A warning to casual hockey fans regarding the home opener against the Anaheim Ducks: This is not the same Wild team from the previous eight seasons. Original head coach Jacques Lemaire is long gone. He was replaced by Crystal native Todd Richards, who has risen through hockey coaching ranks with great speed, landing himself a top NHL gig after only a handful of years coaching in the minors and one season as an assistant with the San Jose Sharks. Look for Richards to use this season to lay the groundwork for a faster, more offense-oriented Wild. The club's longtime general manager departed at the end of last season, making room for experienced NHL front-office guru Chuck Fletcher, who was assistant GM last year with the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Fletcher has wasted no time revamping the team, signing veteran winger Martin Havlat, who brings thrilling speed and puck distribution skills to the ice. Fletcher also drafted Eden Prairie defenseman Nick Leddy, who will play for the Gophers this season, with the Wild's first pick. Finally, it's not just new faces you'll see around the X, but new sweaters, too. The team will don old-school style forest-green jerseys for 15 games.
Tue., Oct. 6, 8 p.m., 2009