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|Wild goalie Bryzgalov cherishing his starting opportunity
5 апреля 2014 года. Graff, Chad. Saint Paul Pioneer Press
A month ago, the Wild traded for goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.
They gave up a fourth-round pick, a small price tag for a veteran player. But Bryzgalov is in the final year of his contract and wasn't expected to be more than a rental, getting just a few starts down the stretch.
Instead, because of an injury to Darcy Kuemper, Bryzgalov has full rein of the Wild's starting job as the team heads to Winnipeg on Monday.
The Wild have earned at least one point in all eight games Bryzgalov has started. He'll start again Monday after posting a 4-0 shutout Saturday against Pittsburgh.
Bryzgalov, 33, is cherishing each start. He saw how hard it can be to get a job while he was an unsigned free agent at the start of the season. He saw how difficult it can be to win during his time in Edmonton.
He also is cherishing this stretch run because it could be his last. At the end of the season, he will become an unrestricted free agent. After posting a 7-0-5 record with a 1.83 goals-against average and .931 save percentage in his past 12 starts, there should be interest in the Russian goalie.
But he is not sure he wants to continuing playing.
"I've been before through (free agency)," Bryzgalov said. "And it doesn't mean anything for me because I'm not sure if I want to play next year. Maybe yes, maybe no. Who knows?"
It's a feeling that is new, Bryzgalov said.
"I'm just interested in playing hard for Minnesota for every game right now," he said. "I've enjoyed my time here and that's all I worry about, just the next game and then having the opportunity to play again. You just have to play one game at a time."
Bryzgalov has been a good fit with the Wild.
Players rave about his sense of humor, and he's a big reason why the Wild have captured seven points in their past four games.
"In many ways, I've seen him actually take on a bit of a leadership role," coach Mike Yeo said. "He's fitting in with the core guys and he's involved with the group and I think his play is very much a function of that."
If the Wild make the playoffs, Bryzgalov likely will play a big role.
After that, his future is unknown.
"You know, you start to appreciate hockey more," Bryzgalov said. "But I always love to play hockey, I always enjoy it."