Skill Day; Becoming Wild Webby; Time Change

Today’s Minnesota Wild skate at Xcel Energy Center was split into two halves. The concentration on the first half was filled with flow drills, while the second half focused on skill development.

In the first half, players rushed up the ice, making quick passes before firing shots on goal. More of the timing drills the players need in the early part of the season.

The second half of practice was centered on skill development. Wild Color Analyst Mike Greenlay likened it to something you’d see in a peewee practice, well, maybe on a highly skilled peewee team.

The Wild split into four zones, with the defenseman taking the west end of the arena to work on D-to-D passing along the blue line and puck retrieval out of the corners.

Meanwhile, the forwards worked from three different stations with the focus on goal scoring. At station one, at the Zamboni entrance, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo laid a wooden bumper in the slot and the forwards had to break in, fake a shot, go around the object and fire a puck on goal—all while keeping the puck on their forehand. The drill simulated changing their angle when a defender steps into the shooting lane. At center ice, two nets were set against the boards, one on the penalty box side and the other on the side of the benches. On the penalty box side, the forwards blasted one-timers from different angles at a yawning net. On the bench side, another block was laid down in front of the net and a puck was banked off of it. The forward had to turn, find the puck and roof it over the board, simulating finding a rebound.

After practice, Yeo said that it was important to have repetition in those types of drills, so that when the players get into those situations it will be muscle memory. Yeo touched on a number of topics including the team’s defensive zone play.

Defenseman Clayton Stoner also talked about the significance of skill development and always tying to improve. He said that it helps to work on their hands, especially at the beginning of the season. He also said the skill practice was beneficial after three games in four night because it was more about puck handling and feel than burning out their legs.

WildTV also caught up with newcomer Torrey Mitchell. Although he’s played in the Wild’s first three games, he’s still under ‘newcomer’ status because during the interview he was getting pelted with ice shavings from Mikko Koivu’s skate blades.

Missing from the skate was blueliner Jared Spurgeon, after blocking a shot against the Dallas Stars yesterday. He missed the end of the first period, but returned and finished the game. Yeo said X-rays were negative and the defenseman was just using the day to rest. The Wild’s bench boss expects him to be ready for Friday, when the club travels to Detroit to take on the Red Wings.

The longer form version of “Becoming Wild” returned to FOX Sport North following last night’s game. It featured Tom Gilbert at his home in Madison, Wis. Wild.com will post the shows after they air on television. As an added bonus to the television show, WildTV will be airing a series of “Becoming Wild” webisodes throughout the season. The webisode was filmed on Wild Media Day and features tough guy, who also is a funny guy, Zenon Konopka. Trust me, you’re not going to want to miss this webby or we’ll send Konopka after you.

Finally, the second game on the upcoming road trip has a time change. Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Blues has been changed to a 7 p.m. CST start time. The game will be broadcast on NBC Sport Network, and the network has made the time change. Your Minnesota Wild is going prime time, baby.

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