The Minnesota Wild is in the midst of a five-game road trip, but thus far, it’s held more road practices (three) than games (two). That will change with three games in four nights starting tomorrow.
It’s been a tough trip so far, with two losses and two injuries. But, one thing is certain, Wild players, new and old, are getting familiar with each other. During Sunday’s off day, a group of players took in the San Francisco 49ers game together, while others toured around San Fran.
On Monday night, the entire team ate dinner together at Mastro’s Steakhouse in Costa Mesa.
“I think it’s good to get to know the new guys,” said Wild center Mikko Koivu
. “You’re in the hotel all the time and you can’t go home. I think we’ll realize it even more when we get home, because when you’re on the road, everyone knows what’s going on with everyone else.”
Defenseman Brent Burns agreed, and said that despite the slow start, he’s glad the team is starting out the season with six of seven on the road.
“I’d rather get them out of the way. It’s a long year when you’re away from home all the time. It’s nice to get some out of the way at the start.”
On Tuesday, the Wild welcomed forwards Andy Hilbert and Nathan Smith into the fold. Both have a very good chance of jumping right into the fray tomorrow, as Todd Richards made it clear that he expects them to be ready to go, especially since he doesn’t expect Petr Sykora (groin) to be able to play the rest of the road trip.
The other bit of news coming out of practice was Richards deciding to split up long-time defensive partners, Nick Schultz and Kim Johnsson. He’s hoping a change can provide a spark for both veterans.
“I don’t think it’s the combinations, but sometimes you’ve got to split them up just to split them up,” explained Richards of his decision.
This shouldn’t be looked at as a desperation move. While the club has dealt with costly injuries, and costlier mistakes, Koivu says he sees good progress on his team.
“There’s still things we can improve,” he admitted. “But we’re working on those every day. Sometimes it’s things that the fans and media might not see, but as a player you feel that you are getting more familiar with the system and the linemates. It’s not the way we wanted it to go with the points so far, but there’s still a lot of things that we’re satisfied with. But, of course we want more. That’s obvious.”