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Heatley and Setoguchi: Two Wild & crazy guys

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Here at Yahoo! Sports, we know you can't get enough information about the teams and leagues you love. So at times like this, when we want to show just how much it means to a couple members of the Minnesota Wild to face the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night, we give you too much information.

Before the Sharks traded him to Minnesota on June 24, Devin Setoguchi(notes) lived with teammate Torrey Mitchell(notes) for four years in San Jose. They know each other intimately, right down to their underwear size – both large.

Mitchell said he could have sworn over the past couple years he had bought about 15 pairs of those Lululemon boxer briefs everyone wears these days, but when he came back to San Jose for the season, he had only three. He called Setoguchi.

"I was like, 'Dude,' " said Mitchell with a smile a couple of weeks ago. "I was like, 'You stole them. I don't have any – like, none.' He claims it's not [him], but I'm going to check the color when he gets to San Jose and see what color he's wearing, because I know what color I bought."

Apparently – hopefully – Mitchell was just taking a playful jab at his old buddy through the media ahead of their reunion. Setoguchi half-laughed, half-frowned and wondered about a Gucci watch he was missing.

But that isn't the only dirty laundry being aired as Setoguchi and Dany Heatley(notes) return to San Jose. Setoguchi was stunned when the Sharks traded him shortly after he signed a long-term deal with them. Heatley was stunned when they shipped him to Minnesota not long afterward. Even though they're doing fine in Minnesota – the Wild is fourth in the West, two spots ahead of the Sharks – they're still adjusting.

"I'm sure it really stings a bit," said Sharks winger Ryane Clowe(notes) of his close friend Heatley. "Just the fact that he loved San Jose so much. He loved the guys. He really wanted to do well here. … We still talk a lot. He enjoys Minnesota. It's just, it doesn't matter how much he likes Minnesota. He misses the guys. He loved it here. It's a transition. Same with Seto."

Setoguchi grew up a Shark. He was drafted eighth overall by San Jose in 2005, and he broke into the NHL in 2007-08. Mitchell said Setoguchi matured more and more each year – if not off the ice, then in the dressing room, learning how to move on from good games and bad games like team leaders Patrick Marleau(notes) and Joe Thornton(notes).

"I think he got a lot better with that," Mitchell said, "and now he has to be."

In San Jose, Setoguchi was one of the guys. In Minnesota, he's one of The Guys. He was expected to score before, but instead of a complementary piece, he's now supposed to be a primary weapon. The 24-year-old has four goals and eight points in 14 games.

"I think it’s a point in my career where I can step up and accept more responsibility as a player," Setoguchi said. "Obviously I've got to take on a higher role, a higher responsibility. But as a player, who doesn't want that? You want to be a more-minute guy. You want to be the guy who gets put on the ice in the last minute. You want to be the guy on the power play to score. It's been good so far. Just got to keep going."

Mitchell smiled.

"That's probably a positive thing, but a little bit more of an adjustment as far as pressure goes for him," Mitchell said. "It's fine now. He's gotten off to a good start. He loves it there. But we'll see in the spring, you know? … He's definitely one of the guys that's going to have to step up if they're going to make the playoffs and they're going to have success."

Heatley came to San Jose in 2009 after a rocky departure from the Ottawa Senators. A two-time 50-goal scorer, he became one of the Big Three with Marleau and Thornton. He scored 39 goals his first season in San Jose, then dipped to 26 last season, his lowest total for a full season since he was a rookie. More importantly, he scored only five goals in 32 playoff games with the Sharks.

Even though Heatley played through injuries – and was considered great in the room, despite his reputation in Ottawa – the consensus was that he couldn't skate well enough, especially when the pace picked up in the playoffs. At age 30 – not to mention at his size, 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds – the question was whether he had lost a step or whether he had stayed the same while the rest of the league had gotten faster. He decided to work on his skating. When he was traded on July 3, he had even more reason to do it.

