Thursday Practice Update: Richards on Falk, Scandella

Happy Thursday, everyone. Hope you’ve got some big plans tonight to celebrate the birthday of Mr. Stache himself, Cal Clutterbuck. More on that in a bit.

I made a quick stop at practice this morning. On ice, it was drills as usual with the same injured Wild players still missing from action. Off-ice, much of the talk was about the big Wild news of the day, defenseman Justin Falk being assigned to Houston. With Brent Burns returning from his two-game suspension, you knew the Wild was going to make a move to send down one of its eight blueliners, but perhaps it was a little surprising that the move was made this quickly or that the defenseman was in fact Falk.

Falk’s played in all but one game this season, continuously earning praise for his poised play. But as Head Coach Todd Richards said after practice today, Falk’s game “has been slipping a little bit.” Richards quickly added, “It doesn’t mean he was bad, it just means we don’t want our young players sitting around…We’ll get him down and he can play some games and log some big minutes down there and when the opportunity arises again, when the door opens, I’m sure he’ll jump and be good at the opportunity.”

When asked why Falk was chosen over other defenseman, Richards said the following: “[Clayton] Stoner has a little bit different element than Falk does, with the toughness and the grit, so sometimes that leads into the decisions, too.” He added, “It’s circumstances right now. We have eight guys and Scandella’s come up and done a really good job.”

“This is what you want in an organization,” said Richards. “You want young guys pushing for ice time here…to me, that’s what drives teams is that competition for ice times. It’s a healthy competition.”

Richards went on to talk about the three solid games Scandella has had with the expected “surge of adrenaline and excitement” that comes with your NHL debut and making sure his play doesn’t start to drop off. He recalled Claude Noel always saying, “Players are good enough to get here – are they good enough to stay here?”

Richards also noted that the 20-year-old Scandella will have to control his emotions during tomorrow’s game in Detroit. “I’m sure he’s watching [Nicklas] Lidstrom, as a kid, play. And you’re going to be out on the same ice as him. You might be lining up next to him on a faceoff. So, that’s where the shock and the awe comes in a little bit. And you’ve got to get over that.”

After yesterday’s performance, Richards is looking for the whole team to have better control against the Red Wings “in emotion and play.” Richards talked about the Wild’s tendency to have a period of great play, followed by a period of low-caliber hockey, saying, “it can’t be the extremes.”

As for this weekend’s goaltending lineup, Richards said Jose Theodore will start in net against Detroit. He added that for the Rangers contest, “We’ll wait and we’ll see on Saturday.”

Finally, as I mentioned earlier, it’s Cal Clutterbuck’s 23rd birthday today. There wasn’t any confetti or cake around his locker stall this morning, but apparently ClutterStache is showering him with gifts throughout the day.

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