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Team White Leaves Team Green With Envy

by Kelly Erickson / Minnesota Wild

Only a few days into camp, the top line of Jason Pominville, Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise is already fostering some chemistry.

In Sunday’s Green vs. White Scrimmage, both teams saw plenty of scoring chances, but it was Team White — home to that top line, which combined for two goals on the afternoon — that pulled away with a 3-2 win over Team Green.

“It’s nice to be able to play a whole game,” Pominville said. “I think we had some really good practices. We worked on some different things, but there’s nothing like getting out there and playing, especially playing a full game.”

Team White opened the game in commanding fashion, controlling the puck and keeping Green on its heels. As the period wore on, Team Green started to even the pressure, getting a couple close shots on net including a Charlie Coyle rip off the crossbar.

After 19 minutes of scoreless play, forward Jason Zucker netted a feed from linemate Mikael Grandlund. Granlund found Zucker inside the right circle for the 1-0 goal at the 18:59 mark of the first on Team Green netminder Josh Harding.

Zucker had a chance to score earlier in the period on breakaway minutes into the first. Harding held his own, stuffing the young winger.

A shift later, Team White made it 2-0 as Pominville sent a feed top shelf on Harding from Parise in the corner.

“We worked hard, we skated well and for the most part we played with the puck, which was important,” Pominville said of his line. “We didn’t really spend much time in our zone which led to us having the puck more and having more opportunities. But I think we did some good things whether it was off the rush or in the o-zone. We had some good second shifts.”

Pominville, who spent some time on a line with Parise and Koivu last season, has skated with them all camp and is already getting to know the nuances of what his linemates bring to the ice.

“They’re two really good players,” Pominville said. “Playing against Zach in the east quite a bit before he came here, you know what he brings. He’s really good around the net, he’s feisty, he’s on the puck all the time. You know he’s going to bring the effort you need every night. Mikko, honestly I think he’s one of the more underrated players in the league. He’s so solid in every area of the ice. I think he’s the whole package. It’s nice to play with those guys.”

Meanwhile, Team Green got one back in the second, showing a bit of flash of its own as Matt Cooke spun around at the right face off dot, sending a backhanded pass to Torrey Mitchell in the slot. Mitchell buried the puck on Team White goalie Niklas Backstrom just over halfway through the period.

The Wild’s top line capitalized on its chances once again in the third. Defenseman Matt Dumba picked up a rebound and sent it to Koivu in the slot, chipping it past Team Green goaltender Darcy Kuemper for the 3-1 score about nine minutes into the final period.

But Cooke kept Team Green within striking distance, firing a shot through traffic to cut into Team White’s lead 3-2, scoring on Johan Gustafsson.

The scrimmage marked the Wild’s fourth day of training camp with its first preseason game looming on Tuesday as it hosts the Columbus Bluejackets. Through the first three days of camp, head coach Mike Yeo has focused on implementing a more aggressive transition game focused on controlling the puck into the zone.

With time devoted to full-strength play, the Wild have yet to work on special teams play, meaning Sunday’s scrimmage saw one-minute power plays and no line variations on the man-advantage. While Team Green had four power plays to Team White’s two, neither team capitalized on its brief man-advantages.

There's certainly plenty of camp left, but Yeo was pleased with the developments he already saw unfolding on the ice Sunday.

"There were a lot of good things," Yeo said. "We're certainly not in midseason form right now. But seeing guys incorporate some of the things we're working on, seeing guys making plays and showing some good things out there — I thought it was good.

"Our veteran guys looked good and our young guys that we were hoping to see, they looked good."

While the intrasquad scrimmage gave the players a break from drills and white board sessions, the tilt drew in a crowd of 3,000 fans.

“It was nice to play in front of a crowd,” Pominville said. “It was nice to see them. It just shows you that we’re in a hockey market, a hockey city and it’s exciting to see that many people on a Sunday when there’s football going on.”

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