The Minnesota Wild had a full day off yesterday, but even Head Coach Todd Richards admitted that he was still feeling a little sluggish when the team took to the ice today. His players were in the same boat at the start of the session, but they rebounded and brought the energy.
"They battled and they competed through it. It wasn't an easy skate today."
As practice wore on, there were still some funny moments. Battling with Mikko Koivu
for a puck behind the net, Derek Boogaard fell flat on the ice on top of the puck. Koivu gave him some repeated cross checks to the back as an onlooking Greg Zanon screamed, "Work him! Work him!" Koivu and Boogaard both finished the drill laughing.
Zanon got a little payback later. During a drill in the neutral zone, he lost his footing and took a tumble reminiscent of a figure skater who just butchered a triple lutz. The whole team thoroughly enjoyed that one.
The funniest crack of the day came from Josh Harding
in the locker room. In the stall next to him, Niklas Backstrom
was signing some player cards of himself and giving them to Finnish countryman, Antti Miettinen.
Harding wondered aloud if these Finns love each other so much that "they just keep signing autographs for each other. Do you think their walls are just plastered with signed pictures of each other?"
On more serious topics, Richards spoke a little bit about Robbie Earl, who is in his third stint with the Wild this season. Earl replaced Petr Sykora in the lineup during Wednesday's 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames because Richards wanted to add more speed and energy. When asked if Earl had earned more playing time, Richards said this:
"He's done a good job. He's a guy that I trust. When you've lost four in a row and you're looking to make changes, you want guys that you trust and you know what they've done in the past. He's done that."
Richards has thrown Earl out on nearly every possible line combination at some point this season. He didn't say he would be in the lineup on Saturday against Earl's hometown Blackhawks, but he hasn't been prone to make changes to a lineup after a big win.
As for Sykora, Richards said there is no reason to think that he's in the doghouse.
"He's competing. He's trying. But as far as the lineup, it's just making a change and adding some speed. The one thing Petr does extremely well is shoot a puck, but we've got to get him in positions to shoot the puck. Our feeling coming into the game (against the Flames) was that we needed more speed and grit in the corners. And Robbie provides that."