WILD: Ex-Sharks Heatley, Setoguchi to debut tonight for Minnesota
ST. PAUL Finally. Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, the key ingredients of a retooled Wild lineup, will make their first appearances tonight when they hook up on a line with captain Mikko Koivu for Minnesota's exhibition home opener against the C...
Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, the key ingredients of a retooled Wild lineup, will make their first appearances tonight when they hook up on a line with captain Mikko Koivu for Minnesota's exhibition home opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Even coach Mike Yeo is eager for the unveiling.
"Everyone's wondering when Mikko and Heater and Seto are going to get out there," he said the other day. "We would definitely like for those guys to make their debut at home, in front of our home crowd. I think our fans are excited about seeing those guys on the ice, and rightfully so. I am, too."
Yeo took a younger squad to St. Louis for Thursday night's exhibition game against the Blues, so snipers Heatley and Setoguchi, acquired in separate offseason trades with the San Jose Sharks, stayed home to practice at the Xcel Energy Center.
Heatley's offensive credentials are "self-explanatory," Setoguchi noted. Heatley has twice produced 50-goal seasons and has 245 goals in his past six seasons. Add 73 goals over the past three seasons from Setoguchi, and it's reason enough to expect a much-needed shot in the arm for an offense that ranked second-to-last in the Western Conference last season.
"We've strengthened one of our biggest weaknesses," Wild owner Craig Leipold said, "and any time you do that, you feel like you're moving forward."
Moving forward on the scoreboard is precisely the reason general manager Chuck Fletcher acquired Heatley and Setoguchi,
but through six days of training camp and two exhibition games, the newcomers have been kept under wraps.
Heatley, 30, says he's ready to get it on against a real opponent.
"There was a lot of buildup this summer and a lot of excitement around here the last couple of weeks going into training camp," he said. "We're anxious to get going."
The major acquisition for the Wild in the team's 11 seasons, Heatley became available from the Sharks after scoring only 26 goals last season. That might look like a down year for Heatley, but it was still four more goals scored than anyone had on Minnesota's roster.
It signals what an offensive threat Heatley is, Setoguchi said, adding, "I think since the lockout, he's about third in the league in goals."
Sandwich the duo on either side of Koivu -- the Wild's leading scorer last season with 62 points in 71 games -- and the result should be a line worth watching for Minnesota's fans.
"Hopefully they're excited to see the team and a lot of changes," Koivu said.
Heatley and Setoguchi will be the focal point for many fans because of their fire- power, but the healthy returns to the lineup of Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Guillaume Latendresse plus the addition of hard-checking forward Darroll Powe will give the Wild a different look from a year ago.
Bouchard says the additions should make everybody's job easier.
"They went and got some really good players, guys that can score," he said.
Setoguchi, 24, is quick to point out that he and his former teammate can do more than just score goals.
"Our job is to play the same way we did in San Jose," he explained. "We were counted on to score some goals, but that's not all my game is. I like to skate and get in on the forecheck and create turnovers and use my body and lay some hits every once in a while. The goals will come."
Wild 1, Blues 0: Warren Peters scored the only goal, and Nicklas Backstrom and Matt Hackett combined for the shutout in the Wild's exhibition victory in St. Louis.
Peters scored at the 16:33 mark of the second period, beating Jaroslav Halak with a backhand shot from a tough angle on a break-in along the right side of the ice.
Backstrom started the game and stopped 18 shots through two periods before being replaced by Matt Hackett, who stopped 14 shots for the Wild (2-0).
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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