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It's hockey time: Backstrom shines in Wild's preseason opener

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The Minnesota Wild are back on the ice, opening their preseason in Winnipeg against the Jets Monday night. They lost 2-1 in a game that featured a stellar performance by 36-year-old goalie Niklas Backstrom, according to

Backstrom, who was making his first appearance since January, made 12 saves in 31:19 before he left the game. The Jets scored their two goals after Backstrom was replaced by Ilya Bryzgalov, who is with the Wild on a professional tryout.

Backstrom is hoping to lay claim early to the starting goalie spot, after a bad season last year and two operations.

"Great performance for him," coach Mike Yeo said, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "It's been a long time since he's played a hockey game. That was a great start."

Tyler Graovac scored the Wild’s only goal with 13.6 seconds remaining in the game.

The rest of the Wild lineup was a lot younger than Backstrom. Minnesota started quite a few inexperienced players who are hoping to land spots in the NHL or with the AHL Iowa Wild, according to the Pioneer Press.

Stu Bickel, who is battling for a final roster spot as the seventh defenseman, tried to catch Yeo's attention with a couple of fights, notes

"He's making a statement and showing us he wants to be here," Yeo said of Bickel.

The Wild plays at Pittsburgh on Thursday, with more veterans expected in the lineup. They'll host their first preseason game at the Xcel Energy Center on Saturday, in a rematch versus the Jets.

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