Nino Niederreiter does Wild's dirty work

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 17, 2013 - 8:07 AM

The Wild youngster is a pest to opponents.

It’s almost as if Nino Niederreiter loves his face being used as a punching bag.

There’s no statistical category for it, but if you’ve watched the Wild through the first 35 games of this season, the young forward clearly leads the team in goalmouth scrums.

Niederreiter frequently drives the net, gets into the opposing goaltenders’ workspace and tries to make their life difficult, whether it be by driving with the puck or going there to establish position, create screens and look for deflections.

That’s exactly how “El Niño” scored the tying goal in the Wild’s 2-1 shootout victory over Colorado on Saturday. He won a puck battle along the boards, made a beeline for the blue crease, parked himself in front of Semyon Varlamov and deflected Ryan Suter’s shot in the final minutes to force overtime.

Niederreiter, 21, drives opposing defensemen and forwards batty and often is double- or triple-teamed after whistles with punches and face-washes and hogties and cross-checks.

“It’s something that everyone on our team loves about him and respects about him,” center Kyle Brodziak said. “He goes to the net hard and with a purpose, and if he’s going to get pushed, he’s not taking it. He’s going to push a guy back.

“He makes the other defensemen mad at him, and the purpose is to get them off their game or draw a penalty. It’s awesome to see. Everyone notices it, and it’s something we love about him.”

Part of his game

Pushing, shoving and being smacked in the face is not fun, but it’s almost as if it’s Niederreiter’s own brand of smelling salt. You can see it in his face. These post-whistle scrums wake him up and get him engaged in the action.

He even flies in there against pals. On his first shift in Anaheim last week, Niederreiter went to the net hard and hit the brakes, just to say hello — so to speak — to his Swiss countryman, Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller, with a snow shower to the face.

These ensuing pushing/punch-fests with defensemen often include Niederreiter wearing an antagonistic grin, which seems to infuriate opponents even more.

“It’s part of my game now,” Niederreiter said. “To be honest, just go in there and just stay there. Other teams don’t want to see any players besides their guys there, so it helps your team to go there. You could draw penalties out of it or get a dirty goal.”

Still, it always seems to be Niederreiter in the center of every goalmouth scrum. Asked if he chirps or if it’s maybe that mischievous grin that infuriates opponents, Niederreiter said, smiling, “I never trash talk, but for some reason, they just don’t really like me being in front of their net. But that’s the area where you score goals in this league. So I’m going to be there as much as I can.”

Stirring the pot

Wild coach Mike Yeo loves that Niederreiter goes to the net and actually stops there. Too many players — young and old — do fly-bys where they go the net and depart, maybe because of the wear and tear that comes with being smacked around by defensemen.

“I started doing this in junior,” Niederreiter said of his successful 77-goal, 130-point-in-120-game career with Portland in the Western Hockey League. “I used to go to the net and nobody cared. In the NHL, they hate it. I thought I was going to get killed in St. Louis a few weeks ago.”

The Wild acquired Niederreiter, the fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft, on draft day in 2013 when it sent Cal Clutterbuck and a third-round pick to the Islanders for Niederreiter. Niederreiter grew displeased with his treatment on Long Island. He played the fourth line in 2011-12, griped and wasn’t invited to training camp in January despite a strong first half with Bridgeport of the American Hockey League.

Niederreiter’s Switzerland-based agent Andre Rufener requested a trade and Islanders General Manager Garth Snow obliged. Last week in Anaheim, Rufener met with Wild GM Chuck Fletcher to begin establishing a relationship.

  • related content

  • Granlund close to returning

    Tuesday December 17, 2013

    The Wild center has missed nine consecutive games and 11 of the past 12.

  • Wild-Vancouver game preview

    Monday December 16, 2013

    7 p.m. vs. Vancouver • Xcel Energy Center • FSN, 100.3-FMPreview: Two teams from the now-defunct Northwest Division renew their...

  • Maple Leafs Mark Fraser fought with the Wild's Nino Niederreiter during the second period at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Nov. 13.

  • Nino Niederreiter drew the attention of a trio of Blackhawks in front of the Chicago net during the Wild’s 4-3 victory on Dec. 5.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Arrieta 2 FINAL
Cincinnati - WP: D. Axelrod 7
NY Yankees - LP: S. Kelley 2 FINAL
Detroit - WP: P. Coke 3
Colorado - LP: J. Lyles 1 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: Y. Petit 4
Tampa Bay - LP: K. Yates 4 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: A. Miller 5
Atlanta - WP: M. Minor 6 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: J. Niese 1
Cleveland - WP: C. Carrasco 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: J. Danks 2
Minnesota - WP: A. Swarzak 11 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: B. Chen 5
Texas - LP: R. Mendez 2 FINAL
Houston - WP: C. McHugh 4
Oakland - LP: R. Cook 3 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: F. Salas 4
Atlanta 24 FINAL
Jacksonville 14
Detroit 23 FINAL
Buffalo 0
Indianapolis 7 FINAL
Cincinnati 35
Kansas City 14 FINAL
Green Bay 34
NY Jets 7 FINAL
Philadelphia 37
St. Louis 13 FINAL
Miami 14
Carolina 10 FINAL
Pittsburgh 0
New England 13 FINAL
NY Giants 16
Washington 24 FINAL
Tampa Bay 10
Baltimore 22 FINAL
New Orleans 13
Chicago 13 FINAL
Cleveland 33
Denver 27 FINAL
Dallas 3
Minnesota 19 FINAL
Tennessee 3
San Francisco 40 FINAL
Houston 13
Arizona 9 FINAL
San Diego 12
Seattle 31 FINAL
Oakland 41
(21) Texas A&M 52 FINAL
(9) So Carolina 28
Wake Forest 10 FINAL
ULM 17
Boise State 13 FINAL
(18) Ole Miss 35
Tulane 31 FINAL
Tulsa 38
Rutgers 41 FINAL
Washington St 38
Weber State 14 FINAL
(19) Arizona State 45
Temple 37 FINAL
Vanderbilt 7
BYU 8/29/14 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 8/29/14 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 8/29/14 9:30 PM
Arizona
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which local pro team are you most excited about?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close