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Suter looks like old self in return from injury

Veteran defenseman plays more than 21 minutes in only exhibition tuneup before season opener

by Dan Myers @DanMyers /

ST. PAUL -- With training camp nearing its end and opening night getting closer and closer on the calendar, Wild defenseman Ryan Suter finally had enough. 

Enough with the practicing and not playing, enough with watching his teammates bear the brunt of exhibition ice time, and enough of not putting his surgically repaired ankle through the rigors of a game test.

So, the veteran blueliner did something about it, suiting up and playing in his first (and likely only) preseason game against the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center. Minnesota won its final home dress rehearsal by a 4-3 margin.

"I mean, I just feel bad for these guys. They are grinding it out and I'm practicing and I'm in here early and out of here before they get done," Suter said on Wednesday morning. "I think it's good to play just to be around the guys."

Suter said he was sick of practicing, and with his ankle feeling good, he wanted to get an important test out of the way. 

He did that with flying colors against the Jets, skating in 21 minutes, 22 seconds of game time. If you didn't know he spent half the summer in his barcalounger in his Madison, Wisconsin home, you'd never know it by watching his play on the ice. 

"He's moving well, obviously, he's so smart out there and set up some great chances," said Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk. "I'm sure it was a little strange for him getting back out there but it's good news that he was able to get in a game before the start of the regular season. It's good to get out there and you can concentrate on certain things rather than how the game is going to go. He looked good out there."

For Suter, and most importantly, for the Wild, Ryan Suter looked like... Ryan Suter. 

"I think it's just good so now we're not talking about that," Suter said. "Now we're talking about our team and playing Colorado and focused on that. For me now, another week to get ready and be even better for the first game."

"When he had the time and space he still made the great plays. He's smart as a whip. I thought he was a little tentative on the quick to check in our own zone but that was his first preseason game and everybody was in the same kind of mode early on," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "I haven't talked to him yet. Hopefully he came out of it pretty good."

Questions about Suter's health lingered all summer long. He was told by doctors in the immediate aftermath of the injury that if he played any other sport besides hockey, his career would likely be over, a revelation that shook the All-Star to the core. 

Two months of rest followed his April 5 operation before he slowly worked his way back, hitting the ice for the first time in July and then learning how to get back to his normal game. 

His first goal was to be back in time for training camp. Once he checked that box, it was to be back in time for opening night in Colorado next Thursday. 

Now that it appears he's done that, Suter can focus on getting to a point where nobody thinks of him as the player coming off a serious injury, but rather just an elite player.

The game Wednesday was another step in doing just that.

"It felt like just another training camp, preseason game, and that was my goal to be in good enough shape to be in a preseason game or the first game of the season," Suter said. "I felt fine."


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