Guillaume Latendresse is eating better, while the Wild's first line added star power in Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. That all looks good, but how will it translate on the ice?
Guillaume Latendresse was more nervous on the eve of this season’s training camp than he was at his first camp.
“I was excited to get back with the boys," he said Saturday. And why not? He had a new look.
Acquired by the Wild around Thanksgiving 2009, Latendresse was a breath of fresh air, scoring 25 goals the rest of the way that season for the Wild.
Then came a trio of injuries.
A torn labrum in his hip, a bilateral sports hernia and a lower body injury limited him to just three goals in 11 games last season. It also led to questions about his conditioning, from the team’s owner on a Twin Cities radio station.
Latendresse reported to camp last weekend in the best shape of his career. The 6-foot-2 winger is at 230 pounds, down from his listing of 240 last season.
Ten pounds may not seem significant for a professional hockey player. but looking at Latendresse it is obvious he is better prepared physically for the upcoming season.
The change was sprung from working with a nutritonist to improve his eating habits.
“I changed when you eat or what you eat, when to take protein, all those things that we think we know, but we don’t," Latendresse said. "Even if you try, you need somebody to tell you that that’s the best thing to do.”
General Manager Chuck Fletcher couldn’t help but smile when asked last week about Latendresse’s fitness.
“He came in in much better shape," Fletcher said. "He knew all the standards we set for him at the end of last season. He feels good; he’s skated a lot more this summer than he did last summer,” Fletcher said. “To me, he’s poised to have a big season.”
That is exactly what will be expected from Latendresse, who is penciled in on Minnesota’s second line with Matt Cullen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
“I know those two guys are great playmakers, so it’ll be good for me to find my perfect spot and get open and make sure I’m ready," Latrendresse said. "With those two guys the puck’s gonna come,” Latendresse said.
“He has so much size and talent and the skill he brings with that is a unique package,” Cullen said.
In a perfect world, the trio will take some demands off the team’s top line of Dany Heatley, Mikko Koivu and Devin Setoguchi.
“We’re going to have a lot of pressure because Heater, Seto and Mikko is going to have a lot pressure going in against the best D and the best line, so that’s a tough role to play,” Latendresse said. “I think those guys got enough talent to battle through that, but we need to make sure the second and third lines are guaranteed to put some goals to help those guys to get the pressure off their back a little bit. We know they got the talent to do it.”
The Wild finished 12th in the Western Conference last season. They are not getting much respect from the so-called experts heading into this season, despite adding Heatley and Setoguchi to help an offense that scored the fifth-fewest goals in the league last season.
Latendresse, though, thinks the team will prove the doubters wrong.
“I think we have three big lines that score goals and our fourth line will be pretty tough to play against, too. We’ll have a pretty good squad," Latendresse said. "All the guys are ready to work and we want to prove as individuals that we can win. After not being in the playoff three years in a row we need to get that going, we need to get better.”
Calgary’s Jarome Iginla left Saturday’s practice early, and missed the next two days altogether, with back spasms, but he said it isn’t anything to worry about. "It's definitely better today than it was yesterday. I don't think it will be too long." Iginla said Monday. Coach Brent Sutter called the rest precautionary. … Mark Giordano has been paired with new Flame Scott Hannan as a defensive duo. … Flames G Miikka Kiprusoff is willing to reduce his workload this season. He has started at least 71 games for six straight seasons. … Colorado is counting on new goaltenders Semyon Varlamov and J-S Giguere to help improve a defense that allowed a league-worst 288 goals. Coach Joe Sacco gave positive reviews after the first scrimmage of camp. "I thought the goalies were good, especially in games like this," he said. "There are a lot of breakdowns and scoring chances. Guys are trying to show what they can do with the puck, so there were some mistakes and some turnovers." … Forward T.J. Galiardi is 20 pounds heavier than last season, up to 205. The bulk is muscle, not fat. “I thought being stronger and more durable would help my game," Galiardi said. "I think it's given me more confidence just taking it to the net every time. You just want no fear. I think when I was 180, 190, I went into the hard places, but I can do it way more now and with more ease.” … D Duncan Siemens, drafted 11th overall this year by the Avalanche, is confident heading into training camp even though he’s likely headed back to juniors. … LW Joakim Lindstrom, a free-agent signee from Sweden, has been impressive early in Avs camp playing with Paul Stastny and David Jones. Lindstrom led the Swedish Elite League in scoring last season with 28-32-60 in 54 games. … Edmonton’s Taylor Hall, the top pick of the 2010 Draft, is fully recovered from an ankle injury that ended his rookie season a month early. … However, D Ryan Whitney, who underwent right ankle surgery in January, is still dealing with some pain. He skated in about half the team drills Saturday. “For the first seven days I’m sure it’ll just be 30-40 minutes, then hopefully after that, I’ll be ready to go,” he said. Edmonton coaches hope to reduce his workload from 25 minutes a night to the 18-20 range. … Top draft pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins played with Magnus Paajarvi and Linus Omark during Sunday’s intrasquad scrimmage. … Trade rumors continue to swirl around Vancouver goaltender Cory Schneider. Stuck behind Roberto Luongo on the roster, Schneider would make a fine No. 1 netminder for many teams. It would probably take at least a first-round pick and player that could help now. … G Manny Legace accepted a tryout with the Canucks after spending last season in Germany. Reports indicate the 38-year-old appears willing to accept a mentoring role in the AHL. … D Dan Hamhuis, who required significant offseason abdominal surgery, has declared himself healed. … C Manny Malhotra, who continues to recover from a serious eye injury, is trying to adjust to a new visor. … Good story about enforcer Todd Fedoruk battling drug abuse. After sitting out last season, Fedoruk, 32, is in Vancouver on a tryout deal. Love him or hate him, you have to root for him.
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