ST. PAUL, Minn. — Jason Pominville never really got comfortable in Minnesota last year.
After spending his entire NHL career with the Buffalo Sabres, Pominville was dealt to the Wild in an early April trade. With only a month left in the season, Pominville and his family opted to stay in a Twin Cities hotel rather than try to rush into finding a permanent residence.
The on-ice adjustment took some time, too, and a late-season concussion didn’t help the process. Just 10 games into his tenure with the Wild, Pominville sustained a concussion and missed the final two games of the truncated regular season. He was also out for the first three games of Minnesota’s first-round playoff series against Chicago. By the time he did return, he was admittedly not himself.
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“The timing was terrible. You play the whole season to be able to play in the postseason. It’s the best time of the year to be on the ice,” Pominville said Monday. “You almost feel like you let everyone down. You want to be out there. You want to compete and you want to battle with your teammates, but it’s the type of injury where you can’t really do much about it. … Now to be really able to get settled in with the family, it’s starting to feel like home.”
With the concussion behind him and a new season on the horizon, Pominville is finally comfortable in St. Paul. He and his family have found a house and have left the hotel life behind them. And the 30-year-old winger has jelled with his new linemates, too. During Minnesota’s training camp, he’s been teamed with center Mikko Koivu and forward Zach Parise on the Wild’s top line.
Head coach Mike Yeo also had Pominville manning the point on the power play in Monday’s practice, a sign of Pominville’s versatility on the ice.
“I knew he was a very good two-way player,” Koivu said. “His overall package, playing with him, it’s more than I knew. The way he can help his linemates and his two-way game, for a centerman, it’s something you always appreciate a lot.”
Pominville has scored 48 career power play goals, including one of his four with Minnesota last year. Yeo likes how Pominville can run the power play like a defenseman but still create scoring chances like a forward when the Wild are on the man advantage.
“The versatility he gives you is there’s a lot of times when our weakside D is going to find himself in kind of a half wall position. With him over there, the skill that he has, he can make those plays,” Yeo said. “He can distribtue almost like a forward. But first and foremost that guy has to be a shooter for us, and he’s a weapon over there. He’s going to open up a lot more ice for everybody else just because the respect that he’s going to have.”
Pominville twice scored 30 goals in a season during his time in Buffalo, most recently when he netted 30 goals and added 43 assists during the 2011-12 season. Even during his abbreviated time with the Wild last year, Pominville chipped in four goals and five assists in a 10-game span.
Now he’s back for an entire season, and Minnesota is excited to see what he can provide. He and the rest of the Wild players have a full preseason this year to prepare for the upcoming schedule, which should allow Pominville, Koivu and Parise plenty of time to form a cohesive top line.
“As far as I’m concerned, it should just continue to get better,” Yeo said. “The more chemistry those guys build, the more opportunity they have to get out there and work with each other, then it should continue to grow.”
Pominville won’t play in Tuesday’s preseason opener against Columbus, nor will many of Minnesota’s big names.
That means Wild fans will have to wait to see what Pominville can do in his first full season in Minnesota.
The Wild have high hopes for what Pominville can provide on the ice. And after getting a taste of the playoffs last year, Pominville has high hopes for the Wild.
“It was a big step last year. We hadn’t been in the postseason for a little while, so it’s nice to get in there,” said Pominville, who has now played in 47 career playoff games.
“There’s a lot to build off that, and hopefully we can carry it on.”