By David McCoy

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – The Minnesota Wild play host to the Buffalo Sabres Thursday night.

That means Jason Pominville and Marco Scandella are back in town. But it’s perhaps most significant for the man now behind the Sabres bench.

As WCCO’s David McCoy tells us, it’ll be Phil Housley’s first game in his home state as a head coach.

Even one of the most accomplished players to ever come out of Minnesota can admit to some butterflies. Even when you’re Phil Housley. It’s not every day you come back to your home state for the first time as an NHL head coach.

“Obviously it’s where I was born and raised, I have a lot of family and friends here, and to be a first-time head coach and to coach against the Wild, it’s special,” Housley said.

As hockey resumes go, there aren’t many that can match Housley’s in Minnesota. He played more than 20 years in the NHL, is the second-leading American born scorer of all time and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015.

“He’s great. You can tell he’s played the game for so long and when he says something, he sees the game from a different perspective,” Jason Pominville said. “So when he says something you’re like ‘Oh, that makes sense.'”

“I’m really proud that I was born and raised across the river here. Growing up like a lot of young kids, starting your skating outdoors, eventually moving into traveling teams and getting to share something special with your community, I’m very proud to be from South St. Paul. There’s a lot of hockey tradition there,” Housley said.

Housley is leading a struggling team into Minnesota. Buffalo is in last place in the Eastern Confernce. But now halfway through his first season, Housley feels like they’re starting to turn a corner.

“I think we’ve learned a lot. What it takes to compete, to prepare and also to win in this league,” Housley said.

Something he was already quite familiar with as a player.

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