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Rink Report: Wild Gets Back to Business Before Trip

After three-day All-Star break, Minnesota gears up to face Edmonton and Calgary back-to-back

by Devin Lowe / Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- Any seasoned NHLer will tell you that playing 82 games over the course of a season is a grind both physically and mentally. And after nine games in 15 days, sometimes a weekend of rest and relaxation can work wonders.

 

It certainly did for the Minnesota Wild, which returned to Xcel Energy Center Tuesday after the All-Star break. Shorter this year than in the past due to the newly installed bye week coming up for Minnesota in late February, the break allowed everyone but Ryan Suter, Devan Dubnyk and coach Bruce Boudreau the chance to press the reset button, whether with family in Minnesota like captain Mikko Koivu or back home in Saskatoon like Darcy Kuemper.

"This break, Christmas break and we've got the bye week coming up, it just gets you to step away from the rink for a couple days and come back fresh," Kuemper said. "The energy was great in practice today and you could tell that guys were excited to be back out there again."

After three days off, it was no surprise that Boudreau led the team through a skating-heavy session on Tuesday that targeted the power play, breakouts and more. A quick round of herbies had much of the Wild catching its breath by the end of practice.

"The first couple minutes are always a little weird, but as soon as you get warmed up and get the feeling, it's fine," Koivu said. "As soon as you get the first one out of the way, the second day is a lot easier already."

Video: Mikko Koivu Practice

The full practice -- excluding Dubnyk and Suter, who were granted the day off -- will be one just a handful the Wild are able to hold in February in the midst of a heavy game schedule.

Following two days off between games against Calgary and Vancouver, and then between Vancouver and Winnipeg, Minnesota will embark on an eight-game homestand, a stretch that includes four games in seven days between Feb. 12 and Feb. 18.

Boudreau said the break came at a good time for his club, but so will the next one.

"We're gonna say the same thing the next time we get a break, too, because then we play 20 in 33. It's a really compressed schedule, it's tough for everybody," Boudreau said. "Managing rest and work is going to be a really difficult thing. I think this month... we've got maybe three practices, so we've gotta make the best out of them."

Video: Bruce Boudreau Practice
 

On the road again

The Wild will spend the next eight days on the road on its second swing through Canada this season, facing Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Winnipeg. 

At the beginning of the first trip, Minnesota had compiled a record of 11-7-3 during its 2016-17 campaign. After losing in regulation to the Canucks on Nov. 29 and in a shootout against the Flames on Dec. 2, Minnesota didn't lose again until Dec. 31.

The trip was something of a turning point for the Wild, which hasn't suffered back-to-back losses either in regulation or extra time since falling to the Canucks and Flames, gathering a record of 21-3-1 in that frame. 

"It makes everybody think they're coming to the rink and can contribute," Boudreau said of his team's winning ways. "It's not like, 'Oh, this guy's gonna do it, he's our superstar.' Everybody comes to the rink and, rightfully so, thinks that they're a very important part of this team.

"We're a 20-man, 21-man team probably as much as any team in the League."

Minnesota hopes this upcoming trip will help it keep the good times rolling.

"It gave the team the chance to really bond and get together and spend a lot of days together on the road," Kuemper said of the first time around. "I think the guys are really looking forward to this trip."

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