LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 31: Ilya Bryzgalov #30 of the Minnesota Wild reacts to play during a break in the game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on March 31, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The Minnesota Wild won 3-2.

Agent: Bryzgalov ‘loved’ Minnesota, really wants to return

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Even though he knows Minnesota’s goal crease is crowded, Ilya Bryzgalov still wants back with the Wild.

Per the Star-Tribune

“Ilya would very much like to return to the Wild and further the success the team had down the stretch last year,” agent Ritch Winter said. “It was one of the most satisfying experiences he has had in his career.

“Ilya loved his teammates in Minnesota, loved the city and loved and appreciated the support he received from the coaching staff and Wild fans. He would love to be a part of helping this team to enjoy the success they had together last year.

“He has instructed me to do all I can to facilitate a return to the Twin Cities even if it requires him to compromise somewhat to accommodate the budget issues facing the team if that becomes a possibility.”

Bryzgalov, 34, is currently an unrestricted free agent and the Wild aren’t exactly in the market for a goalie, with Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom already under contract and a new deal being hammered out for RFA Darcy Kuemper.

That said, this latest development could give Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher some added leverage at the negotiating table. There appears to be a significant rift between what the Wild think Kuemper’s worth and what Kuemper’s camp is angling for, something Fletcher alluded to in early August.

“Darcy certainly has great potential and played very well in stretches for us this season, but at the end of the day I think he’s played around 30 games in the NHL,” he told the Star-Tribune. “Usually this isn’t the time to fight for the big contract. We feel Darcy right now is trying to establish himself in the league and once he does that it’ll be a little simpler to come up with terms.”

Fletcher has also stated publicly that “everything’s a go” with Harding and Backstrom health-wise. Harding’s shown improvement from his setback with multiple sclerosis, while Backstrom is apparently recovered from season-ending core muscle surgery he underwent in March.

All of this could put the squeeze on Kuemper… or, it could possibly open the door for Bryzgalov to return on, say, a two-way deal and be the first call-up should either Harding or Backstrom struggle with their health again.

Bryzgalov actually played OK for the Wild last season, going 7-1-3 with a 2.12 GAA and .911 save percentage in the regular season. After getting yanked as the team’s playoff starter early in the Colorado series, he rebounded to play reasonably well near the end of Wild’s second-round loss to Chicago, posting a .927 save percentage over the final two games.

Video: Crawford, Bryzgalov trade big saves

Chicago Blackhawks v Minnesota Wild - Game Six
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Minnesota Wild fans might have been serenading Corey Crawford with a goalie chant during Game 6 on Tuesday, but it’s hard to imagine that he was rattled at that point. Both Crawford and Ilya Bryzgalov kept their teams in tonight’s game (at least as of this writing) with some big saves.

Sometimes those big saves came in the same sequence. Watch as Bryzgalov turns aside a breakaway chance for Patrick Sharp and then Crawford does the same against Justin Fontaine:

Video: Bryzgalov’s spectacular pad save denies Sharp on the breakaway

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Earlier in the evening, we brought you video of Patrick Sharp beating Ilya Bryzgalov five-hole with a wrist shot – certainly not a good goal for the Minnesota Wild goalie to give up.

Well, we now bring you this Bryzgalov save on a Sharp breakaway in the second period, as the Wild’s puck stopper threw out the right pad to deny the Blackhawks’ forward, maintaining Minnesota’s 3-2 lead at the time.

Video: Blackhawks’ Sharp beats Bryzgalov with weak, late first-period goal

Wild Jets Hockey
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The Minnesota Wild appeared in good shape late in the first period, up by a goal on the Chicago Blackhawks.

That was until Patrick Sharp beat Ilya Bryzgalov through the legs with a wrist shot from near the bottom of the faceoff circle, tying Game 4 at a goal apiece with only 39 seconds remaining in the first period. It was only one of four Chicago shots on goal in the opening 20 minutes.

The Wild trail 2-1 in the series. Bryzgalov earned the shutout in Game 3. It was his first since 2006.

Now, in the interest of fairness, here is a video of the Wild’s second goal, courtesy of Jason Pominville, who, from behind the net, fired the puck off the skates of Corey Crawford and in. Minnesota took a 2-1 lead as a result.

After shutout, Wild’s Bryzgalov remains key X-factor

Chicago Blackhawks v Minnesota Wild - Game Three
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Ilya Bryzgalov isn’t the man the Minnesota Wild had planned on using as their starting goaltender in the playoffs. They’ve gone with him in the second round against Chicago because netminders Darcy Kuemper, Niklas Backstrom, and Josh Harding have all been hurt.

He’s had some rough outings in the playoffs too, but Wild coach Mike Yeo has stood by him.

“After Game 2 (three goals on 21 shots), there were a lot of questions, (but) we believed in Bryz,” Yeo said, per the Calgary Sun. “We knew what he was capable of, but the questions start to grow in numbers and the attention towards that continues to grow.”

He rewarded Minnesota with a 19-save shutout on Tuesday. It’s something for him to build off of and the Wild to rally around.

“He didn’t get tested a lot last game, but when he did, he made some really big saves,” Wild forward Zach Parise said. “I know he made a big one on (Jonathan) Toews in the third period that could have changed the game around. You need those saves right now.”

Minnesota just has to hope that Bryzgalov’s got another solid performance ahead of him because unless something changes, he’s all they’ve got.