The “Happiest Place on Earth” is right down the highway, but the Minnesota Wild (and Lighthouse) couldn’t be giddier about getting back into game action–five days after its last outing, a 3-0 road win against the Colorado Avalanche. Tonight, the Wild skates in the land of Mickey and Minnie, as the club faces the Anaheim Ducks.
For the Wild, it will be important to get off to a good start after the layoff and back up to game speed.
“Making sure that our battle level, our intensity and our pace of play is ready to go from the drop of the puck,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “When you’re playing the games and you’re in the swing of it you’re already at that speed.”
After a day of team building in the warm California sun, the Minnesota Wild reconvened in Orange Country at the Anaheim Ducks’ practice facility before taking on reigning Pacific Division champs tomorrow night.
Yesterday, the club was in Newport Beach for a team off-ice work out followed by a bonding golf excursion. Anyone who’s ever played 18 knows its one of the best way to create a rapport with your buds. The Lighthouse’s invite must’ve gotten lost in the mail (or didn’t want us hacking up the nice fairways and greens), but it was a good way for the team to refocus with so many days off between games.
“We knew that we wouldn’t be able to practice hard for four days,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “The idea was that we’d take a step back yesterday and let the players spend some time together and have some fun.
“Mentally, back off a little and we had a good hard practice today.”
The leaves are changing, the temperatures are dropping and hockey has started in Minnesota. Fall is officially here.
This year, there’s a special addition to the State Of Hockey — the Twin Cities Harvest Festival and Maze in Brooklyn Park features the Wild’s logo in the state’s largest corn maze!
Most NHL teams look at their schedule late in the preseason or early in the regular season and try to plan a “team bonding” trip. It didn’t take more than a cursory glance to see a five-day break between games for the Wild this week as the perfect opportunity.
So the Wild departed for Southern California after practice today for a couple days of team bonding before playing in Anaheim on Friday night.
After enjoying a well-deserved Sunday away from the rink, the Wild went back to work Monday at Xcel Energy Center. With no games until Friday, the coaching staff focused on a lot of individual skill work with the players, leading to an extremely spirited 3-on-3 game on a half sheet of ice.
“There was a lot of hidden work,” Mike Yeo said. “They’re having fun, so they don’t realize how hard they’re working.”
It might seem easy to get distracted without a game until Friday, but that didn’t seem to be the case.
Two games against Colorado — two shutouts of various degrees of difficulties. They combined to give Darcy Kuemper this week’s NHL No. 2 star designation.
Christian Folin was back home in Sweden when the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche faced off in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, the distance and time change didn’t keep him from following the electrifying series. Game 7 was on at around 6 a.m. local time and he had a comfortable spot to watch, as Nino Niederreiter scored the series-clinching goal in overtime.
“I was sitting on the couch and it was already bright out,” Folin said. “I remember watching the playoffs and it was a pretty wild building, so it should be a good experience tonight.”
Last season’s back-and-forth, seven-game series between the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche became an instant classic in the State of Hockey. The Wild rode a Nino Niederreiter overtime wrist shot in the deciding game past the Avalanche and into the second round.
With a new season and a budding rivalry building between the two teams, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo wants last year’s series to stay where it is: In the rear-view mirror.
Typically, when the Lighthouse references the phrase “goaltending duel” it is a confrontation between opposing netminders making body-contorting saves in a mano-a-mano showdown, leaving a pile of frustrated shooters shaking their heads in their wake.
However for the Minnesota Wild, the goaltending duel was a showdown during training camp for the team’s game one starter, an open competition between Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom. Coming into camp, both had things to prove for very different reasons.
When the Minnesota Wild brought NHL hockey back to Minnesota, Ryan Carter was a student at White Bear Lake High School. While the team was on the road, he’d stay up late after his own practices and games and watch televised Wild games, kind of like a hockey study hall. While observing more pro hockey was beneficial for his game, the late-night hockey cramming might’ve had an adverse impact in the actual classroom.
“My grades in high school probably weren’t as good as they should’ve been because I stayed up late watching the West Coast games back in 2000, 2001,” Carter joked.