In this week's edition of Bruce Bites, Wild.com's Dan Myers sits down with Wild coach Bruce Boudreau to discuss Eric Staal, Ryan Suter and overcoming a slew of early season injuries:
Dan Myers: You've been asked a ton about Eric Staal, especially on the last few road stops. He's not the same player he was 10 years ago, but you coached against him when you were in Washington. How impressed with him have you been working with him up close?
Bruce Boudreau: I don't see any difference. You say he's not the same player, why are we saying he's not the same player? He's averaging a point per game, he's playing 20 minutes a night, killing penalties, doing everything, plus player. You look at his best years, I think he had 90 points one year. Who's to say he's not playing his best hockey? He doesn't look like he's slow out there. He gets by people in a hurry, makes plays. I think he's been outstanding.
DM: Another veteran who is off to a great start is Ryan Suter, who seems to make the game look so effortless in how he uses angles and his skating. He doesn't crush guys, but when he goes into a corner to get a puck, he almost always seems to come out with it.
BB: He's got farmer's strength. I knew a coach once named Tommy McVie, his biggest thing was, "Angles are the most important thing in hockey." Ryan has got the angles part of it down perfect. He knows how to cut guys off, he knows how to save energy by not chasing. Then you add his strength into the game, and when he gets the puck, he can make a play, he thinks the game really well. Those things don't surprise me.
Sometimes, what surprises me is I've never had a guy play as many minutes as he has (more than 27 minutes per game, which ranks fourth in the NHL). It's still worrisome, but at the same time, when we've been having days off the next day, we can play him as much as we have been.
DM: How nice is it to have a guy, in certain situations, who can go out there and play 30 minutes if you need him to and not have much of a drop-off in play?
BB: Well, not right now. But in February [there might be a drop off]. We're really trying to be conscientious about trying not to do that. But at the same time, you want to win, so you have to put your best players out there. Both of those situations are in our mind all the time. But we would like to get him to play 24 or 25 minutes a game, but it depends on how the game is going.
DM: It's early, but you have been without Zach Parise for an extended stretch, Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon, Erik Haula. Those are key injuries. How pleased have you been with the team's ability to keep its head above water here and not lose too much ground in the Stanley Cup Playoff race?
BB: My philosophy is if they're not here, then somebody has to step up and do the job. We put people in those kind of positions, hopefully, to succeed. We don't dwell on and you never hear me talk about guys that are out of the lineup because we have enough players here and enough good players that we should be able to compete, whoever is out of the lineup.