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Former UMD Bulldog J.T. Brown making Wild debut against Blackhawks

Minnesota Wild right wing J.T. Brown skates against the Dallas Stars during the game at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Sept. 24, 2018. Jerome Miron / USA TODAY Sports

ST. PAUL — After being inactive and watching from afar as the Wild managed just two goals in their first two games, speedy winger J.T. Brown finally will hit the ice for his hometown team during Thursday, Oct. 11's game against the Chicago Blackhawks.

It will be his first game rocking a Wild sweater, a special moment for the 28-year-old Burnsville, Minn., native.

"I'm pretty excited," he said after the morning skate. "I've just got to kind of keep (my emotions) in check and try not to do too much."

Brown would be forgiven for wanting to do too much on this particular night considering he's living out his childhood dream after growing up right down the road.

Brown burst onto the scene more than a decade ago as a star for Rosemount High School. He moved on to Minnesota Duluth, leading the Bulldogs to a national championship as a sophomore in 2011, when he was named the Frozen Four's most outstanding player.

Brown signed an entry-level contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2012 and spent the next six seasons refining his game and finding ways to contribute when he wasn't putting the puck into the net.

After being traded to the Anaheim Ducks midway through last season, Brown signed a two-year, $1.375 million contract with the Wild in the offseason, hoping to revitalize his career.

He will play on the fourth line alongside Eric Fehr and opposite Marcus Foligno against the Blackhawks, and knows he has to use his speed to his advantage.

"That's part of the reason why I think I was brought in," Brown said. "That's the kind of things I've got to remind myself to make sure I'm doing every shift."

Brown will be flying around the ice wearing No. 23, the same number his father Ted Brown wore during his playing days with the Vikings from 1979—86. He started training camp wearing No. 71 but changed that when defenseman Gustav Olofsson was traded last week.

"It was cool when the opportunity came up to be able to wear the same number he wore," Brown said, adding that his father will be at Xcel Energy Center for Thursday's game. "It's kind of like paying him back for everything he's done to help me get to where I am. He enjoys seeing me wear it, too. It's definitely a special number in our family."

Brown said his ultimate goal Thursday — besides helping the Wild earn their first win — is to make it impossible for the coaching staff to take him out of the lineup moving forward.

"Nobody wants to sit," he said. "Everybody wants to play. That said, I know I can't try to do too much. I've just got to make sure I'm doing what's asked of me."

Sense of swagger

We're only a few games into the season, but it sure looks like the Blackhawks have their swagger back.

"They do have it right now," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It's our job to take it away from them."

The Blackhawks (2-0-1) scored 15 goals in their first three games, Jonathan Toews (5 goals) and Patrick Kane (4 goals) leading the way.

"They have guys that have won three Stanley Cups on that team," Boudreau said. "Then they miss the playoffs (last season). There's a lot of pride in that group, and we can see it already right now. ...They have come into this season with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder, and they're out to prove everybody wrong."

To the left

Hoping to give Nino Niederreiter a boost, Boudreau moved him back to left side. He will play on the third line, alongside Jordan Greenway and opposite Charlie Coyle.

"He sees the ice better from that side," Boudreau said. "He gets his shot away a little bit quicker. And he's got a great shot, so to get it off from that side is a little easier for him."