After missing last year's lone tilt at the Power Station (Xcel Energy Center) with an injury, Marian Gaborik should hopefully make his Minnesota return in late November. And he won't be alone as Wild folk hero Derek Boogaard will hopefully not have played himself out of the lineup by then. Hopefully.
Familiar Foes: The two Finns, Mikko Koivu and the other Nik Backstrom, still lead the Wild. They will be helping for a little help this season as the team looks to bounce back into the playoffs. That assistance should come from Martin Havlat, who should be over his new-contract hangover, and a healthy Brent Burns. Nick Schultz continues to be one of the NHLs best defensive defensemen and he is joined by Greg Zanon, one of the best shot-blockers. Feisty winger Cal Clutterbuck was one of just two players (Dustin Brown) to have more hits than Ryan Callahan last season. And it is easy to overlook Andrew Brunette but the player who was too slow for the NHL 15 years ago in Washington has had himself quite the career and should easily pass 1,000 games this season (he enters at 950, with 660 points).
N00bz: Guillaume Latendresse headed to Minnesota in one of the most even trades I've ever seen (from Montreal for Benoit Pouliot) and immediately took to his new surroundings. If he can keep it going he will be quite dangerous. Scumbag mercenary Matt Cullen decided to take the Wilds' money this season, perhaps he will actually show up and play for them. The Wild also took on former Devils and Hawks Cup-winner John Madden as well as San Jose's Brad Staubitz, who will take on the Boogeyman's old fight load. Jarod Palmer and Casey Wellman both helped beat up the baby Rangers in Traverse City and both should make this season's roster.
Last Year: Friday, October 30th, a 3-2 Wild win.
This Year: Saturday, November 20th in Minnesota and Thursday, March 3rd at MSG.
What They Mean To Blue: The first game will be another gut check for the Rangers - will they step up for their teammates to make sure their 'homecoming' is a successful one. The second will be another stretch-run necessity.