Most NHL teams look at their schedule late in the preseason or early in the regular season and try to plan a “team bonding” trip. It didn’t take more than a cursory glance to see a five-day break between games for the Wild this week as the perfect opportunity.
So the Wild departed for Southern California after practice today for a couple days of team bonding before playing in Anaheim on Friday night.
The team will have a golf outing and off-ice workout Wednesday, before getting back on the ice Thursday. There will be a couple team dinners as well.
Wild head coach Mike Yeo told his players as they got on the ice today at Xcel Energy Center that they’d work hard because of not going on the ice tomorrow, and that was indeed the case. The Wild was on the ice for nearly 90 minutes, with a “dry scrape” in the middle followed by a lot of special teams work.
“You don’t want to get comfortable and lose the edge we had last week,” said Parise. “It’s early for (the break), but it’s a chance to get some rest and gear up for the rest of the season.”
While so many teams view this as a chance to build team bonds, defenseman Nate Prosser stressed this is a “tight knit group already,” with only a couple new players from last season, so this is a chance to get to know each other even better.
Yeo maintains the importance of keeping this team, and the media, at an even keel. “For us we are two games into the season, let’s not get too excited here,” Yeo reminded. “We can talk about our start more after four games than after two.”
Yeo doesn’t want anyone getting rusty, so he plans on inserting Justin Fontaine, Keith Ballard and Prosser into the lineup at some point this weekend. Fontaine spent today skating with Mikko Koivu and Thomas Vanek. Ballard was with Matt Dumba while Prosser joined Christian Folin on the blue line.
Fontaine, who spent last season in just about every lineup situation, missed most of the training camp due to injury. With Vanek and Koivu, it’s important to “take time and space away, cause turnovers and get to scoring areas.”
Yeo said the trio clicked early in training camp before Fontaine’s injury. “What we like is he’s a guy, whose whole life, he’s been in that role. His ability to play with top players and put up points. What I really like is how he thinks.”
Prosser had a whirlwind September and early October. After signing with the St. Louis Blues in the off-season, he was claimed off waivers by the Wild, the same week his Twin Cities house had gone on the market.
“It’s two tough teams and two tough buildings to play in,” Prosser said. “Anaheim is big and physical with a good offense. Same thing with L.A.”
Yeo said the team is “very conscious” in trying to get Backstrom in a game: “We’re going to make sure he’s ready.”
Richard Park joins front office
Richard Park, who scored both goals in Game 6 versus Colorado in 2003, including the OT winner that sent the series back to Denver, officially rejoined the Wild today as player development coach. He will spend a lot of time in Iowa with the i-Wild.
Park has done a lot of appearances for the Wild over the years, including Let’s Play Hockey during last season’s playoffs while visiting Minnesota from California.
Bickel Assigned to Iowa
Stu Bickel, who didn’t appear in the Wild’s first two games, cleared waivers and was assigned to the Iowa Wild today.