Brodziak at home in Wild

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:50 PM ET

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Kyle Brodziak is the first to admit, he didn’t play his best hockey as a member of the Edmonton Oilers.

But Oilers fans have to admit, they didn’t think Brodziak’s best hockey could be this good.

Heading into Tuesday’s game against his former team, Brodziak was being used by the Minnesota Wild as a top-two centre, getting power play time and killing penalties. In Sunday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wing, the St. Paul native had a career-high 23:30 minutes of ice time.

“It’s a good opportunity, that’s the way I have to look at it,” said Brodziak. “I really feel that I’m grateful for the chance and I have to make the best of it. We’re going through a pretty tough stretch right now, and if you look at the West, how tight it is, everybody has to step up their game a bit more. It’s a good opportunity and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Heading into Tuesday’s game against the Oilers, Brodziak, 26, had 12 goals and 15 assists in 59 games this season.

With the loss of top centre and captain Mikko Koivu to a broken finger, Brodziak was moved up in the lineup. Against the Red Wings, he was centring the Wild’s top line between Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Martin Havlat.

“He did it last year, he was with (Guillaume) Latendresse and Marty, and that line was very good,” said Wild coach Todd Richards. “So far this year, whatever role we’ve put Kyle in, he’s done a good job. To me, he’s really elevated his play, too. Before, he was just playing with Marty and not getting any power-play minutes. Now he’s getting power-play minutes and he’s doing a good job.”

Brodziak had a goal and two assists in a 5-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday. He went into Tuesday’s game having collected at least one point in five of his last seven outings.

“I had Kyle in Wilkes-Barre and so I know his offensive side and what he can do,” Richards said. “At this level, it’s different, but he’s got a good set of hands, he thinks the game pretty well and he’s responsible defensively allowing his wingers to be more risky, knowing that Kyle will be in a good defensive position.”

Originally drafted by the Oilers in the seventh round — 214th overall — of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Brodziak worked his way up their system until breaking in with the club in 2007.

Brodziak played two full seasons with the Oilers, rarely playing above the third line, before being traded to the Wild for a pair of picks at the 2009 Draft.

He had a career-high 32 points last season for the Wild and is on pace to improve on that this season.

“It’s nice to contribute offensively, but I know what my role is and I have to play the same way every night,” Brodziak said. “That’s what got me to this situation and I have to keep doing what I have been.

“A lot of it is confidence. It was tough in Edmonton. I wasn’t good there, I know I wasn’t. I wasn’t shocked I was traded. I know I didn’t play as well as I could have.”

With Koivu expected to be out for at least three weeks, the Wild are looking internally in an effort to fill the void collectively.

It’s expected Brodziak will continue to play in a more offensive role until Koivu’s return.

“It’s a huge loss for the team, he’s our leader amongst the group and is someone that logs significant minutes in every situation,” said Brodziak. “Right now it’s just a chance for whoever is asked to go and fill the void, to try and show what they can do for the team. Everybody needs to step up the game that much more right now.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/DerekVanDiest


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