. 6 editions of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Ryan Boogaard told the sad tale of how painkillers caused the death of his brother, former Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard.
Ryan Boogaard, 27, said Derek became addicted to Oxycontin and Percocet after having shoulder surgery in April 2009. Twice his brother entered rehab, but on May 13 — one day after getting out of rehab in Los Angeles — Boogaard died of a toxic mix of alcohol and Oxycodone.
“Derek, he never really… he never really admitted to having a problem,” Ryan said. “He’d always be telling us, ‘I’m doing good. I’m doing good.’ Derek really never got past that first step.”
After years of fighting 20 or 30 times a year, especially in junior hockey and the minors, he dealt with pain for years.
“He had a herniated disk in his back,” Ryan said. “The doctors told him, ‘When your career is done, you’re going to have to get this fixed, because it’ll affect you for the rest of your life.’
“For a fourth-line guy trying to stick in the NHL, he couldn’t afford to take a year off. So he took pills. And… I know his hands were always hurting. They were clubs. They weren’t even shaped like hands anymore.”
–The Wild was deeply affected by the Sept. 7 death of former center Pavol Demitra, who died with 42 others in the plane crash that killed most of the KHL Yaroslavl Lokomotiv team in Russia.
Demitra played for Minnesota from 2006-08 and signaled that the Wild was going from small payroll team to a franchise trying to become a franchise contender. For two years, Demitra and former Wild star Marian Gaborik were magic together.
“Demo was like the Wayne Gretzky of Slovakia. This is one of the best players ever to play from that country,” former Wild linemate Wes Walz said. “Demo was loved by all his Slovakian counterparts, especially the younger guys that watched him play growing up in his homeland. He’d often be talking to another Slovakian kid before a morning skate. You could just see in the kids’ eyes how they looked up to Demo almost like a father figure.”
–The Wild plans to pay homage to both Boogaard and Demitra this season, although the team hasn’t announced its plans.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “If I got my salary today, it’s because of him. He’s the boss here and if he was not happy with me last year, he’s going to be happy this year.” — LW Guillaume Latendresse on Wild owner Craig Leipold, who criticized him this past summer publicly for coming into training camp out of shape last year.
NHL Team Report – Minnesota Wild – ROSTER REPORT
–Wild coach Mike Yeo has penciled in the Wild’s four forward lines to start training camp. Yeo will load up the No. 1 line, positioning captain Mikko Koivu with newcomers LW Devin Setoguchi and RW Dany Heatley on his wings. CMatt Cullen will center the second line with LW Guillaume Latendresse and RW Pierre-Marc Bouchard. The third line will be LW Darroll Powe, C Kyle Brodziak and RW Cal Clutterbuck, and the fourth line will have interchangeable pieces starting with LW Colton Gillies, C Eric Nystrom and RW Brad Staubitz.
“I’m a believer in the longer a line has a chance to play together, the more chemistry they can build together,” Yeo said. “We won’t be too quick to make changes, but at the same time, we won’t be too stubborn.”
Forwards up for jobs include Casey Wellman and Cody Almond.
–Yeo said his defense pairings to start camp with be Greg Zanon and Marek Zidlicky, Nick Schultz and Mike Lundin and Clayton Stoner with Jared Spurgeon. Nate Prosser, Marco Scandella and Justin Falk are three defensemen vying for spots.