When a team is feeling it, the club wants to keep playing and stay rolling. After four straight wins, the Minnesota Wild is back in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race and gaining confidence.
However, thanks to a lull in the schedule, the team won’t get back at it until Saturday, hosting the Colorado Avalanche at 7 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center.
“We played a lot of games and all of a sudden we have three days between games,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “You have to make sure we’re getting ready for an opponent that we know is going to be ready to play against us.”
Of course, the Wild topped the Avs in seven games in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last year and took the opening two games of the season in a home-and-home series, outscoring Colorado, 8-0.
It was a bipolar month for the Minnesota Wild with the recent highs feeling mountainous compared to the cavernous early-January lows. Thorough it all, the team has tried to remain focused on the next opponent and not on the things that have come in the past. So, with the club riding a three-game road win streak, Minnesota knows it is far from the summit of the regular season as it returns to Xcel Energy Center. Tonight, the Wild continues the climb against a familiar foe, the Chicago Blackhawks.
After competing well last season, including a hard-fought six game series in the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Minnesota hasn’t found its footing against the Hawks. The Wild is 0-3-0 against Chicago this season. Again, the team doesn’t want to dwell on what has been, but what is in store today.
The Minnesota Wild looks make it three-for-three on its Canadian road trip, tomorrow skating against the Vancouver Canucks at 2 p.m. State of Hockey Time.
The Wild will be without Justin Fontaine, who suffered a pulled groin against the Calgary Flames on Thursday. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo doesn’t have a timetable for a return and with this type of injury it just needs time to heal.
“It’s something that could be a day or something that could be longer,” Yeo said.
Defenseman Matt Dumba was the last man to hit the ice for the Minnesota Wild’s morning skate at the Scotiabank Saddledome, but there was a pretty good reason for his tardiness. The 20-year-old was recalled this morning from the club’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Iowa Wild, and arrived in Calgary around the time Minnesota started practice.
The team recalled Dumba because yesterday Ryan Suter took a maintenance day. Speaking to the media following today’s session, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said that Suter was ready for action against the Flames and played it coy about whether or not the Calgary product would skate in front of his hometown crowd saying, “We’ll see tonight.” The team’s bench boss said that Nate Prosser would remain in the lineup for penalty kill purposes, so it could be Christian Folin sitting if Dumba plays. If Dumba is in the lineup, Yeo said he’d make an impact on the game.
Hockey arenas are often referred to as “barns” and the Minnesota Wild walked into one of the cooler old buildings around for practice today in Calgary. The team dressed at the Scotiabank Saddledome, where the Wild will face the Flames tomorrow night, and crossed the street for an afternoon skate at the Stampede Corral, a multipurpose facility that opened in 1950.
After a week of inactivity for the National Hockey League’s All-Star Break, the Minnesota Wild restarts north of the border. The Wild kicks off a three-game Canadian roadie tonight against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place.
The Wild will have Mikael Granlund back in the lineup against its old Northwest Division foe. The forward missed 13 games after suffering a fractured wrist on Dec. 27 against the Winnipeg Jets.
For the first time in a long time, the Wild looks like a healthy club.
It wasn’t his typical game of 30-plus minutes on ice, but Ryan Suter still managed to register a goal and an assist in his second NHL All-Star game with 19 minutes and 46 seconds of ice time. His team, Team Toews, defeated Team Foligno 17-12 in Columbus.
“It was fun, it was exciting to be part of. A lot of goals were scored, probably too many, but it was a lot of fun for sure,” Suter said after the game.
As a shutdown defenseman, goals don’t come all that often for Suter. Last season he scored a hat trick, and tonight his goal looked like a goal-scorer’s snipe again, squeezing one past the post.
“I don’t know, I closed my eyes,” Suter started to joke. “No, I just got a pass from [Vladimir] Tarasenko and the slot kind of opened — not a lot of guys blocking shots — so the slot opened up and I just shot it in.”
But it was the celly that stood out. Suter isn’t known for his big celebrations after goals, yet there he was, throwing his arms up like a kid who got to eat a cookie before dinner.
“I was joking around with Webs, if I score or if you score,” Suter said of his defensive partner tonight and former Nashville teammate, Shea Weber. “In practice we used to joke around when we’d score; so it was just a little inside joke between us I guess.”
Nevertheless, it was a “very productive weekend for the NHL,” Suter said.
But the best part wasn’t his goal, assist or his plus-2 rating — it was getting to spend the time with family, particularly his son, Brooks.
“It was all fun. It was neat seeing Brooks down on the bench the other day, watching everything, he was excited about that.”
For the average person, sitting and waiting to be selected by a team can be nerve-wracking — think back to when you were in middle school waiting to be picked for a dodge ball team. However, for Ryan Suter, the nerves didn’t exist.
“I’m excited to be out there or to be here and to be drafted and not go last,” Suter said.
Plus, he was reunited with his former defensive partner from Nashville, Shea Weber.
“They talked about that before,” Suter admitted. “They said they were going to draft me and Shea before…They were going to draft us first and say that we were going to play the whole game; they don’t want any other D, but the NHL wouldn’t let them do that. Probably a good thing.”
Ryan Suter: I think just watching the skills competition — that’s always fun to see the guys showcase their skills. It’s always something different, someone will do something different and put on a show.
Suter: I know all of the players. I’m friends with a few of the guys, played with a few of the guys on different teams for the U.S. World Championships or Olympics, different U.S. things like that. I played with Shea Weber in Nashville. So I’ll probably hang out with those guys.
For photos throughout the weekend stay tuned to @mnwild, the Wild's instagram and the Wild.com photo gallery.
“We were up in the suite trying to watch the game,” Suter smiled. “(Thomas) Vanek’s kids didn’t show up so I had to play.
“I was the goalie.”