For most of his 542 National Hockey League games, new Wild defenseman Ryan Suter
has skated next to All-Star defenseman Shea Weber, accumulating many of his 200 career assists while dishing to his former defensive partner.
If Wednesday night's Red versus White scrimmage at Xcel Energy Center is any indication, playing next to Jared Spurgeon could be just as fruitful. Spurgeon scored two goals and assisted on another as Red defeated White 4-1.
"I thought we were pretty sharp for that being, somewhat of a game," Wild winger Zach Parise said. "I thought we did a good job of being in our positions, and that's the most important thing right now, making that stuff become second nature."
Parise's Red squad never trailed in the game, as Nick Palmieri tapped in a Matt Dumba shot from the point 6:44 into the contest to make it 1-0. Suter was credited with the second assist.
The game remained a one-goal contest until deep into the second, when Spurgeon's shot from the point was redirected by newcomer Jake Dowell in the slot, making it 2-0 with under four minutes to play in period two.
"I thought [Palmieri and Dowell] played very well," said Wild coach Mike Yeo. "If they had played a bad game or didn't play a role they're supposed to play and scored a goal, that's a non-factor to me. What's most important is that they were going out and playing the type of game they'll be playing when we insert them into the lineup."
Team White got on the board early in the third as Steven Kampfer scooped up a rebound of a Clayton Stoner point blast at the bottom of the right circle and roofed a wrist shot over Red goalie Josh Harding, pulling White within one 6:20 into the final period.
But Spurgeon ended any hopes of a White rally just over four minutes later, snapping a shot through traffic and past White goalie Niklas Backstrom, reestablishing the two-goal edge at 3-1.
"Obviously, the game is a little faster than practice," Spurgeon said. "Even though you're going against guys you're on the team with, it's still better than doing it in practice."
Spurgeon capped the regulation portion of play by adding an empty-netter with 1.5 seconds on the clock, clearing the puck 180 feet from his net. The puck had just enough gas to get over the goal line.
"I felt like, system wise, we weren't as sharp tonight," Yeo said. "That's what happens when you get into a real game and that's why it was so important that we did this tonight.
"I thought we were decent at times, but clearly not where we want to be for Saturday night."
Wednesday's unique format allowed for the teams to also play a five minute overtime despite the score.
With the clock running down, Red's Pierre-Marc Bouchard collected a pass from Dany Heatley in the high slot, slithered through traffic and beat Backstrom with a high backhander.
The teams also practiced the shootout where team Red also came out on top, thanks to goals by Parise and Spurgeon.
Perhaps most importantly, the Wild came out of the scrimmage healthy. Defenseman Tom Gilbert left the game late in the first period after "tweaking" his groin and did not return. Yeo said after the game his absence was purely precautionary and Gilbert would have returned had it been a regular season game.
Minnesota will now spend the next 48 hours preparing for Saturday night's regular season opener against Colorado at Xcel Energy Center, capping off a full day of action on Hockey Day Minnesota. The Wild and Avalanche drop the puck on the season at 8 p.m.