NEWARK, N.J. – Devils rookie Nico Hischier didn’t meet Wild winger Nino Niederreiter until last summer, at the Swiss Ice Hockey Awards in Switzerland, but Hischier was well aware of Niederreiter before that.
He watched Niederreiter make it to the NHL and debut with the Islanders before emerging as the most successful Swiss forward in the league.
“I was for sure looking up to him,” Hischier said.
Now the two share the same ice in the NHL, with Thursday’s game between the Wild and Devils at Prudential Center the players’ second meeting since Hischier was drafted first overall last summer by New Jersey.
“It’s great,” Niederreiter said. “He’s a phenomenal player. He’s going to be very, very good for coming years.”
When the two faced off for the first time back in November at Xcel Energy Center, “it was kind of like, ‘Whoa,’ ” Hischier recalled. Eventually, though, the game took on a normal feeling and afterward, the two caught up — just like they did again Wednesday before the Wild practiced in Newark.
“He’s a really good goal scorer and a really good power forward,” Hischier said. “Does a lot of things the right way and is just all around a really good player.”
Barely a week ago, Niederreiter scored the 100th goal of his career, becoming the first Swiss-born player to reach the plateau. He is also the only Swiss player to score at least 20 goals in an NHL season, a feat he could realistically accomplish a fourth time in 2017-18 since he entered Thursday’s action with 15 goals.
But with Hischier already making an impact in just his first campaign, sitting second on the Devils in points (13-27—40), it isn’t hard to imagine another Swiss scoring talent headlining in the NHL.
“It’s just exciting that for me personally I had a chance to open the door for forwards from Swiss,” Niederreiter said. “It’s great to see more and more Swiss forwards coming out and playing.”
Big Apple sightseeing
With two days in between games on their road trip through the Tri-State Area, Wild players used an off day Tuesday to explore New York City.
Ryan Suter said he had shin splits Wednesday after walking probably 10 miles, checking out Central Park and going by Trump Tower and the Plaza Hotel. “I had a good time,” he said.
Zach Parise was among a group that went to “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and saw “Hamilton” on Broadway.
“I don’t think I was in the room [Tuesday] at all,” Parise said.
Backup Alex Stalock started Thursday, his first appearance since he was pulled after two periods in a 6-1 loss to the Stars on Feb. 3.
While No. 2 goalies tend to get the second game of a back-to-back, Boudreau said that assignment is not always fair since the lineup goalie’s face is fresher in the first test. But who starts can also stem from a gut feeling.
“I just thought Alex deserved to start [Thursday],” Boudreau said.
Stewart gets a shot
The Wild made a few other lineup changes, inserting winger Chris Stewart onto the fourth line in place of winger Marcus Foligno and Mike Reilly took Gustav Olofsson’s spot on the back end. Stewart scored his ninth goal of the season and Reilly his second, both in the second period.
This was only Stewart’s third game this month. He was a healthy scratch seven of the previous nine games.
“He’s been really professional,” Boudreau said. “I give him tons of credit. … He’s a real team player through and through. It’s tough for any veteran to be sitting any length of time, but he’s been a real trouper.”