Goaltender Josh Harding and winger Dany Heatley stood head to head near the end of a recent Wild practice. A whistle had sounded and most players skated toward the sideboards for a water break, but not Harding and Heatley.
The puck was on Heatley's stick. Harding crouched in front of Heatley, the glove on his right hand at the ready. Heatley deftly slid the puck to his right, to his left, back to his right and back to his left.
He whipped a bull's-eye of a shot under Harding's glove and into the corner of the net.
Then both players glided over to the water bottles, Harding delivering a little rap on Heatley's shin pads with his big goalie stick in mock frustration.
"He has some good moves," Harding said. "He's definitely one of the best in the league."
The Wild have had great players and outstanding performances in their 10 seasons, but not until now have they had a bona fide No. 1 NHL line in Heatley, Mikko Koivu and Devin Setoguchi.
"I can't remember the last time they had the legitimacy of a top line," said Darren Pang, a network TV analyst. "The big, prototypical power center who can make a play and the guys who can come off the wing and score goals."
Harding sees the top line as a game-changer for Minnesota, likening its explosiveness to that of the St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols.
"A different sport," Harding said, "but he strikes out three times in a game and in that fourth at-bat, he can still hit a home run."
Minnesota Wild's No. 1 line truly worthy of the status
St. Paul Pioneer Press | Oct 7