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Wild defenseman Tom Gilbert (shown with Edmonton)

, NHL

Gilbert glad to be back at home

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO
  • Star Tribune
  • February 28, 2012 - 11:50 PM

Tom Gilbert had played 19 games inside Xcel Energy Center as an Edmonton Oiler. He had lost 18 of them, including 17 in a row starting from his first visit to his second-to-last.

In those 19 games, he had scored two goals, four assists and was minus-6.

"Yeah, my track record in the building has not been too good," Gilbert said before debuting Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Kings. "It'll be nice to get more wins in [here]."

That didn't start Tuesday. The Wild was blanked 4-zip.

His debut came one day after the Bloomington native was acquired for Wild lifer Nick Schultz. There had been times in the past when Gilbert envisioned slipping on a No. 77 Wild sweater.

"It's always in the back of your mind, wherever you're from, you always wish to go back there and spend a couple years there playing the sport you love," Gilbert, 29, said. "There's more excitement for a chance to start somewhere fresh."

During the summertime, Gilbert lives in Madison, Wis., where he played for the Badgers. New Wild teammate Dany Heatley is excited to have more Badger support in the locker room.

"You can never have enough Badgers on a team," Heatley quipped.

For now, Gilbert will live in a hotel. His excited parents, Mary and Kelly, have already promised "home-cooked meals."

He wants to concentrate on hockey and try to get adjusted to his new team as quickly as possible. At times, he was crossed up between systems Tuesday.

The transition though should be made easier having close friend and ex-Oilers teammate Kyle Brodziak around.

"Every time you say bye to somebody else, you welcome other guys in. Tom is part of the team now," Brodziak said. "He's a guy who wants to win. That's something I always respected about him. It's tough to replace a guy like Schultzy. The respect level for him from all of us in an ultimate high.

"But Tom will fit in good in this locker room."

Gaining experience

Having traded three veteran defensemen -- Schultz, Marek Zidlicky and Greg Zanon -- in four days, young defensemen Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella, Nate Prosser and Justin Falk will be leaned on a lot in the last 19 games.

They had hiccups against the Kings.

"Part of the experience is to have to bounce-back from a game like tonight," coach Mike Yeo said. "These guys are young guys who are big parts of our future. So they have to get that experience. And there's no way to get it unless you go through it."

Still, this leaves the Wild thin on the back end.

"Since last summer, I think we traded away our top four D, so it's a lot of new things we have to learn, a lot of new faces," goalie Niklas Backstrom, who's including Brent Burns on that list, said after Tuesday's game. "We have to work to get to know each other."

Harding relieved

Monday was a nerve-racking day for goalie Josh Harding, who knew it was possible he could be traded. He wasn't.

"It's no secret I love being here," Harding said.

GM Chuck Fletcher said Monday he hasn't closed the book on trying to re-sign Harding.

"When we have those talks, we'll know a lot more," Harding said. "My overall goal ever since I was drafted here [in 2002] was to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL, especially with the Minnesota Wild. That's still my goal. I'd love to stay here, but everything has to work out though, too."

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