ST. PAUL (Fox 9) - Pontus Aberg was watching “The OC” in his hotel room Wednesday night when he got a phone call from his agent.
He was refreshed to hear the news: He was turning in his Anaheim Ducks jersey after being traded to the Minnesota Wild. As irony would have it, he doesn’t have to go very far immediately. The Ducks were already in St. Paul to face the Wild Thursday night.
He just has to remember to go to the right locker room. Thankfully, he had the Wild’s morning skate Thursday to figure out that path.
“Tonight I’m playing so that’s a start, and I want to keep showing that I deserve to be in the lineup every night,” Aberg said.
Aberg, 25, is expected to play against his old team on a line with Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle, two players he said will help immediately make him a better player. He comes to the Wild having scored 11 goals and recording 19 points in 37 games for the Ducks. It’s been a bit of a frustrating year for Aberg, who hasn’t played in a game since Jan. 6.
Anaheim is in the middle of a 12-game losing streak entering Thursday’s contest at Xcel Energy Center. He’s out to play with a chip on his shoulder and show what he can do when given playing time.
“You don’t ever want to be out of the lineup, that’s just how it went. I for sure want to show them they made a mistake but I’m happy to be here and I’m looking forward to the rest of the year,” Aberg said.
The Wild sent Lakeville native and former Gophers star Justin Kloos to Anaheim in exchange for Aberg. Kloos had spent most of this season with the Iowa Wild, where he’s scored 12 goals and recorded 30 points in 34 games.
It’s not the only move the Wild made before facing the Ducks. They traded forward Nino Niederreiter on Thursday to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for center Victor Rask. Niedereitter had nine goals and 14 assists in 46 games for the Wild, but didn’t score in the team’s first 14 games. He had scored in two of last three games.
The Wild are hoping adding Aberg gives them an added scoring option for a team struggling to put the puck in the net. Minnesota is 24th in the NHL with 130 goals scored in 46 games The Wild are averaging 2.8 goals per game.
He should also add scoring depth to the 10th ranked power play in the NHL at 22 percent.
“It’s a position what we were looking for, so hopefully he can provide some spark offensively,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said.
The Wild could use some fresh legs, and some scoring. They’ve managed just 13 goals in their last six games, and have played eight games in 14 nights.
He’ll be playing with Parise and Coyle to start, and they’ll do everything they can to bring him up to speed.
“Talk to him, try to get all three of us talking as much as we can and make him comfortable on the ice knowing where we are, trying to learn each other’s habits as quickly as we can,” Parise said.
Aberg isn’t completely unfamiliar with the Wild. He’s played on the Swedish national team with Jonas Brodin, and known Joel Eriksson-Ek since he was “a kid.”
For General Manager Paul Fenton, the changes are putting players on alert. The Wild are 6-4 their last 10 games, are currently in the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference and have lost three of their past five games.
“For me when you make change like this it shows players that nothing is forever and it gives them an alert that if they want to be here, they’re going to have to play the way that we want them to play and be successful,” Fenton said.
The schedule doesn’t ease up much for the Wild. The next three opponents after Anaheim, the Blue Jackets, Vegas Golden Knights and Avalanche, all currently sit in playoff spots.