In the lobby of St. Thomas Academy ice arena, there's a giant picture of alum Jordan Schroeder.
As luck would have it, the Vancouver Canucks team bus rolled up to the front door for practice, not the back door by the locker rooms. So one by one, Schroeder's teammates got to see the Canucks rookie's portrait hanging in, as a few joked, "the house that Jordan Schroeder built."
Schroeder felt tremendous pride when he was able to return to his Mendota Heights high school as a real-life NHLer Wednesday.
"That's where it all started for me back in eighth grade," Schroeder said after his high school coaches, Tom and Greg Vannelli, watched him practice in a Canucks sweater. "It brought back a lot of memories. It was a good feeling just knowing that you worked so hard for so long and made it to the NHL.
"But it doesn't stop. I've got to keep working and driving forward."
It has been a long road to the NHL for the 2009 first-round pick. But Thursday night in front of family and friends, the 22-year-old who grew up in Lakeville will play the Wild at Xcel Energy Center. He won a state title as a freshman in 2006 and scored his first collegiate goal with the Gophers in the same barn.
"I know this is going to be a real special thrill for Jordan. He's waited for this a long time," said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, before adding with a chuckle, "He told me his dad [John] bought a box, so I better play him, I guess."
Schroeder spent parts of four seasons in the minors, but he has two assists in seven games with the Canucks and is centering a line with Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen.
The 5-8 forward has impressed Vigneault with his fearless style and defense.
"Any player of that size has to play with a little bit of jam, a little bit of grit, otherwise you won't survive in this league," Vigneault said. "Not just in my system, on any team in the league, if you can't play defense, you can't play. Every game, the fine line between a win and a loss is so narrow, the players have to know what they have to do with and without the puck and once they know that, sometimes the skill comes out.
"Jordan is dependable and has skill. Now he's got to find his room on the ice and hopefully get more chances and bury those chances."History rules
Despite the Canucks riding a three-game winning streak and Roberto Luongo having the third-best goals-against average in the NHL (1.53), Cory Schneider gets the nod in goal against the Wild.
"Can't overthink things. Trust the coin," Vigneault said.
Or history. Luongo has shut out the Wild in three consecutive games, but he hasn't played at Xcel Energy Center since Oct. 19, 2010. He has been pulled in three consecutive starts in St. Paul and is 3-9-2 career at the X with a 3.56 goals-against average.
"I've had a few bad games here, but it's nothing specific about this building. One day I'll play here again," Luongo said, laughing.Etc.
• Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon (foot) didn't practice Wednesday and will miss his seventh game in a row. He continues to be day-to-day.
• On 6-5, 243-pound Mike Rupp making his Wild debut, Vigneault said, "We're not going to focus our game plan on Rupp. Those are role players playing seven, eight minutes a game. They've got some great players there we're going to focus on before him."