Bill Guerin experienced another first in his new post as Wild general manager Saturday, taking in the team's inaugural home game of the regular season at Xcel Energy Center.
And it was Guerin's former employer the Pittsburgh Penguins who skated as the visitors, a matchup that once again highlighted Guerin's past as he guides the Wild into the future.
"He's a hard worker," Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. "He's a fun guy to be around, but he's not afraid to make decisions, and he has strong convictions on how he thinks the game should be played. So I've always admired and valued the conversations that he's been a part of [with] our coaching staff. I've got a lot of respect for his knowledge of the game."
While only a few players remain from the 2009 championship squad that Guerin was on with the Penguins — captain Sidney Crosby, center Evgeni Malkin, defenseman Kris Letang — Guerin most recently interacted with players and Sullivan as a development coach and assistant GM.
"He was huge for me," said former Hill-Murray standout Jake Guentzel. "Coming out of college, I was talking to him a lot."
And despite his impressive string of accolades — which include four Stanley Cups and induction into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame — Guerin was approachable, an asset he brings with him to the Wild.
"Billy's also been cut and bought out and had difficult times in hockey as well," said Guerin's wife, Kara. "So I feel like he can relate to everyone. He knows the pressure of being the guy that's expected to put it in the net, and he knows the disappointment of being the guy cut or bought out. There's probably not a whole lot of people that have experienced both sides of it to that degree. I absolutely think it helps you relate and have empathy and understand what players are going through."
Rask makes debut
Center Victor Rask made his season debut Saturday after being a healthy scratch for the Wild's first three games.
Winger Ryan Donato was the odd man out.
"I hope to see that he's been pretty angry sitting out three games in a row for a veteran that you traded a good player for," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We want to see him compete and for him to sort of say, 'Coach, you're never taking me out of the game ever again.' "
Rask, acquired last season from Carolina for winger Nino Niederreiter, emerged as the extra 13th forward during training camp. His time with the Wild last season was marred by injury and minimal production (two goals in 23 games).
With Rask centering the fourth line, the Wild shifted Luke Kunin to right wing — a move that gave the team another natural shot on that side of the ice.
"It's not fun sitting in the stands, but I worked hard just waiting for my opportunity," Rask said. "I just gotta take it."
For the first time since he was acquired from the Boston Bruins in February, Donato was a healthy scratch with the Wild.
Nick Seeler was also idle for a third consecutive game, with Carson Soucy remaining in action.
Donato's omission was a reflection of his slip down the depth chart amid a slow start to the season (no points and just five shots through three games), but Boudreau acknowledged other forwards are in the same position.
"It's not necessarily going to be him all the time," Boudreau said. "We need other guys to perform and if not, he'll be right back in."
The 23-year-old recognizes that racking up goals and being strong up and down the ice are among his expectations.
"Victor's been doing a great job, working hard and deserves a chance," Donato said. "Obviously, it's disappointing, but also I'm not going to moan about it. I gotta get ready for my next opportunity because I know I want to be a guy that heavily contributes to this team and I know I can and I think the coaches know I can, too."