The Wild held a full practice this morning from the comfy confines of Xcel Energy Center before they boarded a flight to Chicago this afternoon for Game 2, tomorrow at 8:30 pm.
A good amount of the practice was spent on special teams and cycling the puck in the offensive zone. Charlie Coyle saw time on the second power-play unit. Working on the cycling was something the Wild wants to do against Chicago, a team that lives off puck possession, and Minnesota needs to develop an aggressive, physical fore-check for Game 2.
“Especially when you’re playing a team like the Chicago Blackhawks you need to be at the top of your game,” Matt Cullen said to WildTV. “We could be a little bit nastier, I agree. If we could be a bit more poised with the puck down low in the offensive end and make it hard on them, that’s our game.”
Missing from practice were Niklas Backstrom, Clayton Stoner, and Jason Pominville. Backstrom, who was injured during pregame warmups on Tuesday is expected to travel with the team. According to head coach Mike Yeo, Pominville will stay home and not travel to Chicago, despite still being listed as day-to-day. Stoner sustained an injury during Game 1 and was only able to play 8:18 minutes. Yeo said Stoner was also day-to-day and the team will see how he feels tomorrow. If he is unable to go, it looks like Justin Falk would take his spot alongside Tom Gilbert judging from the lines at practice.
Speaking of the defense, Yeo fielded questions about his top pairing of Ryan Suter and rookie Jonas Brodin. Suter logged 41:08 of ice time in Game 1, while Brodin played 34:20. Via the Wild PR team that is the sixth-most ice time by an NHL rookie in the playoffs since 2009 and none played more than that last playoffs.
Yeo has absolutely no worries about the heavy ice time for Suter and Brodin. For Brodin as a 19-year old to be playing such a major role for the Wild, Yeo said he has complete confidence in him.
Yeo watched Brodin this year while he was in Houston with the Aeros of the AHL and thought he would be a top-4 defenseman for the Wild this season. Then he suffered a broken clavicle after being hit by Taylor Hall and played one game before his call-up to the Wild. Brodin led rookie defensemen in minutes this season, averaging 23:12 of ice time and Yeo believes that the heavy minutes don’t affect him or Suter.
Along with Brodin, rookies Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker are expected to contribute to the Wild’s playoff run. Zucker was perhaps the Wild’s most dangerous player in the offensive zone in Game 1, while Coyle was part of a line that helped shut down Chicago’s No. 1 line of Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad.
“It’s huge part of their development,” Yeo said. “Getting that experience in their first year, and one thing that’s important for them to recognize is how hard it is to get here and appreciate it. All our young kids played a very good game.”
WildTV also caught up with Jared Spurgeon on his first playoff game here.
Rupp, who is one of two players on the team with a Stanley Cup, was proud of how the young Wild (Nine members are making their playoff debuts) handled their first game. He also spoke about his humorous incident of breaking his skate blade during Game 1 and his new-look beard.
“I think we can do a better job of making their D, if they’re going to go back and make a play and break out of the zone we got to leave a mark on them and make them feel it each time down the ice,” Rupp said. “I’ve played against some pretty good ‘D’ over the years in the playoffs. When you can hit in Game 1, 2, you can start to notice it in Game 5, 6, 7.”
Also make sure to check out today’s PONDcast by Kevin Falness featuring Parise, Brodziak, Scandella, Kuemper, Harding and Yeo.