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30 Teams in 3(2) Days -- Minnesota

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It was another year of sellouts at the Target Center, another successful regular season and another early playoff exit for the Wild. Two of the top four scorers or gone, but if things break right another succesful regular season and early playoff exit could be in store for the loyal fans in Minnesota.

MINNESOTA WILD

2007-08: 44-28-10, 98 points (first in Northwest)

PLAYOFFS: Lost to Colorado in first round

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Marian Gaborik played the second-most games in his career and established personal bests in goals (42) and points (83). Brent Burns was the Western Conference’s version of Mike Green. Pierre-Marc Bouchard had a career-best 63 points, but his goal total was down. Mikko Koivu might have passed his 54 points from 2006-07 but missed 25 games. The goaltending tandem was great, with Niklas Backstrom shining as the No. 1 guy and Josh Harding proving to be a capable, young backup.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Beyond Gaborik and Brian Rolston, no one scored more than 16 goals and as has been the norm in Minnesota, offense was a problem. While the Wild captured a very competitive division, a second-straight first-round exit was certainly a disappointment.

ARRIVALS: D Marek Zidlicky, LW Antti Miettinen, LW Andrew Brunette, RW Owen Nolan, D Marc-Andre Bergeron

DEPARTURES: RW Brian Rolston, RW Pavol Demitra, RW Mark Parrish, D Keith Carney, D Sean Hill, D Petteri Nummelin

IMPACT PROSPECTS: C Colton Gillies, LW Benoit Pouliot

CAMP QUESTIONS

Who plays with Gaborik?

It is probably going to be either Bouchard or Koivu at center and Miettinen or Brunette on the opposite wing. Those two players can expect to have good offensive seasons, while the other two will be expected anchor the second line and hopefully add some scoring depth for the often punchless Wild.

Wither Benoit Pouliot?

Pouliot was drafted with plenty of fanfare at No. 4 overall in 2005 in between a pair of mega-hyped prospects (Jack Johnson and Carey Price). It seems like the career for those two has been chronicled step-by-step, while Pouliot has avoided the limelight. He has the size and ability to be that extra impact forward this team desperately needs, but is this the year he cements himself as an NHL regular?

PROGNOSIS: The defense should be better with the addition of Zidlicky and the progression of guys like Burns, Nick Schultz and Kurtis Foster, and it is always defense first in Minnesota. If Backstrom and Harding are great again, then it comes down to offense. Can the Miettinen-Brunette-Nolan trio replace the 62 goals from Rolston, Demitra and Parrish? Probably not, which means it might be up to guys like Pouliot and James Sheppard to develop for the Wild to remain atop the Northwest.

DEPTH CHART*

Andrew BrunettePierre-Marc BouchardMarian Gaborik
Antti MiettinenMikko KoivuOwen Nolan
StephaneVeilleuxEric BelangerBenoit Pouliot
Derek BoogardJames SheppardCraig Weller
Brent BurnsMarek Zidlicky
Kim JohnssonNick Schultz
Kurtis FosterMarc-Andre Bergeron
Martin SkoulaErik Reitz
Niklas Backstrom
Josh Harding

 

*NOTE: This is not necessarily an attempt to guess line combinations

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