On Friday, Jacques Lemaire noted how excited his players looked and how much energy they took onto the ice with them on the first day of Wild Training Camp presented by Wells Fargo. But like kids going to school, the excitement can wear off quickly. He hoped out loud that he wouldn’t see a letdown on Friday, and he didn’t.
“Exactly the same as yesterday,” Lemaire said. “That’s good.”
The staff introduced work on the power play and penalty kill while once again splitting into two teams on different sheets of ice.
Following that was another scrimmage, and another win for Team Green, which was led by goals from Wes Walz, Brian Rolston and Paul Albers.
Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom combined to shut out Team White.
The Fight To Back Up
What would Wild training camp be without questions about goaltending? The only difference is, the queries don’t relate to the starter, which will undoubtedly be Manny Fernandez, but Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding are both making strong cases to hang around with the big club.
Backstrom has yet to surrender a goal in scrimmage play, and Harding was perfect on Saturday. Both made repeated big stops throughout the game.
Wild goaltending coach Bob Mason says a decision will have to be made, but the familiarity that Harding has with the team, and with North American play, gives him the inside track.
“Josh came in last year and played pretty well and he’s played very well in the minor leagues, winning a lot of games,” said Mason. “Niklas hasn’t been in North America and the game is a little different and a little quicker. It’ll take a little time for him to figure it out.”
Mason did know much about Backstrom prior to the Wild signing him last June. In the short time in watching him, he assesses his strengths as his hands.
“He’s active with his hands and has a pretty good butterfly and balance. As far as puck handling is concerned, he might have a little more work to do there.”
Backstrom, a Finnish star in European and International play, had never played in North America before coming over a couple weeks early to skate with the team. He said there is truth to the assertion that there is an adjustment.
“At first it was a pretty big shock for me,” admitted Backstrom. “I’m 28 years old, and I’m learning new stuff. I’m really enjoying it now. It feels like I’m playing my game now.”
Much is made when a forward or defenseman comes to North America from Europe, and questions abound about the adjustment. For a goaltender, isn’t it just a matter of stopping the same size puck?
“You get more shots and the game is a lot faster because the game is so much closer to you all of the time.”
Though he’s a stranger in a strange land, Backstrom has had some help from fellow countrymen, Mikko Koivu and Petteri Nummelin.
“Mikko knows his way around and I can talk both of them about the game and the differences from here and back home. Mikko can help because he’s played both places.”
First Cuts Looming
Without naming names, Lemaire said the team will likely cut down the roster on Sunday, following the Wild’s noon practice at the Xcel Energy Center, which is open to the general public.
He figured the roster could be reduced to nearly 30 players.
“It depends on who deserves it and who has a chance to be around.”
Goal of the Day
Brian Rolston and Todd White aren’t giving Lemaire any reason to think about splitting them up so far. As they did Friday, the two hooked up again for Saturday’s highlight goal.
After Manny Fernandez stopped a hard slapper from Brent Burns, and then stuffed White on the rebound, Rolston swooped in on the loose puck and picked a corner just under the crossbar for Team Green’s second goal of the day.
Everyone south of Warroad and north of Albert Lea is eagerly waiting to see the wizardry that Pavol Demitra and Marian Gaborik can create together. More than Friday, their chemistry was highly evident, but it didn’t show up on the scrimmage score sheet.
The Slovakian Super Studs combined for numerous odd man rushes with obscene passes that were made to look easy. But scoring wasn’t so easy. Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom took turns making dazzling breakaway saves to keep them from their first hookup of the preseason.
Bye Bye Retro Pads
| Then and Now: Harding in last year’s retro pads (left) and the newbies this year (right). |
is looking a little more…well…modern on the ice this season. At least for the time being, Harding has ditched the old school brown pads and gloves that he wore last season with Houston and in his one month call up with the Wild.
He now sports more contemporary gold, green and white pads.
“It’s more about being comfortable and how you play on the ice. These pads help me move a lot quicker and it’s best for me. They have a different material and they slide easier over the ice.”
Harding won’t rule out the return to the oldies, but he’s wary about getting attention just for putting on a pair of unique pads.
“I don’t want to be the guy that gets attention even when he’s not doing much,” he added.
Though he’ll continually mix up his lines throughout the season, Lemaire didn’t last night. Team Green and Team White both rolled out the exact same lines and defensive combinations as yesterday.
For Team White: Pavol Demitra centered Marian Gaborik and another Slovakian, Peter Olvecky; Mikko Koivu centered Mark Parrish and Mattias Weinhandl; Wyatt Smith centered Roman Voloshenko and Branko Radivojevic; Jason Morgan centered Danny Irmen and Derek Boogaard.
Defensive pairings were: Kim Johnsson and Kurtis Foster, Erik Reitz and Martin Skoula and Mike Madill and A.J. Thelen.
Manny Fernandez played the duration in goal for Team White.
For Team Green: As expected, Todd White centered Brian Rolston and Pierre-Marc Bouchard; Wes Walz centered Stephane Veilleux and Pascal Dupuis, James Sheppard centered Benoit Pouliot and Cal Clutterbuck; Bryan Lundbohm centered Joey Tetarenko, Joel Ward and Ben Thomson.
Defensive pairings for the most part were: Keith Carney and Brent Burns, Nick Schultz and Petteri Nummelin, and Shawn Belle with Paul Albers and Peter Ratchuk.
Backstrom started in goal for Team White and split time with Harding.
Clayton Stoner (shoulder), Riley Emmerson (back) and Matt Foy (hernia surgery) missed their second day of camp. Other than that, everybody was back on the ice and out of the training room.