MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Wild take on Tampa Tuesday night in a dash to the Olympic break. Keith Ballard came home in the off season to try and help solidify a group of defensemen that is a blend of veterans and youth.
He was up and down early but as he may be getting closer to an every game spot in the line-up.
He came back home to Minnesota to be a veteran part of the Wild. And through his journey, he’s provided a veteran feistiness to the team, a presence and understanding of the game.
“It’s been fun. I’ve enjoyed it,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed where I fit with this group. We’ve had some good success so far. It’s been a grind.”
That’s his job — to be consistent and to help younger blue liners understand the NHL.
“It’s calming,” said Jared Spurgeon, Wild defenseman. “You can always bounce questions off them and even during the game, we’re always talking. So you’re able to get feedback.”
The life of the NHL is never easy, even Tuesday night as they prepare to take on Tampa — in another key game. There is a chance that Ballard might not be one of the defensemen in the line-up. But his play of late has helped establish he can be an important part of this team.
“We see different guys do it at different times and for the last couple weeks, you could easily say it’s been some of the best hockey he’s played for us,” said head coach Mike Yeo.
He’s helping the young players, and the young players are re-igniting his passion.
“It’s a good fit,” Ballard said. “We’ve got a relatively young team and I’m not overly old but it’s good being around young guys. You feel young, try to stay on the same page as them and have that same excitement and I think I feed off that.”