Brodziak returns to ice after spending Olympic break with family
St. Paul born Kyle Brodziak returned to the ice with the Minnesota Wild following the Olympic break with back-to-back victories over the Edmonton Oilers, 3-0, and Vancouver Canucks, 2-1, on Thursday and Friday, but like many Canadians, he spent the majority of his three weeks off watching hockey with family.
“I watched a lot of the hockey games. I went down to San Diego, my sister lives there right now, so our family went down and hung out there. It was nice to get a chance to do that,” Brodziak told the Journal at Thursday’s morning skate in Edmonton. “This year we weren’t able to get together for Christmas, so we kind of celebrated it in the middle of February. It was fun.”
While Brodziak has four Olympic teammates on the Wild, as Mikael Granlund picked up a bronze medal with Finland, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter hit the ice with Team USA, and Nino Niederreiter suited up with Swizterland, he said he wasn’t cheering for any of them to take gold.
“Obviously when you’re watching your teammates play you’re hoping they have success, but at the same time I’m Canadian,” he said, adding he was proud of the efforts of his Olympic teammates. “You want your teammates to have some success, and for everyone to play as well as they can.”
In his return to the ice in front of friends and family in Edmonton on Thursday, Brodziak made an immediate impact for his team. Fifty-four seconds into the first period, Edmonton Oilers forward Matt Hendricks ran Wild defenceman Nate Prosser into the end boards from behind, and Brodziak showed no hesitation in dropping the gloves to stand up for his American teammate.
No penalty was called on the hit, while Brodziak and Hendricks each received two minute roughing penalties after the St. Paul born Minnesota centreman threw Hendricks hard to the ice.
“I just thought the hit was maybe not that clean, and I just wanted to stand up for my teammate,” said Brodziak, adding while Prosser was shaken up and left the ice, he later returned to the game. “He’s good. He just got his bell rung a little bit but he’s alright. It was good to see him come back, because you never know when you see a dangerous hit like that, you just hope he’s okay, and I’m glad he was.”
Brodziak, who has four goals and 14 assists with the Wild this season, said he has been embracing his defensively oriented role on the team, as he currently leads Minnesota forwards in shorthanded ice time, and is often the go-to guy for defensive zone face offs.
“It’s something you’ve got to take pride in for sure,” he said. “It’s nice to get an opportunity to play in a role like that, and I just want to make the best of it. It’s an area where you’ve got to earn your ice time, so hopefully I can continue to do that.”
Fellow northern Albertan and former Bonnyville Pontiac Justin Fontaine joined the Minnesota Wild as a rookie this season, and spoke to Brodziak’s character following Thursday’s win over the Oilers.
“(Brodziak) is a guy that kind of shows you the ropes and he is there to support you if things go bad and to help teach you,” said Fontaine. “He is a great teammate to have and a good character guy.”
Brodziak added he has enjoyed suiting up with a fellow Lakeland player in Fontaine, as the two have spent a good deal of time on the same forward line this season.
“He does a lot of the little things right in the game and it makes him a really complete player. You can play him anywhere throughout the lineup and he’s going to make our team better,” Brodziak said of Fontaine. “Great guy, too. Just getting the chance to know him, he’s very fun to be around and a very funny guy.”
Now that the NHL is back in full swing, Brodziak said he and the Wild are refreshed and looking forward to making a strong playoff push as they enter the final quarter of the regular season, currently sitting seventh in the Western Conference with 73 points.
“It was a good chance to recharge the batteries. My body definitely feels a lot more fresh than it did. When you have a break like that in the middle of the season, I think everyone’s excited to get back at it,” he said. “It’s important for us now to continue to do the things that made us successful before the break. It’s always a challenge to get the mental part of the game back to where it was before, and I think we need to recognize that the earlier we do that the more success we’re going to have early on, and we can continue to build off that.”