ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- Minnesota Wild coach Jacques Lemaire
doesn't want people to get the wrong impression of the 2006-07
version of his team.
Sure, the Wild signed key free agents in the offseason with the
hope of adding some offensive firepower to a defensive-minded
squad. But Lemaire has made it clear that defense will remain his
team's No. 1 priority.
Michal Handzus had a goal and an assist to lead the Chicago
Blackhawks to a 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday
night in the final preseason game for both teams.
It looks like Lemaire still has some work to do.
"It's funny to say this, but we have to get our defensive game
back," Lemaire said. "I have this feeling that there's a rush to
go out and get a goal. You can't play like that. You need to be
patient and wait for the right time. It's almost like we want to go
and get a goal before the game even starts."
Minnesota finished the preseason 3-3, sometimes looking like a
team that has struck the perfect balance between offense and
defense and sometimes looking like a team still searching for its
"I know we added some talent in the offseason," center Brian
Rolston said. "But we have to play the Wild system. That goes for
everybody. The sooner we start playing like that the better. We
want to get that good feeling."
Turnovers plagued the Wild on Saturday. Wes Walz's neutral zone
turnover led directly to Smolinski's goal in the first period.
Lemaire said it's important for the Wild to avoid trying to make
a fancy play, and to continue working on their sharpness in
"There's not a lot of time in the game to (make the fancy
play)," he said. "You just need to bear down and make sure the
pass gets on the stick. We looked like the team we had four or five
years ago tonight when it came to passing."
Branko Radivojevic appears to have secured a spot on the
Gaborik/Pavol Demitra line. Lemaire was searching for a forward
that would add a defensive presence to the offensively gifted
"That's where Radivojevic is going to play," Lemaire said.
"He had a couple of good shifts in the second."
So that's one sure thing that came out of this preseason.
Everything else, however, remains a little vague.
"You can gauge (the preseason) however you want to," Walz
said. "You're always going to remember the last game you played."
"A lot of games we had a good feeling," Rolston added. "But
we have a lot of gelling that needs to be done. This is a
transition period. We'll move on from here."
Notes: The Wild sent defender Shawn Belle and center Wyatt Smith
to the Houston Aeros of the AHL before Saturday's game. Belle was
part of last season's trade that sent Willie Mitchell to the Dallas
Stars. He skated in two preseason games. Smith, a native of Thief
River Falls, also played in two preseason games. He has totaled 23
points in 125 career games with Phoenix, Nashville and the New York
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