On the eve of Opening Night, the Minnesota Wild returned from its team-bonding trip to Duluth and skated at Xcel Energy Center.
The purpose of the trip was to bring the club closer. The Wild stayed in Larsmont on the North Shore of Lake Superior. The team played yard games, went golfing, had team cookouts and sat by bonfires on night (no word on whether or not they sang Kumbaya by the fire). But Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said that the trip was a success and the team was able to hit the reset button before the start of the regular season. WildTV caught up with Keith Ballard, Justin Fonatine and Zenon Konopka about the trip north and the video will be posted later today.
The excursion was special for Fontaine, who attend the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Yesterday, the Wild skated at Amsoil Arena, the Bulldogs’ home rink, and had quite a turnout from State of Hockey fans in the area.
Back on the ice in Saint Paul today, the big question is on tomorrow’s Opening Night lineup when the Wild hosts the Los Angeles Kings at 7 p.m.
Here’s what the lines looked like:
Pominville – Koivu – Parise
Niederreiter – Coyle – Heatley
Granlund – Brodziak – Cooke
Fontaine – Konopka – Mitchell
With Mike Rupp out with a lower-body injury, it looks like these will be the lines heading into Opening Night against the Kings.
While the forwards look like locks, with the exception of some possible line shuffling, the blue line is still up in the air. Today, Mathew Dumba was skating with the veteran Ballard. Yeo said that he likes pairing Dumba with Ballard because the former Gopher is the type of player who is very vocal and will talk to the rookie after shifts and between drills. However, after practice Yeo said that there is no guarantee that Dumba will make his National Hockey League debut tomorrow night. The 19-year-old is eligible to skate in up to nine regular season games before the club has to decide whether or not to return him to junior.
While the D-pairings can chance tomorrow, here’s what the other three looked like today:
Suter – Brodin
Spurgeon – Scandella
Stoner – Prosser
While Minnesota doesn’t open the season until tomorrow, three games kicked off the 2013-14 season last night. Of course, the Wild’s bench boss kept a close eye on all three. The biggest takeaway from yesterday’s games was the amount of goals scored.
“You could tell it’s not exhibition, it’s at a different level,” Yeo said. "But it’s not January, February hockey.
“It’s entertaining hockey, let’s put it that way because there are mistakes on both sides and when there are mistakes there are scoring opportunities.”
While it is only opening night and the sample size is far to small to apply for any real data trends, the three contests averaged more than eight goals per game. We’ll see if the reduced goalie pads (Previously a goalie's leg pads could not go higher on his leg than 55 percent of the distance between the center of his knee and his pelvis. This season, the number will be 45 percent) will have a lasting impact or if games will regress in scoring once teams get into the meat of the schedule.
One player who hopes to take advantage of the shrunken pads is Charlie Coyle. The second-year forward won today’s post-practice shootout. He scored twice by making a few quick stickhandling moves before firing a couple of wicked wristers.
“He’s on the list,” Yeo cracked when asked if Coyle was making a statement about being selected in shootouts. “Not sure where, but he’s on the list.”
Speaking of lists, fans don’t need to get on the guest list to make it to the Wild’s Opening Night party tomorrow. The party is open to the public from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., and will feature live music by Five Man Advantage, food and drink featuring the Bud Light Ice Bar with happy hour prices, a Hockey Lodge retail booth, a KFAN 100.3 FM booth, NHL Alumni autographs, face painters and the University of Minnesota Drum Line.
As a reminder if you are coming to the game, the Ordway is undergoing significant construction. Due to this, you could experience congestion on Fifth Street and Washington Street. There are also a number of other road construction projects in Saint Paul, so please allow for extra time getting into the downtown area.