There was so much hoopla about Niklas Backstrom’s return to Xcel Energy Center on Thursday night that David Jones’ first game against the Calgary Flames got overshadowed.
The forward who came to Minnesota in the Backstrom deal Feb. 29 played three seasons for the Flames and faced his old team for the first time.
The valuable thing about Jones, 31, is that during his entire career, he has bounced between top-six and bottom-six roles. On the Wild, the right wing has played on the second, third and fourth lines.
“Coming here, I didn’t have expectations. I just want to win. So wherever they think I best fit, I’m happy with that role, whether it’s 20 minutes a night or 10,” Jones said.”
“It’s certainly nicer to play 20 minutes,” he added with a chuckle, “but I’ll play anywhere.”
Coach John Torchetti said Jones has done a “fantastic job.”
“Steady Eddie,” Torchetti said. “He’s done a good job using his size, good puck possession guy on the offensive-zone cycles, good on the walls, good on the bench, too. He’s another guy who has been stepping up on the bench and saying the right things, and it just leaks to everybody else on the bench.
“He has good leaderships qualities and he takes direction very well. He’s low maintenance, which I really like. It’s big when you give a player an assignment during a game and then you see him play it out during the game. He’s been pretty steady for us.”
Jones said it’s always weird playing against old friends.
“I was in Colorado for six years, so a little bit longer, you make friendships,” he said, “so when you go line up on the other side of them, it’s definitely a different feeling.”
Vanek, Pominville back
Despite a three-game winning streak, Torchetti made a couple lineup changes. Thomas Vanek, scratched from all three victories, returned on a line with Mikael Granlund and Jones. Jason Pominville, who missed seven games because of a groin injury, returned on his old line with Nino Niederreiter and Erik Haula.
Jason Zucker was scratched for the third time in seven games, as was Chris Porter and Nate Prosser. Torchetti has said recently that he wants a “two-way game” from Zucker, but in the third period against Los Angeles on Tuesday, it looked as if Torchetti chewed Zucker out for cheating coming out of the defensive zone.
Torchetti was excited to get back Pominville, who was heating up before getting hurt in Buffalo three weeks ago.
“He’s a good goal scorer and smart defensively on the walls,” Torchetti said, “good on the bench, really good leadership on the bench with the young guys.”
• Zach Parise said he’s “fine” after missing Wednesday’s practice, but it’s clear Parise’s upper-body injury has been hampering him. “Everyone’s fighting through stuff this time of year, so just deal with it,” Parise said. He did just that by getting a hat trick Thursday.
• Haula entered Thursday with 16 points in 19 games under Torchetti. His plus-19 ranked 11th among all NHL forwards. Lately, the Finnish national team has been scouting him to play in this fall’s World Cup of Hockey. “It would be a great honor,” Haula said.