Nothing is easy for the Minnesota Wild right now, and tomorrow night’s game against the Buffalo Sabres could become more challenging some time after 5 p.m. EST. That is when the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety is scheduled to have a phone hearing with Wild defenseman Ryan Suter.
Last night in Pittsburgh, the blueliner caught Pens’ forward Steve Downie with an elbow during the second period. Downie left the game and didn’t return. Suter wasn’t assessed a penalty on the play.
“It was kind of a fluky thing, he brushed my arm, elbow, as he went by,” Suter said after the game. He said that it was incidental and after poking at the puck was going to grab his stick with both hands. “That’s not the type of player I am.”
Suter spoke with Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby and asked him to send word that he was sorry and hoped he was all right.
“I personally never want to see anyone get hurt, whether it’s our team or any other team,” Suter said.
Downie skated today in Pittsburgh according to the team’s website. He said that he didn’t see Suter’s elbow come up and only saw the replay. He declined to comment on the legality or intention of the hit.
“That’s for the league to do, not for me to do,” Downie said. “I’m not going sit here and talk about Suter. I know he apologized to me, which was nice of him. That’s all I have to say.”
Following practice, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo tried to demonstrate the play and accidentally elbowed a reporter’s recorder. “See how easy it is,” Yeo joked. The Wild’s bench boss hopes the League will look at Suter’s record as a player when deciding on disciplinary action.
Defenseman Justin Falk didn’t participate in today’s practice and will not be available tomorrow. The blueliner left last night’s contest with an upper-body injury.
If Suter is suspended, the will have to recall a defenseman from the team’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Iowa Wild. The likely candidates are either Matt Dumba or Stu Bickel.
Following a video meeting, the Wild went through a structured practice today, working on neutral and defensive zone responsibility. Yeo said the tactical parts of the team’s game have been “eroding” so they needed a good day of practice to work on the details of its game.
“There are so many things that are in our mind right now, and because of that, we’re doing things because we know we’re supposed to be doing them, but we’re not doing them with a purpose,” Yeo said. “There’s a big difference there.”
Wild forward Zach Parise said that a lot of the team’s struggles are coming because of the club’s mindset. The forward said the Wild should be a much tougher team to play against.
“We’re not willing to defend,” Parise said. “Things start going the wrong way and we cheat to the offensive side of things.”
No one is going to hand the team a win, including tomorrow’s opponent, the Sabres, who have lost eight straight. Yeo said that until the team starts to play the correct way, it will continue to be frustrated with the results.
“Unfortunately, this is Minnesota Wild hockey right now and we have to get it back to where it was,” Yeo said. “It’s about our play. Talent is one thing, but we’ve got to play together and we’ve got to play with purpose in every little detail in our game.
“It’s not about blaming anybody, it’s not about trying to find reasons why. This is where we’re at and what I’m focused on is how we’re going to get out of it.”