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Coach Richards returns to the Wild

TODD Richards returned home to coach the Minnesota Wild, with the promise that the team will play a more exciting, up-tempo style.

The Wild introduced Richards in St Paul, Minnesota, on Tuesday as the second head coach in team history, completing a new power structure that began with Craig Leipold's purchase of the team 1 1/2 years ago. General Manager Chuck Fletcher was hired last month.

Richards earned Fletcher's trust while the two worked together with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League. The 42-year-old Richards was the coach there for two seasons, before becoming an assistant with the San Jose Sharks last season.

Fletcher wasn't deterred by a resume that includes only one season on a National Hockey League bench.

"I truly believe that talent is the most important thing. I think your skill set and overall talent takes precedence over experience," he said.

The Wild will play a style similar to the Stanley Cup champions Pittsburgh Penguins, where Fletcher was the assistant general manager. It emphasizes puck possession, a strong forecheck and a fast pace - certainly a more aggressive system than the trapping, disciplined style used by former coach Jacques Lemaire.

But Richards said he believes it's easier to move from a defense-driven system to an offense-oriented style.

"You have to give Jacques Lemaire and his staff a tremendous amount of credit. As a coach it's tough to implement the defensive style. The players have a great foundation to play defensive hockey, and that's something that we can't lose."



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