The summer meet and greet with the hockey state was one thing for newly minted Minnesota Wild Coach Bruce Boudreau.
He even went to the state fair for a day of promotional activities, and his family settled in nicely in Minnesota, purchasing a house in suburban Woodbury.
But his true introduction took place Saturday night during the Wild’s home opener when they gave up two late first-period goals to the Winnipeg Jets. The crowd reaction was swift: Boos as the players left the ice.
“I’m going, ‘Uh-oh,’” Boudreau said in a telephone interview Monday. “This is hockey country. We better be good all the time. They know their stuff.”
The Wild rallied to beat the Jets, 4-3, securing win No. 1 in the Boudreau era in Minnesota. His team is 1-1 and faces the Kings on Tuesday night in St. Paul.
Boudreau, hired by the Ducks during the 2011-12 season shortly before the Kings brought in Darryl Sutter as coach, was fired after last season. He was the target of much interest from teams conducting coaching searches and was hired by Minnesota in May.
“Like every team, you’d like to keep improving your team,” Boudreau said. “They do have a really good core. I think we’re really lucky. We added Eric Staal and I don’t know if he’s going to put up the numbers that he ever did before but he’s been very good for us both with and without the puck. I think [he’s] the piece of the puzzle that they were missing a little bit.
Boudreau also praised forward Chris Stewart: “When we won the other night he had the Gordie Howe hat trick [goal, assist and a fight]. Those things help. These guys can really skate and they really work hard. I really thought of the speed when I came here, which has been as advertised.”
The Kings (0-2) will be getting some much-needed help on the left side with winger Tanner Pearson set to return Tuesday. Pearson was suspended for the final two games of the preseason and the first two of the regular season for an illegal hit to the head of Edmonton Oilers defenseman Brandon Davidson.
Pearson admitted this was “not the ideal way” to start the season. “I haven’t played a game in two weeks,” he said. “When the hitting comes back into place and the battling, it amps it up a bit. . . . Obviously you want to be out there. It is what it was. I’m happy that it’s over.”
“We haven’t gotten much out of our left side in all of training camp, so that’ll help, for sure,” Sutter said. “…You can count on and trust [Pearson]. The fact of the matter is he scored 15 goals last year. We’ve got a lot of guys that didn’t get many goals.
“That’s a guy that can contribute on the shooting and scoring part. He’s a guy that can play easily with Kopi [Anze Kopitar] or Jeff [Carter]. . . . I haven’t liked the way we’ve had to mix. Every game we’ve mixed the lines just because you’re looking for some [familiarity]. You shouldn’t have to do that. “
KINGS AT MINNESOTA
When: Tuesday, 5 p.m. (PDT)
On the air: Fox Sports West; Radio: 790.
Update: On Monday, the Wild sent defenseman Mike Reilly to Iowa of the American Hockey League.
Correspondent Curtis Zupke contributed to this report.