With a rare four day break between games, the Minnesota Wild returned to practice on Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center after a day off on Tuesday.
With head coach Jacques Lemaire surveying the action from the stands, the club was split into two teams for a day of scrimmaging 4-on-4, and 3-on-3. The day provided a chance to let the players bust their tails to use up the energy, since most of it has been spent on 21 games in 41 days. What transpired on Wednesday was one of the most spirited practices of the year, even featuring some tempers flaring from Wes Walz and Marian Gaborik.
"The break is good for the guys to get some rest and some time to work on things in an intense practice. Sometimes too intense," laughed Wild head coach Jacques Lemaire. "Practice is only good when you need to work on things. Right now, I think we’re okay everywhere. We just need to get a little better everywhere. We need one more five-on-five goal. Two less penalties."
After Saturday’s game against Calgary, the Wild won’t have two consecutive days off until February 5 and 6. It will be the only extended break before the Olympic break begins on February 13.
Hot and Bothered
Some fireworks hit the Minnesota Wild practice on Wednesday morning. During the team scrimmage, the intensity hit a fever pitch when Wes Walz of the Red Team was along the boards against Marian Gaborik of the Green Team. Somehow, Gaborik’s elbow got up and gave Walz a substantial knock. Walz didn’t appreciate it, dropped the gloves and even took a swing at the young Slovak.
“It was nothing, nothing to even talk about,” explained Walz. “He just elbowed me in the head. I know Gabby well enough, and don’t even know if he knows he did it. But it doesn’t matter. He’s just lucky it was me and not Boogey, (Wild 6’7” enforcer Derek Boogaard)."
The situation was a little uncomfortable as the two skated away from each other, until Willie Mitchell shouted out, "That’s some intensity!" followed by assistant coach Mario Tremblay yelling, "That’s hockey!" drawing laughter from the entire team.
Asked if the two made amends, Walz scoffed at needing to make up with a guy he’s been teammates with since 2000.
“He knows I love him, I don’t have to say a word to him. It’s just one of those things that happen, that’s it, it’s over.”
From Gaborik’s standpoint, he saw the whole deal as pretty innocent.
“Obviously I was surprised. He snapped right away. It’s all good. He’s an impulsive guy, always. He got (ticked) but obviously I wasn’t trying to hurt him or anything but he took it too seriously I guess.”
As for Walz, he says things like this happen and now it’s in the rearview mirror.
“I’m telling you, it’s nothing. We’re all brothers in here and it happens during the year. It happens every year. You guys (the media) aren’t around on the road and we don’t talk about it. Because we’re at home we talk about it. It’s no big deal, trust me.”
Pierre-Marc Bouchard was at full speed for the Wild’s scrimmage on Wednesday. Bouchard had not practiced with the team since sustaining a neck injury in a 4-2 loss to Colorado last Thursday. Bouchard missed two games, but is expected back in the lineup for Saturday’s clash with the Calgary Flames.