Amidst a three-game road swing, the Minnesota Wild returned to the State of Hockey for a few days before shipping out to take on the New Jersey Devils tomorrow night at 6 p.m. CST. Today, the team traversed the snow-slicked streets for a ‘road’ practice, skating at Ridder Arena on the University of Minnesota campus before leaving for the Garden State.
It might’ve been a dreary day for the snow-anxious outside, but despite a three-game losing streak, spirits were much higher than the sidewalk slush, as the three injured players re-joined the Wild for practice. Goaltender Josh Harding, forward Zach Parise and defenseman Jared Spurgeon all wore red non-contact jerseys during the practice. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo could feel an uptick in energy.
Lapointe helped the Canadiens raise six Stanley Cups in the 1970s. He played 777 games with the Canadiens, scoring 166 goals and adding 406 assists for 572 points. The blueliner also played for the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins before ending his Hall of Fame career in 1984. He finished with 622 points (171-451=622) in 894 games.
In an 82-game season, every National Hockey League team will have to deal with injuries at some point. Without its leading scorer, Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild will be put to the test tonight as the team kicks off a three-game road trip against the Ottawa Senators.
Parise left Tuesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins and after seeing doctors yesterday was diagnosed with a concussion. He didn’t travel with the team and there is no timetable on his return.
“Obviously, a big blow to us,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “It came on during the course of the game; luckily he was talking to our trainers and our trainers took the appropriate steps to meet with the doctors.”
In Parise’s absence, Thomas Vanek will move to the wing with Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville. Vanek and Pominville have experience playing together as members of the Buffalo Sabres and hope to rekindle the chemistry they had there.
The early exit polls show that the Minnesota Wild and Pittsburgh Penguins are statistically two of the best teams in the National Hockey League. Both are among the league leaders in a number of categories including: goals for (Wild’s 3.4 is third, Pens’ 4.1 is first); goals against (Wild first 1.8, Pens’ 2.2 is 11th); shots on goal (Wild’s 35 per game is second, Pens’ 31.1 is ninth); and scoring differential (Wild’s 1.6 is second, Pens’ 1.9 is first).
The lone statistical disparity comes on the power play. However, even political numerical prognosticator, Nate Silver, couldn’t have forecast the statistical anomalies on the man advantage of both teams through 10 games.
Thomas Vanek, Kyle Brodziak and Nino Niederreiter had never practiced together before Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo put them together on a line against the Boston Bruins. It took the trio less than five minutes to make an impact on the game.
After a dump into the corner, Brodziak finished a check on B’s defenseman Zach Trotman. The hit forced a bad pass and Vanek stole the puck from his defensive partner, Matt Bartkowski. Vanek found Niederreiter, who was cutting through the slot, with a tape-to-tape pass for a goal.
The ice at Xcel Energy Center was spookily undermanned during today’s optional Minnesota Wild practice. It wasn’t a quite ghost town, but a handful of players took the option along with those ailing from injuries.
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon didn’t skate and will miss tomorrow’s game against the Dallas Stars. The blueliner left during the third period of yesterday’s game against the San Jose Sharks following a Joe Pavalski hit. Spurgeon didn’t finish the game after suffering an upper-body injury. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said that Spurgeon will likely miss multiple games and didn’t put a timetable on a return, but is hopeful it’s not a long-term injury.
The Minnesota Wild’s motto has been to always look forward, focus on the next game and forget about what happened in the last outing.
However, for the Lighthouse it’s not always that easy.
It was especially difficult to supplant the Wild’s last game, a 4-3 comeback win in Boston on Tuesday, during Head Coach Mike Yeo’s media availability today. That’s because someone turned the speakers in the Wild locker room up to 11 and was blaring the Dropkick Murphys’ “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” while Yeo fielded questions from media members.
Mike Yeo just wrapped up his media availability prior to tonight’s game against the Bruins.
The Wild has recalled Stu Bickel and Justin Falk, the latter of whom is expected to play. Jonas Brodin is “sore in a couple different areas,” Yeo said, likening last night’s hit from Chris Kreider to a car crash. Yeo said it’s a measure of precaution, and added what a tough player Brodin is.
Erik Haula will not play tonight. He has not been diagnosed with a concussion, but it’s the team’s call to hold him out for precautionary measures. Yeo said the team has to “protect the player,” and didn’t want to put him in a position to get hurt again, and miss more time.
The Wild leaves the familiarity of the Western Conference for the first time tonight, beginning a back-to-back in New York against the Rangers.
Minnesota had Sunday off, save for the team flight, so today’s morning skate was focused on execution and staying sharp. With all the talk about the Wild practicing more than playing, the team will wind up going five days (Saturday-Wednesday) with nothing more than a morning skate.
No hockey player enjoys it, but it’s something most have to do at some point in their career: participate in a morning skate even though they’re a healthy scratch for the night’s contest.
That was the case for Minnesota Wild defenseman Nate Prosser as he walked into Xcel Energy Center this morning. Skate hard, be a good teammate and prepare like he was going to play, even though he wasn’t going to be in the lineup.
However, things quickly changed as soon as he arrived in the team’s locker room. Prosser saw that two defensemen who were expected to play, Christian Folin and Keith Ballard, were both sick. Prosser would be in penciled into the Wild lineup as the team hosts the Arizona Coyotes.
"I walked in and saw a couple guys were sick; I didn’t know if they’d be playing. I was preparing like I would every day,” Prosser said. “My number’s called, so I’ve got to play my A-game.”