Jason Pominville, who just a few days ago captained the Buffalo Sabres, had a whirlwind week. Acquired last Wednesday by the Wild, the veteran forward flew across the country Thursday to debut that night against Los Angeles.
After introducing himself to his new teammates, Pominville received a crash course from the coaches moments before a less-than-stellar performance by the Wild.
But after catching his breath in Columbus and socializing with teammates at a team dinner at a steakhouse Saturday night, Pominville looked calmer and more refreshed in Sunday’s 3-0 victory.
He scored a goal and assist and gave a glimpse of the smart, hard-working player Minnesota acquired to play alongside top-liners Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu.
“He’s a skilled player to complement two skilled guys,” coach Mike Yeo said.
Pominville, who makes his home debut Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks, is excited about the prospects of the line.
“We’re doing some good things and are starting to get to know what we want to do, and a lot of it comes with communication,” Pominville said.
Before Sunday’s game, Pominville’s wife Kim, their two children and Kim’s father drove to Columbus from Buffalo to surprise him. Wild team services employees Ryan Stanzel and Carly Peters jumped through some hoops to make their trip special.
The Hockey Lodge put together a package of Wild gear for the entire family before the Wild arranged for the gifts to be put on a Delta Airlines flight to Columbus on Sunday. Pominville was surprised by his family 45 minutes before warmups.
Defending the d-man
Clayton Stoner, a defenseman who had struggled, highlighted a strong game from the Wild’s blue line in Columbus.
Stoner won’t be scratched. He can play top-four minutes and adds a hard-nosed dimension the Wild’s other defensemen largely don’t bring.
Yeo said while Stoner has had “a couple tough plays with pucks” lately, “the base of his game, he’s going to be a physical guy, he’s going to be hard to play against down low, he’s not a fun guy to play against, I guarantee you that because positionally he does a good job.”
Expect an announcement in the next couple of weeks that the Wild’s long relationship with the Houston Aeros is ending. The Wild has not been able to come to terms on a new lease at the Toyota Center.
The Wild is expected to relocate its American Hockey League affiliate to Des Moines, where it will play at Wells Fargo Arena.
After a tough first period Sunday, rookie center Mikael Granlund elevated his game in the second and third. Besides setting up Charlie Coyle’s goal, Granlund was strong defensively, physical and solid along the wall.
“That’s really important for us,” Yeo said. “It’s a matter of confidence for the kid. Once he really starts to figure out what he can do and what he’s capable of, it’s going to be fun to watch.”
It’ll be interesting to see if Granlund returns to Houston once Matt Cullen, who has missed three games because of a lower-body injury, is ready to return. If Granlund isn’t going to play, the Wild likely would reassign him and perhaps recall rookie winger Jason Zucker.
• Even though the NHL might have multiple outdoor games next season, the Wild’s objective remains to be the host of the actual Winter Classic. With the 2014 Winter Classic between Detroit and Toronto having been rescheduled for Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., the Wild is going hard for the 2015 Winter Classic.
• The Wild plans new white road sweaters next season.