| Perhaps Team USA’s early exit prompted assistant coach Mike Ramsey to start thinking about coming out of retirment for 2010. He suited up for the Green Team on Thursday. |
Some were tanned. Most were rested. One of them got a haircut. And all were excited to be back on the ice.
The majority of the Minnesota Wild roster was back to skating, shooting and shouting in Minneapolis on Thursday morning in the team’s first optional practice since the Olympic Break started.
Minus Willie Mitchell, Randy Robitaille (who is nearing a full recovery from a broken big toe) and five players who apparently have something more important going on overseas, the squad took part in a four-on-four scrimmage to get the legs moving again.
Wild players haven’t been on the ice together since February 12, when Minnesota fell to the hated Vancouver Canucks in overtime.
Since then, the group fanned out around the globe in search of some relaxation in a hometown, or perhaps a sun-drenched hot spot.
They returned ready to get back to the grind and a crucial upcoming stretch that will feature four of the next five games against Colorado and Los Angeles, two teams directly in front of them in the Western Conference playoff race.
“I can’t wait to get going again,” said Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who spent his break in Montreal where he got some outdoor skating in on a nearby pond with some local youngsters. “I just decided at the last minute what I was going to do. None of the single guys on the team were going anywhere by themselves. They were all going home or somewhere with their girlfriends.”
Bouchard is an avid golfer, but he stayed away from the links this time. The same could be said for Alexandre Daigle, who went to Florida, but didn’t benefit from the sunshine as he hoped.
“It was record low weather down there,” he joked.
Thursday served as a precursor to tomorrow’s mandatory skate, when head coach Jacques Lemaire will return from spending time with family in Florida. Tomorrow promises some intensity that has been lacking the past 10 days.
“When we take one day off, we’re sucking wind, so after taking six or seven days off, you can definitely feel it,” said Kyle Wanvig following practice. “Today helped get us ready for these next few practices.”
Wanvig, who battled a cold for four of the off days, schlepped cross-country in his trusty truck to visit his fiancé’s hometown of Winnipeg, where her parents and the couple’s dogs reside.
| Todd White gets a quick breather during the Wild’s first practice since the Olympic break began. |
“If any time is good to get sick, that was it, because I didn’t really have any responsibilities,” said Wanvig. “I was a lazy, lazy man.”
Wanvig noted that resting in no way meant munching on potato chips and developing bedsores. He said everyone did their part to keep in shape by watching what he ate and working on his fitness.
“If I didn’t do something, I would have let myself go,” he admitted. “I think everybody did what they had to do to stay in shape, whether it be jumping on a treadmill or throwing up a weight or two. The big thing is to stay out of trouble, weight-wise. Make sure you don’t eat to much.”
Brent Burns probably lost the most weight of anybody on the team. Burns had his shaggy locks chopped off, for a more streamlined look.
“I’m so much faster now,” he said. “I’m way more aerodynamic. I was all over the place out there.”
Wild in-studio radio host Kevin Falness awoke from his Olympic hibernation to record Wild PONDcast #2, featuring exclusive interviews with Andrei Zyuzin and Stephane Veilleux. There is also a Wild Warming House feature as well as an Olympic recap.
Every Wild player in attendance of Thursday’s skate was a disappointed Canadian, with the exception of one. Andrei Zyuzin, whose Russian countrymen stunned Canada with a 2-0 shutout yesterday, was more than pleased with the outcome yesterday.
“They played as a team yesterday. They played for each other, they played for their country, and it had to be tough for the Canadians to play against them. Fortunately, Russian won. I’m happy for them, and that they’re doing well. It’s great to see them playing as a team.”
Wanvig wasn’t so thrilled, as the Calgary-native lamented his country’s shocking early exit.
“They were definitely the heavy favorites,” he said. “It just didn’t seem like they had the spark they’ve had before. Russia proved that they did. They really outplayed them, and good for them. But I’m anxious to hear what the TV and media back home are saying. I’m sure it’s just anarchy right now.”
Three of the four teams boast a Wild player, but Bouchard joked that Russia will come home with the gold medal.
“I think it will come down to the winner of the Russia/Finland game.”