Most Wild players showed up at Xcel Energy Center today, but very few hit the ice for today's optional practice. Goaltenders Josh Harding
and Niklas Backstrom
were joined by Shane Hnidy, John Scott, Clayton Stoner
, James Sheppard, Robbie Earl, Petr Sykora, Derek Boogaard and Andrew Ebbett.
Assistant coaches Mike Ramsey and Dave Barr were running the show during practice, and perhaps that's one of the reasons that Todd Richards was all smiles today when he emerged from the locker room to meet with the media. Richards called today a "recovery day" after several players were seeing a lot of ice time during last night's 4-3 win over Pittsburgh when the Wild killed six penalties.
His jovial mood also had something to do with his team knocking off two Division leaders and one Stanley Cup champion in the past six days.
"It's pretty easy," he said when asked why he was in such a good mood. "It's the teams that you've beaten. It's how you're playing, the contributions you're getting. When you're playing good hockey, it's a reason to be excited."Cal Clutterbuck
was a hot topic in Richards' meeting with the media. Clutterbuck drew a five-minute major penalty on Sergei Gonchar, who responded to a clean hit from #22 by trying to take his head off when he wasn't looking, and the puck wasn't near him.
"I haven't had a chance to slow it down and watch it from different angles," said Richards. "My initial thought was that it was a dirty hit. It looked like an elbow to the chin. The thing is, the puck was behind (Clutterbuck), so there's no chance that he's going to get the puck. It's just a dirty hit."
Clutterbuck certainly has angered many players and teams in the NHL, but they seem to be getting mad about an energetic player who stays within the rules.
"I'm trying to think back if there was a hit that Clutter intentionally (tried to hurt someone), and I don't think there is," continued Richards. "I think Clutter plays the game hard. He skates hard and he knows his job and his role. He plays the game hard and clean. If he gets anything, it might be for a board, but it's not one of those where you go 'Oh, that could be a major.' I think he plays the game hard and clean."
It was almost comical to watch the remainder of the game and just focus on Clutterbuck. Despite trailing by a goal late in the game, Penguins players were still going out of their way to stick it to the Wild agitator, who had also scored a goal earlier in the game.
Newly recalled defenseman Ben Lovejoy skated after Clutterbuck behind the play in the third, and Richards noticed one of their stars take issue as well.
"Clutter looks like he was going to hit (Evgeni) Malkin, and Malkin shoots the puck down the ice and then sticks his arm out and basically hits Clutter right on the chin. (Clutterbuck) definitely takes his share of abuse."
Clutterbuck had departed the arena prior to media availability, but he said his piece last night following the game.
"(Gonchar) better hope he retires at the end of the year. Someone's going to hurt him before the end of the year. Someone will. It's not going to be me, but someone will. He's got it coming."