During the first line rush at Wild practice today, all that could be heard was skates carving into the ice at Xcel Energy Center and the puck banging from stick to stick. On the second rush, Matt Cullen put home a rebound and Head Coach Mike Yeo reminded his team that it needed to be more vocal on the ice.
After that prompt, practice took on a much more spirited atmosphere with players calling for passes and encouraging their teammates for their efforts. With the Wild heading to Colorado today, with a chance to avenge yesterday’s 2-0 home loss to the Avs, a solid practice was a needed boost before hitting the road.
The Wild has fallen behind early in its last few outings, and Yeo addressed the need to improve the team’s starts. Obviously, he’d like the Wild to not give up the first goal, but if the situation arises, he said the team has to respond.
“It’s something we have to overcome,” Yeo said. “We talked about that. We were much stronger earlier in the year at dealing with these types of things. Part of that is the confidence we had when we were rolling and had everybody in the lineup, we knew we that could overcome those things. And now the questions marks are there, in our own heads.
“When something like that happens, we have to respond better.”
Looking to respond from injuries will be Clayton Stoner and Nick Palmieri, who were back on the ice at practice today. Both will travel with the team to Colorado.
Stoner has been out since suffering a lower body injury in a fight with Cody McLeod of the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 4. Yeo said that Stoner is not ruled out for tomorrow night’s game, but that the team didn’t want to put him in a tough spot.
He has been skating with Strength and Conditioning Coach Kirk Olson, but today was his first time practicing with the team in more than a month.
“It’s fun to be back with the guys and feel like you’re part of the team again and on the path of recovery,” Stoner said.
Palmieri missed yesterday’s game against the Avs with an upper body injury. He was hurt on Friday against the Detroit Red Wings. Yeo said Palmieri was a possibility for tomorrow, but that he needs to play a “hard game” and they want to make sure he can play that way without being re-injured.
In other news, the Wild reassigned Chad Rau to Houston after the game yesterday.
As many of you know in the State of Hockey, the reason the Wild is on the road this week is because of the 2012 Minnesota High School State Boys’ Hockey Tournament, March 7-10 at Xcel Energy Center. Duluth East comes in as the number one ranked Class AA team (which has our Managing Editor Glen Andresen giddy), while Hermantown is the top ranked Class A team.