Click here to listen audio of Alexandre Daigle converse with Kevin Falness
Click here to listen to audio of Pascal Dupuis
Click here to listen to audio of Marian Gaborik
For the first time since April of 2004, the Minnesota Wild took the ice at the Xcel Energy Center. The 44 players were split into two groups. The first group skated at 10:00 AM and began the day by performing several breakout drills at the behest of Wild head man, Jacques Lemaire. The players were sporting brand new Wild practice jerseys with white trim on the underarms, a sure sign of the new look club.
Goaltenders Manny Fernandez and Josh Harding also sported the new goalie pads that have been reduced by an inch as per new National Hockey League rules.
The lines for the AM session were:
Wes Walz with Marian Gaborik and Patrick O’Sullivan
Rickard Wallin with Kyle Wanvig and Joey Tetarenko
Erik Westrum with Alexandre Daigle and Kirby Law
Adam Courchaine with Matt Foy and Riley Emmerson
Filip Kuba, Willie Mitchell, Curtis Murphy, Erik Reitz, Ryan Stokes, A.J. Thelen and Andrei Zyuzin made up the defensive corps.
Following the skate, the group broke into two teams to play a short scrimmage, which was highlighted by several random shootouts throughout the course of the game. Erik Westrum and Rickard Wallin each scored in the first shootout. Wallin then quickly followed up his penalty shot goal with a more conventional goal, batting home a bouncing puck in the crease.
Towards the end of the scrimmage, the teams skated 5-on-4 and 4-on-3. A sign that Lemaire could be expecting a lot of power plays and penalty kills with the newly placed emphasis on cracking down on obstruction.
The second group of Wild skaters took to the ice shortly after noon and took part in the same high-intensity drills as the AM group. Line combos included:
Brian Rolston with Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Andrei Nazarov
Benoit Pouliot with Pascal Dupuis and Peter Olvecky
Mikko Koivu with Stephane Veilleux and Matt Kassian
Marc Chouinard with Roman Voloshenko and Derek Boogaard
Brent Burns, Scott Ferguson, Kurtis Foster, Alex Henry, Nick Schultz, Clayton Stoner and Daniel Tjarnqvist made up the defensive corps with Dwayne Roloson and Miroslav Kopriva tending goal.
Jacques Lemaire was pleased with the pace of the afternoon skaters, saying that the group was "a little more lively" than the morning skaters. During the scrimmage, Burns pinched low in the offensive zone where was the recipient of a beautiful cross-ice pass from Koivu. Burns one-timed the puck past Kopriva for the best five-on-five goal of the day.
Bouchard provided the most spectacular goal of either session during one of the many shootouts. He swooped in from the side on Kopriva and perfomed a spin-o-rama move at the top of the crease. The puck ended up in the net and Kopriva ended up somewhere near the fourth row of seats.
Numerous youngsters like Benoit Pouliot and Patrick O’Sullivan showed signs of why they are so highly touted. Today’s Star however goes to a coach, Jacques Lemaire. Lemaire was back to his old ways of instructing, leading and cracking jokes with the players and the media. It was a long wait, but it’s good to see the legend back in the black and green warmup suit.