With stars in his eyes

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Marc Antoine Pouliot felt like he was in a fog. Probably because he just flew out of one.

Thanks to low visibility in Toronto, a routine flight to Minnesota turned into a two-legged sleepover.

"I was supposed to fly in Monday night, but couldn't because of the fog," said the 20-year-old centre, who had to check into an airport hotel, but couldn't sleep a wink because of the excitement of his first ever NHL call-up. "I got up at four in the morning, got on a plane at 6:25, took a plane to Detroit and then Detroit to Minnesota. I didn't have time for a big rest."

30 MINUTES BEFORE THE SKATE

He arrived about 30 minutes before Edmonton's morning skate, but made up for it by staying on the bench long afterwards to soak it all in.

And that's precisely why they brought him up.

"We want some depth and it's good to give a young player like that who's playing the best he's played all year long a little sense of the NHL," said head coach Craig MacTavish.

"It's like bringing a young thoroughbred to the gate before he runs his first race and getting him used to the atmosphere and the environment. Because in my mind we're going to need him because of losing Marty (Reasoner) and (Yan) Stastny (in the Sergei Samsonov deal)."

And, who knows, they might just need him.

"Changes could occur if we don't play well," said MacTavish.

Pouliot, who had 15 goals and 31 assists this year in the AHL, is thrilled to be here regardless of the role, or the route.

"I don't have any expectations.," he said. "I just want to play at least a game.

"We'll see what's going on. I know they're battling for a playoff spot, so I'm not thinking I'm going to get a lot of ice time. I'm just taking the experience and jumping on it.

"It's fun to be with all these guys."

TOO CLOSE TO CALL OF THE WILD: It's so tight in the West that Wild coach Jacques Lemaire doesn't know who to cheer for most nights. But if he's a betting man (and, remember, NHL coaches don't bet on hockey), he'd pick San Jose to make the playoffs.

"San Jose has games in hand," he said. "They're in a good position. San Jose will have to drop a few. If they're hot till the end of the season, it'll be tough for other teams to make it. You're asking them to play a little less than .500 for other teams to make it."

Minnesota pulled itself close with the last few games, but they've played more games, 67, than the teams they're chasing and now have four days off while everybody else catches up.

"They could lose a lot of ground in that time.

'THAT'S NOT GOOD'

"We put ourselves in this situation," shrugged Lemaire. "We had a lot of games that we should have won.

'We were in good position at times when we were leading by a couple of goals and blew the game. That's not good.

"We're in this position and there's nothing we can do but try to get as many games as possible and hope that somebody else will fall."


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