The Minnesota Wild Training Camp, presented by Andersen Windows, opened today, but not in the familiar confines of Xcel Energy Center. No, tonight the Wild’s home barn will play host to country music mega-star Blake Shelton, so the club practiced at Ridder Arena, home of the national champion Gopher women’s hockey team.
The Wild split into two groups and each session lasted for a little more than an hour and a half. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo didn’t waste any time throwing the team into an intense, skating-heavy session. Yeo was pleased with the way the team responded, joking, “I’m going to call the League and ask if they can award us two points,” to the media after the skate. After last year’s lockout-shortened training camp, Yeo is glad to have a full two weeks and six games to work with players before the start of the regular season.
One of the focuses today was the Wild’s transition game and entering the zone with speed. Yeo said he’d like the team to create more offense off the rush this season, while still knowing when the right time is to dump and chase. He added that the Wild’s systems are designed around the team’s personnel, and with the talent up front he’d like to give the forwards an opportunity to generate shots and scoring chances from zone entries.
One of the players that should benefit from the Wild’s system ‘tweaks’ is winger Jason Pominville. With a full training camp to acclimatize to the organization, Pominville is positive about the outlook of the season. After coming over from the Buffalo Sabres in a Trade Deadline Day deal, the forward was on a point-per-game pace before a Dustin Brown elbow landed him on the IR with a concussion. However, Pominville is fully healthy and ready to make an impact in the State of Hockey. Today, the winger was in the early session skating with Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu. After practice, Pominville said that he’s excited to have some time on the line to build chemistry. We at the Lighthouse are excited to see a line on the Wild with potential to be one of the top two-way lines in the League.
Other lines of note included:
Jason Zucker – Charlie Coyle – Justin Fontaine
Nino Niederreiter – Mikael Granlund – Dany Heatley
Matt Cooke – Kyle Brodziak – Torrey Mitchell
After playing alongside Koivu and Parise during the second half of last season, there was speculation of what position Coyle would start the year at. Well, at least for the time being, it looks like Coyle will be a middleman. Coyle has previously played center and earlier said that he really doesn’t care where he plays, as long as it’s with the Wild. Fontaine led the Wild’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Houston Aeros, in scoring last season. The former University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldog has a nose for the net and it looks like the Wild brass wants to see what he can do alongside Coyle and speedster Jason Zucker.
While the big-bodied Coyle is between two smaller, speedier skaters, Granlund was skating with a pair of prototypical power forwards with big shots. The second-year pro from Finland looks like he worked on his skating in the offseason, and Yeo acknowledged it was something they’d talked about. While the Wild bench boss is high on the center, he wants to temper expectations and be sure to give Granlund time to continue to develop. After recovering from shoulder surgery last spring, Heatley looks fit and was working on his one-timer after practice, a skill he’ll surely get a chance to use when playing with Granlund.
WildTV will have some post-practice videos up this afternoon including Yeo, Koivu, Parise, Pominville and Backstrom.
The Wild will be back on the ice at Xcel Energy Center tomorrow, and Yeo said that he’d keep the lines together for a scrimmage. Of course, the Lighthouse will be there tomorrow with more updates. We sure our glad hockey is back.