"He was really disappointed last year, and he wanted to put in a good summer and prove people wrong, and I think he was a little bit shocked, like we all were," Clowe said. "I think he has something to prove this year. He heard a lot about that, you know, 'Dany Heatley, the game has kind of caught up to him.' "

Heatley shrugged it off. He said he has skated more in the off-season as he has gotten older, and he did some power skating a couple of times a week and studied himself on video.

"I wouldn't say I'm ticked," Heatley said. "I think throughout your career you're going to have ups and downs, people are going to say good things, and people are going to say bad things. I think the motivation for the summer was more for me, to get back to how I feel I can play."

One NHL scout said he felt Heatley was still a step behind where he used to be. But Heatley said, "I feel I've improved there a little bit," and Clowe said, "He looks quick again." Heatley has five goals and 10 points in 14 games, putting him on pace for about 29 goals and 58 points. That's still down from his former production, but he is playing with a weaker supporting cast and leads the team in scoring.

"Last year was kind of a tough year for him overall," Clowe said. "The first year, he was great. Obviously he had a great season, almost 40 goals again, and that's the level I still think Heater can get to. He can score 40 goals in this league. I'm sure of that."

You know he'd like to get a couple Thursday night.

FIRST PERIOD

When the St. Louis Blues hired Ken Hitchcock to be their head coach on Monday, Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock found some of the media coverage to be … well, the word he used was "interesting."

"Guys are talking about him that haven't been involved with him for 10 years," said Babcock, one of Hitchcock's close friends, who spoke to him as often as five times a week while he wasn't working. "Now, I'd like to think that someone that didn't know you for 10 years and then met you today, you might have evolved a little bit. Wouldn't you have?"

Hitchcock is best known for winning the Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999 and nearly repeating in 2000. But listen to Hitchcock in his press conference and listen to Babcock, and Hitch isn't just the same old defensive disciplinarian. And isn't it, well, interesting how some of the players with whom he once clashed, like Brett Hull, speak so fondly of him now?

"He's about what's going on, what's current, what's better, what's not, how to treat people right," said Babcock, who had Hitchcock on his staff when Team Canada won gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. "Hitch is a guy who loves his players. … All the players that played for [Scotty Bowman] said he never talked to them, [but] he loved them. He talked to them lots when he was done coaching, I can tell you that. So sometimes when you're pushing, their perception and reality sometimes is different."

SECOND PERIOD

But how much of their perception was reality? How much has Hitchcock really evolved?

One Hitchcock story: It was March 26, 2009. The Columbus Blue Jackets were cruising through the third period with a 5-0 lead over the Calgary Flames. Somebody made a mistake with the puck.

"And Hitch was just going bananas behind the bench, just so rattled," said Wings defenseman Mike Commodore(notes), an ex-Jacket. "And I yelled at him. I just told him, 'Calm down! It's 5-0! This game is over!' A little bit more colorful than that. I wasn't pissed at him, but it was just like, 'Relax. We're good. We played well this game.' "

Commodore said Hitchcock didn't say anything about it afterward. He said Hitch didn't take things personally and was working on loosening up. The Jackets won that game, 5-0, and went on to the first playoff appearance in franchise history – still the only playoff appearance in franchise history. But 59 games into the following season, Hitchcock was fired.

"Sometimes he gets a little … and I love Hitch, but I mean, sometimes he gets a little wound-up when he doesn't need to be," said Commodore with a laugh. "If he can just tone that down a little bit, he'd be fine. He is fine. He's won 500-and-some games. I mean, he's a great coach. That was just one thing. If he would just take a deep breath once in a while and just calm down, I think he would be even better."

Can he, though? Can a man who turns 60 next month, who has won 534 NHL games his way, really just chill out?

"I think Hitch can chill out," Commodore said. "Yeah, I do."

Commodore was smiling as he said that.

"I'm smiling because it's tough," Commodore continued. "It's tough changing. That's how he is, you know what I mean? … But yeah, as things change, you have to make adjustments, just like a player. I mean, you have to make adjustments as you get older. Not only the game changes, but you change."

