Last season, training camp lasted all of one week. Players came to the ice, met each other briefly, and were subsequently thrown into a fast-paced season that ended with the Wild’s first trip to the playoffs since the 2007-08 season.
“Last year the first part of playing was kind of our training camp, the first few games,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “Now we don’t have to have that training camp during the year.”
“Last year we kind of just got thrown to the wolves,” forward Zach Parise added. “For me it was a little bit harder just being with a new team in a new place.”
Parise and Suter, will experience their first full Wild training camp since signing with the team as free agents July 4, 2012. Both Suter and Parise were named alternate captains just a few days after signing, donning the “A” for a squad with which they had yet to step on the ice.
With a few more personnel changes this offseason, training camp promises to provide the team with some more time to get to know each other and get in more work before the puck drops at home on Oct. 3 against the Los Angeles Kings to open the season.
“It’ll be good because we had a lot of changes this year again,” Suter said. “It’ll be nice to get to know the different guys. The more you can practice with each other, obviously the better it is. I think it’ll be important for us and it’ll only help us.”
While last year wasn’t ideal for a new name on any roster, going through the lockout-shortened season did provide guys like Parise and Suter with the opportunity to get to know the team’s system and simply find a level of comfort in their new home leading into this season.
“Granted, it wasn’t a training camp, but just having that last year, all that experience helps make this year much easier,” Parise said. “I’m more comfortable with the players and the building and everything about it.”
With his team leaders more confident in their roles, head coach Mike Yeo is relishing the chance to finally work with the Wild and find the right chemistry through the lines. While he has some idea of the lines and pairings he’d like to see, nothing is set in stone yet.
“That’s what this is all about,” Yeo said. “The first priority is to make sure our team is ready and that we’re on top of our game. Not just tactically but as the habits and the details within our game. On top of that, we have to figure out which combinations work, when they work, how we can build the chemistry and how quickly we can build that for the group.”
Parise echoed Yeo’s reaction, noting how camp simply allows them to work on different aspects of their game and find the right mix — something they weren’t able to do last year.
“To put together who fits best where, we didn’t have that last year.” Parise said. “Through the season we were doing a lot of experimenting with who plays well with who; who should be in what role. Hopefully this year we can get that out of the way right away in camp and then just keep getting better as the season goes on.”
Finally back to a full three weeks, Yeo is looking to make the most of it, to push his team hard and get them ready for the grind that is once again a full season.
“The goals are just sort of a main focus for us, as far as what camp is,” Yeo said. “We want it to be tough. We want it to be challenging. But it comes down to making sure that we’re game ready, making sure that when we drop the puck for game one that we’ve got an edge over the other team.”
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