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Wild's Spurgeon is picking up where he left off last year

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO
  • Star Tribune
  • September 21, 2011 - 12:17 AM

EDMONTON, ALBERTA - He was a revelation as a rookie and Tuesday night, Jared Spurgeon showed there might be no reason to fret the infamous sophomore flu.

The poised, smart 21-year-old scored two goals, including the winner with 1 minute, 46 seconds left, and was by far the Wild's best blue-liner defensively in a 4-3 exhibition-opening victory over the Oilers.

"He doesn't play like a sophomore," said rookie coach Mike Yeo, victorious in his debut, which is not too shabby considering the Wild went winless last preseason. "He plays like a guy that's played in the league for eight years."

Spurgeon, who opened the scoring 2:03 in, whistled Matt Cullen's pass through traffic and a Guillaume Latendresse screen for the game-winning power-play goal. Spurgeon might have played 53 games for the Wild last season, including four against his hometown Oilers, but Tuesday's winner was the perfect finish to his first career exhibition game.

"I don't want to waste them all in the preseason," said Spurgeon, whose first NHL goal came against Edmonton. "I was just trying to get pucks to the net for the guys to get some rebounds and fortunately they went in."

It would be nice if that continued this season, especially since the Wild will be looking for Spurgeon to pick up some of the offensive slack lost by trading Brent Burns.

"I think I feel comfortable, but I know I have to work to make the squad as much as anyone else," Spurgeon said. "I'm just trying to come in here and prove myself all over again."

'Unbelievable' Harding

Josh Harding returned from a torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral knee ligaments to start his first game in almost a year. Harding split the game with Matt Hackett, stopping 14 of 15 shots in 31 minutes as the Wild built a 3-0 lead.

"Unbelievable. Unbelievable," Yeo said of Harding.

Yeo also raved about the Latendresse-Cullen-Pierre-Marc Bouchard line. Cullen had two assists, Latendresse one, and Bouchard scored on a beautiful shot under the crossbar.


• Fridley native Jarod Palmer donned a Wild sweater for the first time and made the most of it with a first-period power-play goal.

"I feel lighter than air," Palmer said before the game.

Afterward, Palmer added, "Especially now that we won."

• Playing his first pro game in hometown Edmonton, Matt Kassian clobbered veteran enforcer Darcy Hordichuk after Hordichuk ran Nate Prosser.

"Any time you play in front of family and friends, it's always exciting, and I've got a lot -- a lot -- here," Kassian said.

Kassian is vying for a spot up front, as is Prosser on the blue line. "Guys like me, the bubble guys and guys competing for spots, this is what it's all about," Prosser said.

• Young forwards Casey Wellman and Cody Almond are hoping to challenge for roster spots and were slated to play in three of the first four exhibition games, but they have gotten hurt at an inopportune time.

Wellman is expected to skate for the first time in three days on Wednesday while Almond is at least a day from skating. It sounds as if both have back injuries.

• With Mike Lundin experiencing back spasms, Tyler Cuma returned for the first time since tearing knee ligaments on Feb. 13 -- the latest in a list of injuries that have stalled the 2008 first-round draft pick's development.

"It's tough to stay positive, but I am still only 21," Cuma said. "... I know I'm behind the eight-ball and I need some games in the AHL. I haven't had a full season now in quite a while."

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