At the start of today’s Minnesota Wild practice at the Scotiabank Saddledome, Wild Head Coach acknowledged that Zach Parise was named captain and Ryan Suter an alternate captain of the United States Olympic team. The club gave a rousing stick tap, hockey’s equivalent to a standing ovation.
Of course, the announcement that Parise would wear the ‘C’ and Suter the ‘A’ for the U.S. was made around noon, State of Hockey Time. Wild.com had the news and video of Parise talking about the honor. WildTV spoke with Suter after practice and that video will be posted online shortly.
“The fact that those guys wear a Minnesota Wild sweater, we’re all very proud,” Yeo said. “What you want from a leader, when he steps over the boards and everyone is watching him, you want them to say, 'Okay, that’s how I have to do it,' and that’s what you get from Zach.”
Since he was informed he would serve as captain on Tuesday, Parise has been hotter than a tanning bed in the Sahara Desert. In his last two games, Parise has three goals and four assists.
After the pleasantries, it was all business on the ice. Minnesota went through a short, yet, intense practice after yesterday’s 5-4 loss to the Colorado Avalanche.
During the team’s line rushes and defensive zone coverage, the forward units had a different look from last night. Well, with the exception of a third period group that was pretty successful. Parise, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville accounted for three goals and five assists as the club fell just short in a comeback attempt against Colorado. Obviously after that performance, the Granlund, Parise and Pominville line was intact today. We can expect them to be together again tomorrow as the team skates against the Calgary Flames to close out a four-game road trip.
“I would say there is a good chance of that,” Yeo said. “The way those guys went out and performed, they showed some chemistry. They did it the right way and were a threat every time they were on the ice.
“We’ll get them together and see if they can keep rolling.”
The only other three-man unit today (I’ll explain momentarily) was Charlie Coyle centering Jason Zucker and Dany Heatley. They had some success earlier in the month, but were split when Parise returned from Injured Reserve before playing the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 23. By the sounds and looks of it, they will be together tomorrow when the Wild faces the Calgary Flames.
“That’s something we’ll go back to," Yeo said. "When Zach came back in we knew there would be a trickle effect throughout the whole lineup. Let’s see if they can recapture that chemistry and get some results."
As for the other two forward lines, they rotated between four players. Kyle Brodziak was at center while Matt Cooke, Torrey Mitchell and Nino Niederreiter took turns rotating at wing. Erik Haula was between a mix of Justin Fontaine, Stephane Veilleux and Mike Rupp.
However, after practice Yeo was mum on tomorrow’s lineup. He also said that the team would take the goaltending decision into tomorrow. Against Colorado, Darcy Kuemper was pulled in favor of Niklas Backstrom, but Yeo said that it wasn’t an indictment on the way Kuemper was playing, rather a move to try and change the game’s momentum.
That subhead might’ve been a little misleading, because there isn’t much of a Jared Spurgeon update today. He practiced, looked like he was moving well and had some contact in the team’s defensive zone battle drills. Spurgeon wasn’t in a consistent pair and Yeo didn’t give any updates in regards to tomorrow’s contest, but said, “he’s got some strong battle” which is a good sign.
Hot in January
Apparently the Polar Vortex didn't have much of an effect on the Wild's hot play in January. Despite a disappointing loss last night to the Avalanche, the Wild still had its best January in franchise history. The Wild was 9-4-1 (setting a franchise mark for wins and points with 19) during the month and was without key players, including Parise, Spurgeon, Mikko Koivu and Josh Harding, for much of the time. That's a credit to the team's depth and players stepping up when they got the chance.