Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 12/17/13
Colorado-avalanche
Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz was right. There is no place like home. Just ask Keith Ballard, the former Vancouver Canuck defenceman who is now back home playing for the Minnesota Wild. It was only a matter of hours after the Canucks bought out the final two years of his $4.2-million-a-season contract this past summer that Ballard inked a two-year deal worth $1.5 million a season with the Wild. “It was quick,” Ballard said Monday after the Wild practised at the Xcel Energy Center. “I talked to a couple other teams and it wasn’t one of those things where I had my mind set on coming here, but it worked out and it was appealing to me for a number of different reasons. It’s nice for my family, but also just the comfort level.” Ballard never found that comfort level in his three seasons with the Canucks. He had a big contract to live up to and never seemed to really gain the trust of former Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. When he played, he played with the fear of making a mistake, knowing that he was one giveaway from being stapled to the bench or made a healthy scratch. Being in familiar surroundings and playing for a new coach in Mike Yeo who can live with the odd miscue has Ballard feeling like he’s in a better position to succeed. “I live here, I know the city, I knew a lot of these guys from the lockout because I skated with almost all of them so there was a bit of a comfort level there,” he said. “I knew this was a big year for me coming off the summer and being bought out, it’s almost kind of a last chance thing. You can go one way or the other. You can get things going back on track or fall over the edge. So for those reasons I wanted as little uncertainty as possible. That is why this was appealing to me.” Ballard had a solid start to his season, but two separate injuries -- a concussion and cracked ribs -- set him back. He has only played in 19 of Minnesota’s 35 games and thinks he is finally starting to settle in again. Ballard has played mainly on Minnesota’s third defensive pair with Clayton Stoner and is averaging just over 14 minutes a night.
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