The Wild went through a quick but brisk 40 minute practice today at the Ice Haus, the awesome practice facility connected to Nationwide Arena. After arriving at the hotel in Columbus at 3:15 a.m., Mike Yeo pushed practice back to 2 p.m. to give the players an extra hour of rest. Every Wild player participated in practice.
To an athlete, waking up groggy to a missed call can be unnerving. It could be any number of possibilities, so Tyler Graovac wasn’t quite sure yesterday waking up to a voicemail from Wild Director of Minor League Operations Jim Mill that said: “Grao, call me ASAP.”
It was great news for Graovac actually, who learned he was being summoned to the Minnesota Wild to make his NHL debut tonight. Graovac and his Iowa Wild teammates had arrived in Grand Rapids, Mich., around 5 a.m. He quickly had to get on a plane to Minnesota, before another plane got him to Winnipeg around midnight last night.
Graovac said he “felt a lot of emotions on the ice” this morning at MTS Centre, where he impressed in a Wild preseason game this year.
"You're my boo." — Erik Haula
"We're running out of poses."
‘Twas the day before holiday break, when all through Xcel Energy Center, the Wild was stirring, practicing to score a game winner.
The Wild looks to head into the holiday break with visions of sugar-plums dancing in their heads, tonight hosting the Philadelphia Flyers. After two-consecutive overtime losses, the Wild will shake things up before taking three days off.
Forward Mikael Granlund will return to the lineup after missing Saturday’s 6-5 overtime loss to the Nashville Predators. Granlund was expected to go and participated in warmups, but was feeling ill and didn’t play. He skipped yesterday’s practice for an extra day of rest.
While Minnesota has secured victory in only one of its recent OT games, a 4-3 shootout win against the Arizona Coyotes on Dec. 13, the team has showed its resolve in the third period. In its last two games against the Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators, the Wild has tied the contest in the third period to force overtime and earn an extra point.
“I give our guys a lot of credit. Again, it is tough to be battling back all the time,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “I am pleased that our guys continue to battle back, and that shows something to me, but now let’s make sure not to put ourselves in that position so many times.”
"Just thinking of you..."
"Hey Charlie, where'd you get that spiffy sweater?"
In the half decade the Wild has taken it outdoors for practice, there have been a variety of weather scenarios — mostly sunny and cold.
Today, at the Wild’s outdoor practice at The John R. Rose OVAL in Roseville, presented by Audi Minneapolis and Audi St. Paul, it was a picturesque setting. Four days before Christmas, giant snowflakes fell as the Wild skated outside for 30 minutes, after more than 2,000 fans reveled in holiday activities for two hours.
Prior to the Wild taking the ice, fans skated for 90 minutes on the outer portion of The OVAL. Santa and Mrs. Claus were on hand, as well as a handful of reindeer, which all made for great photo opps.
“This really brought me back to the first Winter Classic,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said after, with a Santa-like twinkle in his eye. “(Outdoor hockey) is hopefully something our fans will get to experience here sometime soon.”
The Wild primarily played shinny. Lots of laughing could be heard, none more than when Jason Zucker went leaping over the “boards” (think border patrol) backwards. The Lighthouse is happy to report that Zucker is fine.
“It wasn’t a structured practice,” said Yeo, noting the players elected to forego a scheduled day off to practice in front of the fans. “It’s great for them to come out and meet these fans and go back to their roots.”
Another funny moment came at “intermission”, when Yeo called for the shovels. The snow buildup had become intimidating, so they had to clear it away. The rookies went first, but even veterans Matt Cooke and Thomas Vanek joined in cleaning the ice.
The team likely spent as much time signing autographs for fans along the boards as they did practicing.
“It was a lot of fun,” said a beaming Wild captain Mikko Koivu, his left glove wrapped in snow. “It’s a fun way of spending a morning, getting relaxed. It brings back a lot of memories from when you’re a kid. It feels amazing to have the fans out here even when the weather wasn’t that great."