Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 12/16/11
Niklas Backstrom has been here before, but it has been a few years since his name was tossed around when the Vezina Trophy was being discussed. It was the 2008-09 season, and Backstrom was coming off back-to-back 30-plus win seasons. He put up tremendous numbers on a team that missed the playoffs and eventually finished second to Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins.The next two years were tough on Backstrom as he went just 48-46-13 combined with a 2.70 GAA and a .907 save percentage. This season, however, it appears the native of Finland is back in top form, and he figures to be in Vezina conversation once again.As the season approaches the halfway point, Backstrom is 11-6-3 with a 2.12 GAA and a .930 save percentage. Both the GAA and save percentage are ranked in the NHLs top 10, and, more important, the Wild have the best record in the league.Minnesota has seen both Josh Harding and Matt Hackett turn in brilliant performances this season in relief of Backstrom, and there does seem to be an embarrassment of riches between the pipes for the Wild. However it seems the Unflappable Fin, with his calming personality, is still the man they will lean on when push comes to shove. He is the subject of this edition of 5 Questions.1.KG: How much fun are you having this season compared to the last couple? BACKSTROM: First off, we are playing professional hockey and we all need to be thankful for that. But the game is about trying to win, and this season has been great so far because we are doing so well as a team. It's been a lot more fun to come to the rink, and it's been a lot more fun outside of the rink when you run into the fans. Everyone is very excited about our team right now.2.KG: How important is the next stretch of games knowing you are missing so many key players right now, like Mikko Koivu, Guillaume Latendresse, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Devin Setoguchi? BACKSTROM: It's tough to see your teammates go down with injuries, especially when it is guys that make such a difference for us. It's part of the game, and we all need to pick it up right now while they are out. This will be a major challenge for us, but we will be stronger down the road for having gone through it. Our team right now has some talented, young players, and it seems like every time a new guy comes up from Houston they are ready to go and continue to help us win.3.KG: Big road trip coming up next week. What rink is your favorite to play in? BACKSTROM: (Laughing) I like to play here in Minnesota. We have such amazing fans. It doesn't matter where you go, it is always exciting. Earlier this week, we traveled to Winnipeg, and that was an awesome experience. The building was really loud, and the fans there really were into the game. It felt like a playoff game. It will be really cool when we are the same division with those guys and we are playing them six times a year.4.KG: What has it been like playing for Mike Yeo? BACKSTROM: He is very demanding, but in a good way. The way he works every day and pushes our team makes us better. He is a really good coach; he is tough on you, but he knows how to get the most out of everyone in this room. He is fair, and I think everyone in this locker room respects him and wants to make him happy. Mike Yeo has made a huge difference for our hockey team, and we are lucky to have him as our head coach.5.KG: What is your Christmas wish? BACKSTROM: It's more about family. I have many family members traveling over from Finland, so that will make this year extra special. I haven't seen them in a long time, so I can't wait to see them. It will be nice to be at home for a couple of days and just relax. I love playing hockey, but I guess my Christmas wish is to be able to forget about hockey for a couple of days and just be with my family while enjoying some really good food.
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