THIRD PERIOD

Bowman said Hitchcock is a good coach who has inherited a good team. He said Hitch has always been an excellent tactician who uses his bench well, someone who is demanding, follows up on every detail and gets the best out of his best players. He said Hitchcock would get the Blues organized and hold them accountable at one end of the rink – but it might not be the end of the rink you assume.

"They're not going to be one-way players," said Bowman, the coaching legend who has become a friend and mentor of Hitchcock's. "I think they need to be pushed a little bit probably on the offensive [end]. Right now they're not scoring as much as I thought they would, but he's not a guy that just tries to play defense."

Can Hitchcock push the Blues into the playoffs? It's going to be a challenge in the Western Conference, especially in the Central Division.

"It's kind of topsy-turvy," said Bowman, a senior advisor to the Chicago Blackhawks. "The West is … I see some teams play, they look terrific. And the next thing you know, you look at their record and it's not much above .500.

"That division, it's amazing. You've got Mike Babcock. You've got Joel Quenneville, Barry Trotz. Now you've got Ken Hitchcock. I mean, these are guys who have been coaching, all of them, over 10 years. The most experienced coaches seem to be in the one division. You're not going to fool many of those guys."

POWER RANKINGS

TOP 6

1. Dallas Stars: Even though Sidney Crosby(notes) isn't coming back from his concussion Friday night, the Stars-Penguins tilt is a marquee matchup. The Stars traded James Neal(notes) to the Pens last season and lost Brad Richards(notes) in free agency, and look at them now. What a moment for GM Joe Nieuwendyk, who goes into the Hall of Fame as a player on Monday.

2. Edmonton Oilers: Suddenly the Oilers are deep. They keep winning even though not all their young studs are starring. Magnus Paajarvi(notes), 20, the 10th overall pick in 2009, has one point in 13 games this season and was scratched Tuesday night in Montreal.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins: At least I had been circling the date in pencil. Now I'll erase "Nov. 11 against Dallas" as Crosby's potential return. How about Tuesday night against the Colorado Avalanche? Home game. Day off afterwards. No back-to-back games until Nov. 25-26, in fact.

4. Washington Capitals: Quit clowning around, guys.

5. New York Rangers: Marian Gaborik(notes) is hot (four goals and seven points in four games), and so are the Rangers (five straight victories). Defenseman Dan Girardi(notes) has stood out while Marc Staal(notes) has been sitting out with a concussion. He leads the league in average ice time at 27:59.

6. Minnesota Wild: The Wild has allowed one goal or less in five straight games – all victories. Backup Josh Harding(notes) looked great in net, then Niklas Backstrom(notes) came back and shut out the Flames. Nice dilemma to have.

BOTTOM 6

25. Carolina Hurricanes: Captain Eric Staal(notes) is last in the NHL at minus-16. The next-lowest guy is Colorado defenseman Jan Hejda(notes) at minus-12.

26. Winnipeg Jets: Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien(notes) had a goal and an assist Tuesday night against the Buffalo Sabres. Will that take some of the pressure off, allowing him to concentrate on his positioning and decision-making? Or will that encourage him to take more chances and lead to more mistakes?

27. Montreal Canadiens: Erik Cole(notes) is finally giving the Habs what they expected when they signed him as a free agent – size, speed and scoring touch on the wing. Still, the Habs have lost back-to-back games after their four-game winning streak. Better pick it up, assistant coaches.

28. Anaheim Ducks: Corey Perry(notes) led the NHL with 50 goals last season – 18 more than he ever had before – and won the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player. Now? He has five goals in 15 games, putting him on pace for about 27, the same amount he scored in 2009-10.

29. New York Islanders: Love it when a coach says he won't name names and then all but spells them out for you, like when Jack Capuano pointed to "those guys who were minus-2 and minus-3" after Monday night's 6-2 loss to the Boston Bruins. Go down the box score, and you'll find the names Mark Eaton(notes), Milan Jurcina(notes), Frans Nielsen(notes), P.A. Parenteau(notes) and Brian Rolston(notes).

