DULUTH – Wild fans love giving opponents they deem dirty the “booooo” business.
Brad May got it for knocking out Kim Johnsson. Mattias Ohlund got it for lumberjacking Mikko Koivu’s leg. Alex Burrows got it for finding the guts to fight … Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
There have been many others jeered profusely. Just ask Matt Cooke, now with the Wild after years of being a disliked member of the Vancouver Canucks.
Dustin Brown knows that if he plays in Thursday’s opener against the Wild (the Los Angeles Kings captain is trying to chip off the rust after missing most of training camp because of a hamstring injury), he will be Public Enemy No. 1.
Brown gave Wild forward Jason Pominville whiplash and a concussion with an elbow to the head April 23. Pominville missed the regular season’s last two games and first three games of the playoffs.
“I would imagine the fans won’t be happy with me,” Brown said at August’s U.S. Olympic camp. “It wasn’t pretty, but it wasn’t one of those where I was trying to do anything. I had the puck and it was just instinct.”
Brown, who played with Pominville before at the world championships, saw him after the game and apologized. He was suspended for the Kings’ final two regular-season games.
“I’m sure it’s not what he meant to do,” Pominville said. “Facing him again, I’m just going to play my game. It’s our first game. You don’t want to worry about those things. I’m sure he’s not going to take another run at me in that way.
“Hopefully we don’t have to see anything like that from him again.”
Pominville respects Brown, who helped lead the Kings to a Stanley Cup two years ago.
“He brings a lot of things to the table,” Pominville said.
Need to respond
Center Zenon Konopka, the Wild’s resident bruiser, is well aware that Brown’s hit on Pominville “was a crushing blow to us last year.”
“You have it in the back of your head. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t remember, but nothing’s more important than winning,” Konopka said. “You get a chance to legally hit [Brown] clean, you’re going to throw that hit.
“But,” Konopka added, laughing, “He’s a tough guy, a solid guy, so you better make sure you’re ready to line him up.”
Coach Mike Yeo wants the Wild to focus on winning Thursday, but the Wild coach also wants more of a “pack of wolves mentality” this season. Yeo didn’t like the Wild’s lack of response in Friday’s preseason loss at St. Louis when Blues captain David Backes nailed Pominville up high from behind.
“As long as the game’s existed … protecting each other and battling for each other is part of the game,” Yeo said.
A new deal
Pominville, 30, entering the final year of his contract, would “prefer” to sign a contract extension by Thursday rather than negotiating during the season.
“I don’t want it to be a distraction for me and the way I play, and then you’re always thinking,” Pominville said. “If you know they’re talking and things aren’t going the way you want it to go, then you’re thinking, ‘Oh, are they not wanting to sign me anymore?’ I don’t really want to have that distraction, so hopefully it can get done before [the season]. If not, we’ll see where it goes from there.”
Holiday in Duluth?
A few thousand fans watched the Wild practice at AMSOIL Arena on Tuesday.
“I didn’t know that today was a holiday. No school here?” Yeo said, laughing.
The fans gave the Wild a nice ovation before the team returned to the Twin Cities.
“We were all saying, we’ve never ever gotten applauded for a practice,” defenseman Ryan Suter said.
Rupp almost ready
Left winger Mike Rupp, who will start the season on injured reserve, says his knee is getting stronger and he plans to skate with the team the next few days.
“I need to start doing different things that I can’t do by myself out there,” Rupp said. “I feel in my head it won’t be too long.”