Jason Pominville is back in First Niagara Center wearing his familiar No. 29 but it's going to be weird seeing him with that funky Minnesota Wild logo on his chest. The former Buffalo captain was the mayor today, shaking hands all around the building in his return and then holding his own press conference (right) in the Sabres' media room after his team's pregame skate.
"It was weird coming in through the same door you usually go in, and having to go left instead of go right to go to the locker room was a little different," Pominville said. "It's good to be back, a lot of great memories, a lot of good times. Just excited to get the game going.
"I don't hold anything against the organization or anything like that. I'm just happy to be where I'm at now and looking forward to get this game played."
Wild coach Mike Yeo said it's a good bet Pominville is in the starting lineup tonight. Pominville didn't know that but there's no question he's anxious to get this reunion game going. He said it's one of the first ones he circled on his calendar. The reception should be a good one, unlike what greeted former Sabres like Daniel Briere or Brian Campbell and what Wild defenseman Ryan Suter got last week in Nashville. He was roundly booed for bolting to Minnesota on an infamous $98 million deal.
"I don't know how that will be. Hopefully it will be better than what Suter got in Nashville," Pominville said. "I've seen both sides of it. Hopefully I'll be on the good side. I didn't do anything wrong really. I think it should be good. Happy to be back and have a chance to really see the guys."
Pominville had coffee last night with Ryan Miller but there was no chance for a dinner with any of his former teammates. He said he has sympathy for what they're enduring during an 0-5-1 start.
Said Pominville about his old team: "It's definitely tough to see them go through what they're going through. But at the same time a lot of it was expected. ... It's going to be a learning processs for a lot of them. The guys that have been here for a while and the guys I got to know pretty well, it's gotta be tough for them. I feel bad for them for sure. "
Pominville also had a good laugh when I jokingly asked him what it's like to be Thomas Vanek's press agent. Vanek, the former University of Minnesota star and clear Wild free agent target next summer, was swarmed by Buffalo reporters today and was the subject of this story by veteran Minneapolis Star-Tribune writer Michael Russo in today's editions there.
"It's weird. I get asked about Thomas about once a day when I get recognized around town," Pominvile said. "I knew Gopher hockey was kind of big there but I didn't realize how big it was until I got there. It's a big, big deal over there. The fans support college hockey, they support the Wild and it's a great sports city."
Russo has some thoughts on Vanek and Pominville in his blog today, which is definitely worth a look. Wrote Russo on Vanek, "if I had to say right this moment, I think Vanek is playing his future team tonight." Uh-huh.
Click below to hear Pominville's session with the media this afternoon.