Pace, for the Minnesota Wild, can take on a number of meanings.
"There are things that go into it. Playing fast isn't just skating around 100 miles per hour," Zach Parise said. "You can't play fast if you play through the neutral zone like we have been. The way we've been turning pucks over in the neutral zone, you can't play fast."
As Head Coach Mike Yeo opened practice Wednesday, he addressed his players at center ice, stressing pace and execution, which to the Wild, are intertwined.
"For sure part of it is our pressure game, and how we pursue, and how we forecheck, and how we take away time and space," Yeo said. "A lot of that is putting pucks in the right place, making sure you're not losing pucks in bad areas, but a lot of that is our execution, and you can't do that without a mentality, and a puck support where everybody is on the same page, and understanding of where the puck is going."
The Wild liked the second and third periods it played against the Anaheim Ducks—especially the pace it played at—on Sunday. Minnesota lost 4-1, but felt the score wasn't indicative of how the game was played.
"We've been doing it here-and-there, not really consistently," Christian Folin said. "The two last periods in Anaheim were good, better, but we have to try to build off of that tomorrow."
As the Wild looks to put together a full, 60-minute effort, one it feels it has not yet built this season, upping the pace is a big part of it.
"We haven't been really at the level we need to be, so there are things that we have to fix and be better at, and that will help us," Parise said. "There are a lot of things that go into a team looking fast, and playing fast. Our play with the puck has got to be a lot better."
The Wild thinks its identity makes life difficult for its opponents. In the past the connotation used to be a physical, bruising team. But times have changed.
"When teams play against us, it should be a tough game," Yeo said. "They should understand that we're a good defensive team, but they should also understand that we're a fast team, and they should feel that. That's in our pressure, but that’s how we execute and go at them."
It starts below the Wild's blue line, through the neutral zone, but players said it's going to take all five skaters on the ice moving and thinking on the same wavelength to be effective.
"A lot of it is just moving the puck really quick, and moving it to the first guy that's open," Folin said. "When you move the puck quick, you have a good pace, and that's a good thing for us to do. When we play with a high pace, we're a successful team."
Forward Tyler Graovac skated on his own Wednesday morning prior to practice. Graovac has been out since the season opener, missing the past four games, after sustaining a groin injury.
"No setback, it's just going to take a little bit of time here," Yeo said.
Graovac needs to get back practicing with the main group, according to Yeo, before any serious assessments can be made.
"That's the first step, and then we'll see how long from there," Yeo said.