ST. LOUIS – The Wild will be looking for some “Finnish” from the second power-play unit.
Teemu Pulkkinen, claimed off waivers Tuesday from the Detroit Red Wings, practiced with his new team for the first time Wednesday at Scottrade Center and was immediately tossed onto the No. 2 power-play unit with countrymen Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund.
“I hope it’s going to work [Thursday] and we get some goals,” said Pulkkinen, 24, a minor league sniper who scored his first NHL goal against the Wild two seasons ago.
“He can shoot the puck. He rifled a couple out there,” said coach Bruce Boudreau.
Added former Finnish National Team linemate Granlund, “You look at him on the ice and the way he shoot, he can really snap the puck. He’s got a lot more in his overall game, but his shot is absolutely his best weapon.”
Pulkkinen, who looked like he was about to break through last season in Detroit before dislocating his shoulder, said he’s excited for the fresh start in Minnesota.
“That was great for me that they put me on waivers,” he said. “I had a hard last season. Things were going great before I got hurt. Then after I got hurt I didn’t get that much of a chance. I thought it was going to be the same thing this season. I’m lucky they put me on waivers so I can have a new chance.”
At even-strength, Pulkkinen’s expected to start off on the fourth line with Jason Zucker and Zac Dalpe.
“Listen, they can all move up. And they can all move down,” Boudreau said. “It depends on how they play. That’s the way I look at it. If he’s great, then he’ll get more ice time. If he’s not so great, he’ll get less.”
As usual, Boudreau had a unique first impression of Pulkkinen.
“They’re all blond now — 5’11’ and blond,” he deadpanned. “I mean, go look at our team how many blond guys we have. It’s a lot. Don’t, you think so?”
Mike Yeo, fired last season in his fifth year behind the bench, will get his first game against his former team out of the way early. Yeo, expected to take the full reins from Ken Hitchcock next season, is associate coach of the Blues.
“I’d be liar if I said I wasn’t aware of this game as soon as the schedule came out,” Yeo said. “I think the fact that it was a home opener was going to make it exciting enough, but then to have it be your former team adds a little bit more to the rivalry and to the excitement level.
“I look back at [Minnesota] with great memories and a lot of gratitude.”
Five months after being hired as Wild coach, Boudreau is getting started as well.
“I’m excited to see what we’ve got,” he said. “Unlike a lot of the pundits that have said we’re no way going to be making the playoffs or something, I think we’ve got something to prove to prove them wrong.
“Unfortunately or fortunately Game 1 is as important as Game 25, whereas when I was playing they didn’t get loosened up ‘til Christmastime. Now it’s right out of the gate.”