30. Columbus Blue Jackets: Jeff Carter(notes) has missed nine games (and counting) with a foot injury. What if this keeps lingering? Do general manager Scott Howson and coach Scott Arniel keep lingering, too, because they haven't had all their off-season acquisitions in the lineup?

PLUS/MINUS

PLUS: Are the Bruins back? Although they're technically still 27th in the league standings, they're not in my Bottom 6 this week because they're the Cup champs and have won three games in a row by a combined score of 18-5. The hangover isn't necessarily gone, but at least the B's are having a moment of clarity.

MINUS: Want to understand the agony of concussions? Follow the Bruins' Marc Savard on Twitter. "Can't sleep Again …" "Headaches galore man oh man this weather change is killing me …" "Night everyone I hope I can sleep …" "Headaches are normal part of life know but memory still the scariest thing …"

PLUS: Got to admit it. On some level, I loved the Philadelphia Flyers' stall tactics on Wednesday night, especially when captain Chris Pronger(notes) kept ragging the puck in his own zone, refusing to attack the Tampa Bay Lightning's 1-3-1 if the Bolts refused to attack him. It put the Bolts' boring system on full display, and Pronger played the villain as he does so well. Want the puck? Come get it, cowards.

MINUS: But in the end, the Flyers looked like the cowards. The Bolts can sit back if they want. It's up to the Flyers to figure out how to beat the system, and the Bolts aren't exactly impenetrable – 23rd in goals against. Don't like the trap? Beat it, score and force your opponent to come out of it to play catch-up. The Flyers took a 1-0 lead but lost in overtime, 2-1.

PLUS: One stat sticks out to Scotty Bowman: Ten goaltenders have save percentages of .930 or better. Eight more range from .925 to .929. "It's hard to believe," Bowman said. "It used to be if you were over 90 [percent], you're doing your job. You get a guy at 93 percent, and he's ninth in the league. I think a big factor now is the goalies. There's so many of them. I think they can win games by themselves just about."

MINUS: It's natural to compare Taylor Hall(notes) with Tyler Seguin(notes) as their teams play Thursday night, but it's silly if you forget the context. Yes, Hall, the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft, has 25 goals and 51 points in 78 games for the Oilers, while Seguin, the No. 2 pick last year, has only 19 goals and 37 points in 87 games for the Bruins. Yes, Seguin has a ring; Hall does not. But they're night-and-day different – from their styles to their ice time to their teams' situations.

PLUS: The Red Wings' offense has fluctuated. After scoring six goals during a six-game losing streak, the Wings have potted 10 in back-to-back victories. But one constant has been goaltender Jimmy Howard(notes), who has a 1.79 goals-against average and .928 save percentage. He's more patient and reading plays better in his third season as a starter. "I find myself being aggressive at the right times, instead of rushing out on every single shooter," he said.

MINUS: Sure, Mark Letestu(notes) will get more opportunity in Columbus than he did in Pittsburgh after being traded for a fourth-round pick. But going from the Penguins to the Jackets – from one of the top teams in the NHL to the worst – is about as big a minus as there is.

@COTSONIKA TWEET

“ What's it like in the Jackets' dressing room right now? I can't imagine. And I covered the 0-16 Detroit Lions.”

I will never forget walking into the Lions' locker room at Lambeau Field on the last day of the 2008 season as a beat writer for the Detroit Free Press. But as brutal and embarrassing as it was for the Lions to become the first NFL team to go 0-16, at least it was over. The worst part might have been earlier in the season when everyone realized the Lions' promising preseason was a mirage. General manager Matt Millen was fired after an 0-3 start, but that wasn't going to solve much in the short term. The situation was beyond bleak. So many games remained.

The Jackets won't go 0-82. But when I tweeted that Saturday night, they were trailing the Flyers after two periods, 8-0. They looked hopeless, and they had to feel like it. Their 9-2 loss and 2-11-1 record somehow didn't spur major changes this week. But even if Howson and Arniel are canned soon, it's clear this team has deep problems that won't be fixed easily, and there are 68 games to go.

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