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Veilleux rethinks ill-timed fight

  • Article by: Michael Russo
  • Star Tribune
  • October 25, 2007 - 10:56 PM

EDMONTON, ALBERTA - If Stephane Veilleux had to do it again, perhaps the Wild energy bug wouldn't have challenged hard-nosed Calgary Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf on Wednesday night.

And it doesn't even have to do with the imprint of Phaneuf's fist tattooed around Veilleux's left eye -- the aftermath of a violent, one-sided bout, described on Flames radio by announcer Rob Kerr as, "It looks like [Phaneuf's] starting a lawn mower."

No, Veilleux knows he shouldn't have fought Phaneuf because it awoke a snoozing crowd while the Wild was beating the Flames 3-0.

"I just wanted to stick up for a teammate, and that's it," said Veilleux, who instigated the fight because Phaneuf leveled the Wild's Matt Foy. "[Phaneuf] hits hard, and sometimes you've got to try to settle him down.

"But maybe it wasn't the right timing."

Wild coach Jacques Lemaire certainly didn't think so, saying, "Veilleux, he let his heart take over, not his brain. He's a team player and he's trying, but, not the right time."

However, Wild General Manager Doug Risebrough said the fight "was not a factor at all" in Calgary's comeback to beat the Wild 5-3.

"Phaneuf's the type of guy, he's always going to take liberties with people. Sometimes people have to stand up to those guys," Risebrough said.

Sheppard plays, scores

Rookie James Sheppard, who picked up his first NHL point with an assist on Brian Rolston's power-play goal Wednesday, played his eighth consecutive game Thursday in Edmonton because center Dominic Moore (abdominal strain) is out.

Sheppard wound up scoring his first NHL goal, but prior to the game, Risebrough said of the 19-year-old, "I think he's playing too much right now. If I look at the plan, it was for him to practice, it was to watch games and it was to play him when he's confident.

"Unfortunately, with the injuries, there's no option but to play him. That's not his fault, but this was not the plan."

Still, Risebrough said there are no plans to return Sheppard to his junior team before he plays his 10th game, which would save a year on his contract.

With Pavol Demitra out because of a strained groin, Lemaire is using Sheppard on the power play "because he's strong with the puck, he can play in front of the net, he's good on tips."

But Lemaire admitted he is having trouble deciding when to put Sheppard and Foy, who was a minus-3 in six minutes against Calgary, on the ice.

"It would be nice to get a kid and he starts to play regular and gets some points and all that," said Lemaire, pointing out how good youngsters Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano have been for Edmonton. "But some players take more time than others, so we have to be patient."

Regarding Boogaard

Asked Thursday why enforcer Derek Boogaard has played less than two minutes in four of his past five games, Lemaire said it's because Boogaard is playing with Sheppard and Foy.

"I have to give them confidence, but on the other hand, I have to be confident to send them," Lemaire said. But still, Lemaire could have played Boogaard more against Calgary to possibly shift momentum.

"Maybe the game's are tight and they get to be so important, if you're on a roll, you don't want to lose that," Lemaire said before Thursday's game. "Maybe [Boogaard] will play more tonight because our roll is broken."

Etc.

• Wednesday's loss was Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom's first in regulation in 18 regular-season decisions (15-1-2).

Michael Russo • mrusso@startribune.com

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