At the second day of training camp, current and future Wild players hit the ice for a controlled scrimmage. The teams were divvied into White and Green practice jerseys and the teams went at it for two 25-minute halves.
Joining the festivities to even out the teams, the Houston Aeros had a short turn around time from last night’s 2-1 overtime loss against the Charlotte Checkers. The team hopped on a plane this morning and arrived in Minnesota for the game.
While the Aeros tried to shake off the jet lag, the Wild had a short practice session working on the power play, line rushes and controlled breakouts. The first PP unit consisted of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley up front, with Ryan Suter and Pierre-Marc Bouchard on the blue line. On the other unit, Tom Gilbert and Jared Spurgeon ran the point while Matt Cullen and Mikael Granlund were on the sideboards with Devin Setoguchi in the slot.
Once into the scrimmage, the limited power-play practice time didn’t have an adverse effect on the two units, as each scored with the man advantage. Skating in White, Granlund scored the first marker after receiving a beautiful cross-box pass from Bouchard. The rookie corralled the puck and fired a deceptive wrist shot past Niklas Backstrom, low to the glove side. Green evened the score on a one-timer from Heatley. Bouchard (yes, he skated on both units during the scrimmage, one of the reasons it was considered ‘controlled’) walked down the left side of the ice and dropped it to Heatley for the blast.
Today, Bouchard looked like, well, Bouchard, something the Wild and fans have missed over the past two seasons. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo talked about how dynamic of a player Bouchard is. He’s been skating on a line with Kyle Brodziak and Cal Clutterbuck in camp. Brodzaik spoke to WildTV about the offense his new linemate brings to the table.
Back to the power play, as it will be one of the biggest factors for teams in a 48-game schedule. Not to state the obvious, but teams with a solid PP will own a distinct advantage in this sprint of a season. Two things that win playoffs are goaltending and special teams, and with so much on the line, every game will have the feel of playoff hockey.
Yeo said that he’d prefer to call the units 1a and 1b, acknowledging that with Bouchard back, it was like adding five brand-new guys on the power play in the offseason. Throw in Parise, Suter Granlund and Gilbert, who joined the team via trade late in the season, and there’s good reason Yeo refers to them as dual number one units.
Forward Matt Kassian scored the game’s lone goal, banging home a deflected shot from Carson McMillan. At the end of last season, Kassian showed that he can use his big body for more than the rough stuff, and all the production the team can get out of its checking line is gravy.
Jake Dowell, who the Wild added in the offseason for depth, threw the hit of the scrimmage, welcoming Matt Dumba to his first NHL training camp. Dowell spoke to WildTV about playing physical, the shortened training camp and learning the Wild’s systems.
From the Aeros’ perspective, Yeo recognized that the Wild was asking a lot of its minor-league affiliate. Not only did they just arrive in the State of Hockey, the team is coming off a three-in-three weekend set. Yeo said the Aeros’ role was more for preparation than evaluation, but that the players should realize that this is a time to impress the team’s brass.
Here is what the teams looked like, but Yeo said they would be evaluated and mixed up for Wednesday’s Intra-Squad Scrimmage.
Parise – Koivu – Heatley
Mitchell – Konopka – Powe
Zucker – Larsson – Coyle
McMillan – McIntyre – Kassian
Gilbert – Stoner
Prosser – Falk
Dumba – Genoway
Cullen – Granlund – Setoguchi
Clutterbuck – Brodzik – Bouchard
Palmieri – Dowell – Veilleux
Phillips – Rau – Bulmer
Spurgeon – Suter
Cuma – Kampfer
Mara – Fredheim