Brodziak's homecoming

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

As a player developed through the system, it was believed Kyle Brodziak's tenure with the Edmonton Oilers would probably last more than just two seasons.

However, the St. Paul, Alta., product was traded to the Minnesota Wild for a pair of selections in this past June's NHL Entry Draft.

Tonight, Brodziak is back in town to play his first game at Rexall Place since being traded.

"It means a lot to come back here," Brodziak said. "I have a lot of friends on the team that I'll be playing against. Obviously, with the circumstances, getting traded, you always want to come and show your former team that they perhaps made a mistake giving up on you."

Brodziak, 25, was originally the Oilers' ninth pick -- 214th overall -- in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. He spent three productive seasons in the minors before cracking the Oilers' lineup on a full-time basis in 2007.

GOOD ROOKIE YEAR

Brodziak went on to score 14 goals and add 17 assists in his rookie year as an effective fourth-line centre.

Last year he had 11 goals and 16 assists in 79 games.

"Minnesota has been great," Brodziak said. "I've had a lot of fun so far, there is a great group of guys on the team. I think so far it's been a great city for my wife and I to live in.

"The only thing we need now is to try and get a few more wins here for the team and start turning things around. That's the only thing I wish that was different. I just wish we were winning a few more games."

The Wild have just one win in their first five games heading into tonight's contest against the Oilers.

They've fallen victim to a tough early schedule that has them play six of their first seven games on the road, and are adjusting to a new system brought in by rookie head coach Todd Richards.

Brodziak is familiar with Richards, having played for the former San Jose Sharks assistant on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

"I have some expectations, just because I know Kyle," Richards said. "I'm sure he's still trying to figure out his role here a little bit. We've had some injuries, which has probably elevated him up in certain aspects. But for me, he's a really reliable and versatile player that can play on the wing or in the middle. And he's a good penalty-killer.

"He's also proven valuable to us in faceoffs, being a right-hand shot on draws."

FACEOFF PROWESS

With the Oilers, Brodziak was also valuable in the face-off circle, spelling off Shawn Horcoff, who once again this season has been forced to take the majority of his team's most important draws.

Brodziak also grew fond of playing close to home, in front of his friends and family.

"It was great, I loved it here," he said. "Obviously at times, there were points in the season where some privacy would have been nice, perhaps after a loss or something like that. But other than that, you couldn't have asked for a better situation, having everybody so close and not having to move was great.

"But it's time to move on now."

With Richards at the helm, Brodziak didn't have to endear himself to a new coach, but he will have to play up to expectations. One of the issues last year in Edmonton, having had such a strong rookie campaign, was taking his game to the next level.

"He knows what I'm capable of, and right now, I'm just trying to work back to getting my game where it should be and where it should have been for a while now," Brodziak said. "I think it's going to be a process, but I think I'm taking strides to becoming a better and more consistent player and the player that I know I can be."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA


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