It’s been a long time coming for Minnesota Wild forward Matt Cooke.
The 36-year-old returned to practice for the first time in more than a month and a half, before the team departs for Chicago facing the Blackhawks tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. at the United Center. The wing has been sidelined with a lower-body injury, missing 19 games. Last year, he skated in all 82 of the team’s regular season games.
Cooke will not be in the lineup tomorrow, or Wednesday when the Wild returns home to host the Boston Bruins. However, today’s practice was a large step in what has been a lengthy road to recovery.
“It’s been a long process. A lot longer than anybody would’ve liked, especially myself,” Cooke said. “Today it felt awesome to get back with the guys.”
The Minnesota Wild believes it’s better than its current 15-11-1 record and 10th spot in the Western Conference standings indicates. However, the club needs to play up to its lofty standards. That was the message during today’s Wild practice in Glendale, Arizona at Gila River Arena before taking on the Arizona Coyotes tomorrow night at 7 p.m. State of Hockey Time.
“We’re tired of being on the cusp, tired of being close,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “We need to demand better than what we’ve been brining.
“We’re better than what we’ve been showing, consistently.”
I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
— Bob Dylan, A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
With a Flash Flood Watch in the San Francisco Bay Area, a shorthanded Minnesota Wild defensive corps will again have to rise to the occasion against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center. It’s been an all too familiar tune for the Wild in the early going this season, as the team again will be without a pair of contributing blueliners.
Marco Scandella will serve the first of a two-game suspension following an illegal check to the head against the New York Islanders’ Brock Nelson on Tuesday. It was the second hit of the season that was reviewed by the Department of Player Safety, the first coming the St. Louis Blues’ T.J. Oshie on Nov. 30, which warranted no suspension.
Yesterday’s emotional Minnesota Wild comeback win against the New York Islanders came at a price. During the second period, defenseman Keith Ballard was run hard into the boards by Islanders forward Matt Martin and was taken to Regions Hospital. Ballard suffered three facial fractures, a concussion. He was released today and is out indefinitely.
“I haven’t spoken to him yet, but I know that he’s feeling better, and that’s very encouraging,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “It’s a significant injury.”
After the hit the Wild was charged up, engaging in scrums and jawing after nearly every stoppage. Minnesota was trailing, 3-0, at the time of the hit and went into the third period down, 4-1. However, the club used its emotions to rally to a four-straight third period goals and a 5-4 win.
It is no longer a question of will defenseman Ryan Suter play tonight, as he’ll return to the Minnesota Wild lineup against the New York Islanders, but a question of how much will he play? The National Hockey League’s ice-time leader will return after missing two games with the mumps.
Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo wouldn’t specify whether or not he’d limit Suter’s ice time. The Wild’s bench boss said he was a “red faced” during the team’s practice on Saturday, his first in five days, but looked good yesterday.
“I don’t think it’s fair to expect him to be where he was before,” Yeo said. “At the same time, he’s a guy who plays the game with a very good hockey sense and a very good understanding and I think he’ll be able to step in and be effective.”
During the holiday season, many people recognize the Gap as a bland clothing retailer. In hockey, the gap is the neutral-zone space between the attacking forward and defensemen. The forward wants a wide gap, while the defenseman wants to reduce their time and space with the puck.
For the Minnesota Wild, the team’s battle for gap control will be weapon against the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks, currently tied for first in points in the Western Conference, like to get into the offensive zone and use its size to cycle and grind down opponents. Minnesota wants to prevent clean zone entries at the blue line to prevent the Ducks from getting to its forecheck.
The Minnesota Wild has stayed on the winning track, going 7-2-1 in its last 10 games, despite two bugs that continue to plague the team: lack of production on the power play and the mumps.
Defenseman Ryan Suter has been diagnosed with the mumps and missed practice today. Last night’s 2-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens was the first game the blueliner has missed as a member of the Wild, halting a 153-consecutive game streak. The team has taken every precautionary measure, but the strain’s persistence and lack of answers is puzzling and frustrating.
The Minnesota Wild’s blue line will have a large void to fill as the team hosts the Montreal Canadiens at 6 p.m. Minnesota will be without the National Hockey League’s leader in ice time, Ryan Suter, who is out with an illness.
Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said that Suter has had blood-work done, but it hasn’t been determined whether or not it is the same illness that sidelined other defensemen this season. Yeo said that the blueliner had “some” of the same symptoms, but didn’t go into any specifics other than he doesn’t have swollen glands.
Suter, of course, is the team’s anchor on the blue line. He has led the NHL in time on ice the last two seasons, plays in all situations and is the team’s leading defenseman scorer (1-12=13). The rest of the D-corps will have to step up in a big way.
The Wild has recalled defenseman Christian Folin from the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League.
The 23-year-old played in eight games with the Wild this season before being reassigned to Iowa on Nov. 14. In eight games with the Iowa Wild, Folin had two goals, two assists and a plus-1 rating.