On the third day of informal ice sessions, two of the Wild’s marquee veterans joined the action.
Wild Captain Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley, Minnesota’s leading scorer (24-29=53) from last season, arrived in the State of Hockey yesterday and were at today’s practice. Although ‘official’ NHL training camps have yet to begin, today’s on-ice sessions had the distinct feel and intensity of camp. Each day since the Wild has been back on the ice has had more pace and intensity. With the always-focused Wild captain joining the ranks today, it’s no surprise the practice was ramped up another notch.
In the three-on-three, cross-ice scrimmage at the end of practice, Heatley was welcomed back to Xcel Energy Center with a hit from summertime-acquisition Ryan Suter. At the post-practice media scrum, Heatley was asked about the shot; he laughed and said it must’ve been payback from something that happened at Wisconsin. Suter joked that it was retaliation from last season, when he was playing in Nashville.
Heatley and Koivu were teamed with Zach Parise, a top line that Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo hinted at when Parise signed in the offseason. With any new line, the first thoughts are always aimed at chemistry. Obviously, it’s far too early to analyze the trio’s performance, but as a conscious hockey observer, the line moved the puck efficiently with a few tic-tac-toe, tap-in goals mixed in for good measure. However, when speaking to the media after practice Koivu was quick to dispel any ideas of instant chemistry. While the center might be wary of getting too excited about the today’s performance, we’re having trouble containing our enthusiasm for watching the trio in game action (if the Lighthouse was live blogging the practice, we would’ve used an exclamation point – for the first time ever – in describing a few two-on-one and three-on-two rushes).
With new line mates, especially ones who are highly skilled, sometimes playing too unselfishly and passing up good scoring opportunities can be the biggest concern for coaches. However, it’s unlikely that Yeo or the Wild will have to worry about Heatley or Parise, who led the NHL playoffs in shots on goal last season, passing up many chances in the slot.
Speaking of highly skilled, during the three-on-three scrimmage Granlund put on a puck-handling clinic in confined – bringing a smile to Yeo’s face. The kid can stickhandle around a defender in a phone booth.
For a perspective on the blue line, WildTV caught up with defenseman Jared Spurgeon after practice. The defenseman has been paired with Suter every day. He talked about playing in Switzerland during the lockout, the cultural differences in Europe and helping his D-partner prepare for the Wild’s system.
Finally, the PONDcast had exclusive interviews with Heatley and veteran forward Matt Cullen.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard was absent from today’s skate, but no word on the reason for his absence.
Here are the forward trios from today’s skate. Make of them what you will:
Heatley – Koivu – Parise
Cullen – Granlund – Setoguchi
Mitchell – Brodziak – Clutterbuck
Kassian – Dowell – Powe – Veilleux
Defenseman were split into three pairs:
Spurgeon – Suter
Gilbert – Stoner
Prosser – Falk