After a day off yesterday, the Minnesota Wild had a “work disguised as fun,” practice in Anaheim, as Head Coach Mike Yeo put it.
The Wild split into red and white and skated in a four-on-four scrimmage. Yeo said that sometimes the players don't realize how hard they are working when they're in a game like that. Even on a fun day, the players’ competitive nature took over and there even was some (good-natured) trash talk between the sides.
After a convincing white team win, the Wild had a good bag skate with an empty net competition. Shooting at a yawning cage at the other end of the ice, if the shooter missed, his line would have to skate. The makes received a boisterous cheer, while the misses a howling groan.
The afternoon session was a way to reset after an overtime loss a couple of nights ago in San Jose. The West Coast swing doesn’t get any easier for Minnesota, taking on the Ducks tomorrow night. Anaheim owns the National Hockey League’s best record (39-10-5: 83 pts.) and has taken the first two games of the season series against the Wild. Both were one-goal games with the Ducks winning in Minnesota in overtime on Oct. 5.
After the skate, Yeo said that the club again will go with the hot hand of Darcy Kuemper. Since being recalled from Iowa, the Wild’s American Hockey League affiliate, on Jan. 2, Kuemper is 5-2-1 with a 1.83 goals-against average and .941 save percentage. Tomorrow’s game will be the goaltender’s eighth-consecutive start.
The team’s bench boss also talked about the decision to insert forward Mike Rupp in the lineup last outing, saying he felt the team needed more size in the game, which the 6-foot-5, 235-pound wing provides. Yeo didn’t tip his hat about the lineup tomorrow. Both Jason Zucker and Stephane Veilleux are with the club and were healthy scratches against the Sharks.