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Wild winger Nic Deslauriers welcomes physicality that comes with playoffs

He played more than 500 games in the NHL before getting his first taste of the playoffs

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Minnesota Wild
Minnesota Wild left wing Nicolas Deslauriers (44) is bloodied after his fight against the Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Nick Seeler (24) in the first period March 20, 2022, at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports
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Nic Deslauriers played more than 500 games in the NHL before getting his first taste of the playoffs. He came up with the Buffalo Sabres, spent time with the Montreal Canadiens, emerged as a veteran leader with the Anaheim Ducks, and finally landed with the Wild a couple of months ago at the trade deadline.

How is he adjusting to the playoff intensity?

“It’s good,” Deslauriers said before the Wild played the St. Louis Blues in Game 5 on Tuesday night at Xcel Energy Center. “You see the same team until somebody wins. That’s a different mindset I’ve never had. I won’t lie, the first game I played, it was kind of nerve wracking a bit.”

Those nerves have slowly dissipated over the past week, and while Deslauriers still hasn’t seen more than 10 minutes of ice time in any game of the series so far, he’s brought a physical presence every time he’s hopped over the boards.

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“We know our success is putting the puck deep and working our forecheck,” said Deslauriers, who has been playing alongside Tyson Jost and opposite Brandon Duhaime. “We know when we put the puck deep we get it back, and that’s where we can create our offense. We’ve just got to keep going with that.”

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The biggest reason Deslauriers hasn’t seen a ton of ice time is because the Wild have been on the power play or penalty kill for large chunks of the series. That disrupts coach Dean Evason’s ability to role his lines, and more often than not, certain players get lost in the shuffle because of it.

“I think our line has been doing good with the time that we have,” Deslauriers said. “We’re not here to complain about that. Do we want to play more? Yes. At the same time, if we play less and we win, we don’t care. It’s a team thing.”

That mentality explains why general manager Bill Guerin acquired Deslauriers at the trade deadline in March. He wanted another veteran presence in the Wild locker room. He also wanted a little more sandpaper in the Wild lineup.

Not surprisingly, the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Deslauriers has brought both to the table.

It started with his Wild debut on March 21 against the Vegas Golden Knights. After scoring a goal earlier in that game, Deslauriers endeared himself to the Wild fan base in the final minutes by hilariously dragging Golden Knights center William Karlsson out of the crease during a scrum in front.

Asked about the sequence postgame, Deslauriers responded, “Nobody should be standing there.”

That answer is a perfect encapsulation of the swagger with which Deslauriers carries himself. His legend grew a week later when he dropped the gloves with former fan favorite Nick Seeler. It was heavyweight bout that featured more than a dozen haymakers from each player.

Though there haven’t been any fights this series between the Wild and the Blues, the physicality has been palpable each game.

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In that sense, it has helped to have someone like Deslauriers waiting in the wings. Not that he’s going out looking for trouble.

“You’ve just got to play between the whistles,” Deslauriers said. “Nothing after. The physicality is going to be there. We know how we have to play. We have to play the way we want to and put the puck deep and finish our hits.”

Asked if the playoffs are as fun as he imagined they’d be, Deslauriers smiled before responding, “Yeah, 100 percent.”

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