Wild: Lemaire, Boogaard believe player's branded

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 27, 2007 - 11:36 AM

Derek Boogaard isn't playing because coach Jacques Lemaire believes some refs have branded him a dirty player.

Derek Boogaard, Brent Sopel

Derek Boogaard, going against Chicago's Brent Sopel in the season opener, has seen little ice time for the Wild in recent games.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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DENVER — Wild coach Jacques Lemaire says Derek Boogaard is in "great shape and shoots the puck better than ever."

Yet, 10 games into a season in which Boogaard's role was expected to broaden with more ice time, the Wild enforcer is averaging 2 minutes, 32 seconds a game, which is 637th out of 642 NHL players, or dead last among players who have skated in more than four games.

In four of the past six games, Boogaard has played less than two minutes. Something doesn't add up if he is "perfectly fine," as Lemaire puts it.

The truth? Lemaire doesn't play Boogaard because of a lack of confidence, not in Boogaard but in referees. Lemaire believes some refs have branded Boogaard a dirty player and focus only on the 6-7 giant when he's on the ice.

Thursday's roughing penalty to Boogaard may best typify Lemaire's theory. Boogaard was the only player pulled from a scrum and sent to the penalty box, even though Edmonton's Mathieu Roy punched Mark Parrish to the ice in front of referee Dennis LaRue.

"It was nothing," said Lemaire, adding this is why Boogaard doesn't play much. "What can you do?"

Asked why Boogaard is allegedly targeted when he's never been suspended and typically shows enormous discipline by standing there and taking it when opponents punch him, Lemaire said, "I don't want to say what comes to my mind. If I would say they're too stupid to know, I would get fined, as an example."

Boogaard feels helpless.

"It's frustrating. It's been following me ever since I've been junior, you know?" Boogaard said. "I'm trying to play. ... I'm not out there to hurt people or try to start stuff.

"I can talk 'til I'm blue in the face. It's not changing. It's too bad. They don't want bigger, physical players in the league."

Asked how this could change, he said: "I guess I have to get 50 goals a year. ... Maybe they want me to snap and go rip someone's head off, I don't know."

Not long in the tooth

Defenseman Brent Burns, riding the bike Friday instead of practicing because of a charley horse, took lots of flak for his new $14.2 million extension.

"First day with the new contract, the guy's already taking a day off," assistant coach Mario Tremblay cracked. "I'm 51 years old, and I'm on the ice all the time."

Added defenseman Kurtis Foster, "I expect a nice big wedding gift next summer."

Burns also brings it on himself.

After the Wild arrived in Denver on Friday, the self-described goofball got on the bus and realized he'd lost his fake tooth. He had taken it out and put it in his pocket as he ate lunch on the plane.

Good news: A flight attendant found it between the seats.

"I guess it fell out," Burns said.

So Ryan Stanzel, the Wild's media relations and team services coordinator (aka tooth fairy), called the team hotel's concierge and had this conversation: "One of our players actually left his fake tooth on the plane. Uh ... can you hook me up with a cab from the airport just to bring me a tooth?"

The delivery cost Burns $46 plus tip.

Sports stars galore

Security was tight at the Wild's Denver hotel. Autograph seekers were blocked by barricades; keys had to be shown to get in.

Amazingly, it had nothing to do with the hype surrounding the Western Conference-leading Wild. The buzz was for the American League champion Boston Red Sox, who are staying at the same hotel.

After Friday's practice, Wild defenseman Sean Hill announced, jokingly, "OK, boys, meet and greet with the Red Sox at 5:30."

The zoolike atmosphere will only amplify today: The Green Bay Packers are also due to check in.

Etc.

• Left winger Pavol Demitra (groin) did not skate Friday but might practice today.

  • WILD NOTES

    Up next: at Colorado • 2 p.m. Sunday • Pepsi Center, Denver • TV: FSN (830-AM)

    DECLINING ICE TIME Derek Boogaard’s playing time has decreased each year. 2005-06: 5:23 average ice time, 9.3 shifts per game 2006-07: 4:38 average ice time, 8.3 shifts per game 2007-08: 2:32 average ice time, 4.4 shifts per game 2007-08 season high: 4:37, Oct. 10 vs. Edmonton 2007-08 season low: 1:17 twice, Oct. 14 at Anaheim and Oct. 20 at St. Louis
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Derek Boogaard, Brent Sopel