ST. PAUL, Minn. -- For the first time since Team USA and Team Finland left Toronto with their World Cup hopes dashed, Wild players on those squads returned to the ice ready to begin a new chapter.
"The tournament, it didn't go as well as we planned, but being home for the last couple days… [I'm] really starting to get excited about joining these guys and get that going here," said Wild forward Zach Parise. "It was a good first day, and I think all of us that were gone for a while were really happy with that."
Both USA and Finland went winless in the World Cup of Hockey, which will enter its final, best-of-three round between Team Canada and Team Europe -- fellow Wild player Nino Niederreiter's squad -- Tuesday night.
Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, a staple on Team USA's blueline, was particularly impacted by the losses, mentioning that he tried to get the negative feelings left by Team USA's performance out of his head "as soon as possible."
"You go in there with such high expectations of yourself and of your team, and to come out and have that showing is extremely disappointing for us," Suter said. "We let a lot of people down, for sure."
With the World Cup behind them, Suter and his fellow World Cup participants will turn their attention to preparing for the NHL's regular season, which begins for Minnesota in just 17 days.
"I care about being here and getting focused, ready to have a good start," Suter said.
Monday's practice saw Parise and Suter as well as Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula don their Wild jerseys for a practice that emphasized pressure.
The pace was quick and each situation, whether a 2-on-1 or a zone breakout drill, mimicked the pressure a player might feel during a game.
"I wanted us to make sure we can play under pressure," head coach Bruce Boudreau said of the session. "Everything we did today, there was pressure against you. Forecheck, neutral zone, whatever. So when the pressure's on you … you have to move the puck fast. And that's what we wanted to do was move pucks quick."
It was a fitting way for players returning from the World Cup to be introduced to Boudreau's system and the not-so-subtle ways his style differs from other coaches. Boudreau has so far shied away from scrimmages, preferring to focus instead on small system details, time at the whiteboard and hands-on fixes.
And though practice resembled previous, systems-work sessions, Monday offered Boudreau his first chance to see where these five instrumental pieces of his lineup fit into the puzzle.
"You can see the skill and the speed on these guys, so it's always nice to have them back," Boudreau said.
The Wild plays its first preseason game Monday night against the Buffalo Sabres at Penn State's Pegula Ice Arena. The players who practiced will not play in the game, but will largely make up the roster for the Wild's preseason home matchup Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche.
Boudreau noted that the World Cup players will not play in Tuesday night's game, but that they could see game action later this week.