Minnesota Wild: Round two X-factor (video)

After a heart pounding game 7 that saw the Minnesota Wild squeak out a 5-4 overtime victory against the Colorado Avalanche, the team can now look ahead to its second round opponent. Minnesota now faces the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that dispatched them in 5 games in last year’s first round.

With a nearly completely overhauled roster in comparison to last season, Minnesota hopes to knock off the defending champs and move on to the conference finals for the first time since 2003. One of those new players and the hero of game 7 is Nino Niederreiter, who will need to continue to be a depth scoring threat for the Wild.

New York Islanders

Niederreiter struggled to find a place in the Islanders lineup, but he has thrived as a versatile winger for the Wild.

To put it simply, Niederreiter rose to the occasion in game 6 and 7 against the Avalanche. He used his size to dominate on the forecheck and threw his weight around at every chance. Playing on the surprise hero line with Dany Heatley and Kyle Brodziak, Niederreiter bagged two goals and an assist in game 7. Frankly, he was overdue and it was only a matter of time before he got on the board after how well he played in game 6. He was constantly around the net and was a thorn in the side of Patrick Roy’s game plan.

[Solving the Kyle Brodziak problem]

Niederreiter’s play has seemed inconsistent to fans all season. His position in the lineup has fluctuated wildly as he has played on all four lines this year. In reality, that’s the strength in Niederreiter’s game. He has the capability of playing a scoring power forward role or a third or fourth line checking role. So far, he has been invaluable to the Wild in the playoffs.

Consider this. If the Minnesota Wild didn’t acquire Niederreiter in the offseason, it would still have Cal Clutterbuck. The helter-skelter checking forward had a decent tenure for the Wild, but he doesn’t have nearly the offensive upside that Niederreiter has.

Give Chuck Fletcher credit for finding a disgruntled player in the wrong system and giving up relatively little to get him. Poor Garth Snow. The Islanders GM will be hearing this “tink” for weeks wondering what could have been.

Niederreiter only had four points in the opening series, but that number is not reflective of how well he played. The Swiss winger should get more of an opportunity in certain situation against the Blackhawks given his hot play as of late.

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