Gillies hopeful his time has come

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 19, 2011 - 10:46 PM

The winger doesn't act like someone with a lock on a roster spot.

Colton Gillies

Photo: Hannah Foslien, Associated Press

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EDMONTON, ALBERTA - Colton Gillies might be armed with a one-way contract, but he hardly sounds like a guy who considers himself a lock to make the Wild.

After all, his locker-room stall still resides in the room with the minor leaguers, not the NHL players, and, "I'm still [living] in the hotel. I'm not moving until they tell me to, so I don't take anything for granted."

But that one-way deal usually provides an inside track because if the Wild sends Gillies to the minors, it would have to pay him his full $600,000 salary there. And as far as coach Mike Yeo is concerned, he's expecting Gillies to "be on the team."

Gillies, 22, was a horse during the Houston Aeros' run to the Calder Cup Finals last season, the team Yeo coached. So far, Gillies looks like a completely different player than the one who was rushed to the NHL and played 45 games as a 19-year-old rookie in 2008-09.

He's fast, physical and assertive, making his presence felt on the forecheck and looking at the very least as if he should be a fixture on the Wild's fourth line and possibly penalty kill.

"There's a comfort level [with Yeo] because he's put me in situations, he knows what I can handle, he knows what I can do. And I know his systems," Gillies said. "Mike likes to roll [four] lines, too, so this is good."

Gillies realizes now that as tough as it was when General Manager Chuck Fletcher sent him to the minors two years ago, it was well worth it.

"I've come a long way," Gillies said. "All it was is experience and just being in those situations and being in the minors. It's a good league. When I got sent down, I was obviously upset. In the long run, I think it was the right move for me. I'm ready. I feel ready."

Goalie shuffle

With Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding locked as the Nos. 1 and 2 goalies with the Wild -- barring injury, the Wild will have to decide how to handle minor league goalies Matt Hackett, Darcy Kuemper and Dennis Endras.

Fletcher said no decisions have been made. The Wild potentially could have three goalies on the Aeros, assign Kuemper, the Canadian Hockey League Goalie of the Year last season, to the ECHL or return Endras to Germany.

"I'll just say Matt Hackett played really well for us last year, so he'll be part of the Houston equation, and it's fair to say the other two will be competing for ice time," Fletcher said.

Etc.

• Edmonton native Matt Kassian will play his first NHL exhibition game Tuesday night at Rexall Place. Edmonton native Jared Spurgeon will play his first career exhibition game despite playing 53 regular-season games for the Wild last season. Fridley native Jarod Palmer will dress in his first NHL contest Tuesday.

• Backstrom (knee), held out of the scrimmages Saturday and Sunday, did practice for a third consecutive day.

• The Wild clearly is intrigued by WHL Portland tryout center Taylor Peters. As a reward for his training camp, the team brought him to Edmonton for the game. He is expected be in the lineup only if one of the 12 forwards is unable to play.

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