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Matt Cooke Introduced; Development Camp Day 3

Matt Cooke met the media here at Xcel Energy Center this afternoon. WildTV video will be posted shortly.

Cooke, who signed a three-year deal last Friday with the Wild said there were “five or six” teams that approached him as a free agent.

He said Minnesota was the best fit for him because of his previous relationship with Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher and Head Coach Mike Yeo, both of whom previously were with the Pittsburgh Penguins organization.

“I’m a guy that needs to win,” Cooke said. “I wanted to be in a situation primed to win and I believe the Wild are right on the cusp.”

The 34-year-old will wear No. 24 previously worn by the late Derek Boogaard. He reached out to Boogaard’s family via email to ask for permission to wear the number.

“The response I got [from the Boogaard’s] was overwhelming and appreciative,” Cooke said.

In terms of what he envisions his role to be with the Wild, Cooke said this, “I want to stabilize the third line, and play in a shutdown role.”

Cooke believes he will be a calming influence in the locker room, contribute on the penalty kill, and chip in offensively as well.

A player who has been suspended multiple times by the NHL for hits earlier in his career, Cooke has played in every game the past two seasons, while only committing 80 PIM.

Two years ago Cooke said he did 30-40 hours of breaking down video of his technique to try and change his physical approach and hitting style.

“I can play the rest of my career without a suspension, but there will still be naysayers,” said Cooke.

Today is Day 3 of the Wild Development Camp. We will have more updates after the afternoon skating sessions are completed. Until then listen to our PONDcast with Erik Haula and Tyler Graovac.

The defenseman skating session just ended. A lot of emphasis today was placed on passing. Players worked on passing as a tandem on the blue line and making the simple passes.

A couple of drills involved gathering the puck along the boards and firing a quick shot from the blue line. At the end of the session the nets were moved to the same zone along the boards to create a 4-on-4 tournament.

The forwards were on the second session of ice time this afternoon. They started out with some skating drills to warmup and then went into shooting.

All the drills have been working with the puck around the net. At first the forwards would receive the puck behind the net and have to go around to score.

Next they put a wood block in front of the net and fired shots off it. The objective was to seize the rebound off the block and shoot a wrist shot.

The next two drills tested their hand-eye coordination. The first exercise began with a player launching saucer passes to their partner in front of the net. The player would have to knock the puck out of the air and control it then fire a shot on goal.

After that players would skate figure eights around cones outside the net and try to tip in rebounds off wrist shots.

The forwards ended up practicing on handling a puck along the boards while a defender tried to play physical and steal the puck. The session ended with a 4-on-4 tournament.

A WildTV video from earlier today containing some interviews with the Minnesota skaters in camp can be viewed here.

Graovac Named CHL Sportsman of the Year

Wild prospect Tyler Graovac was honored at the Canadian Hockey League Awards ceremony when he was named the FRAM Sportsman of the Year. The 19-year old was named the OHL’s Most Sportsmanlike Player earlier this spring.

Graovac, who was traded from the Ottawa 67’s to the Belleville Bulls mid-season led the Bulls in scoring with 38 goals and 35 assists for 73 points in 60 games. His 18 penalty minutes was the lowest amount for any player among the OHL’s top-20 scorers.

The 19-year old signed an entry-level contract with the Wild on April 2, who selected him in the seventh round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

“I’d just like to take the opportunity to thank the CHL, the Ottawa 67’s, and the Belleville Bulls for the opportunity to develop my game,” Graovac said after accepting the award in Saskatoon on Friday. “This is a very prestigious award and I’m honored to receive it.”

Wild Players To Participate In HR Derby

For those attending Saturday’s Twins vs. Red Sox game be prepared for a little hockey flavor. Minnesota Wild players Zach Parise, Tom Gilbert, and Josh Harding will be trying their best to hit it out of the park.

The Wild players will be taking part in a celebrity home run contest along with the Minnesota Twins mascot, TC, prior to the game’s 6:10 PM start. Come early to see which member of the team can out slug TC.

Harding On NHL Live

Wild goaltender Josh Harding will be a guest on NHL Live today at 4:20 PM. NHL Live is the NHL Network’s daily pregame show that features analysis, guests and daily NHL news for fans. Harding was nominated as a finalist for the Masterton Award today, along with Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid.

The Masterton Trophy is given annually to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

For more on Harding’s story read his case for the Masterton Award here.

Harding To Start Game 3

Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo confirmed this morning that goaltender Josh Harding would start Game 3. Harding has started the previous two games of the series in place of the injured Niklas Backstrom, stopping 77-of-84 shots.

Level of Hatred

Yeo spoke about how the intensity of his team needs to come out in front of the home crowd.

“We got a bit of a lesson last game,” Yeo said. “The level of play rises [in the playoffs]. We’re going to be a desperate team today.”

“We have a lot of guys getting their first taste of playoff hockey, to be successful there has to be a level of hatred for the other team, there should be some hostility tonight,” Yeo continued.

Koivu

Yeo isn’t concerned with his captain Mikko Koivu prior to tonight’s game. Koivu was minus-3 in Game 2 and committed three penalties. All Yeo wants him to do is push the past two games behind him and go out to do what he does best.

Physical Play

Yeo was adamant on playing physical and not being pushed around by the Blackhawks on home ice.

“We haven’t been physical on key guys, we need to finish checks,” Yeo said. “Every time they touch the puck they need to know you’re coming.”

He ended by saying he wants his players to “invest in the series.”

Thursday Practice Updates

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.”

Injury Update

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.

Iron Men

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.

Playoff veteran Mike Rupp who is sporting a very intimidating playoff beard, talked about the attitude of the team to WildTV.

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.

Game 1 Draws Record Viewers

Game 1 Draws Record Viewers

The Wild’s first playoff game in five years drew a record number of viewers in the State of Hockey.
Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks was the highest-rated Wild telecast ever on FOX Sports North. The Wild’s opening game of Stanley Cup Playoffs in Chicago generated a 10.13 household rating in the Minneapolis – St. Paul DMA, according to Nielsen Media Research.
That tops the previous record of 7.65 set earlier this season on Opening Night, Saturday, January 19, 2013 vs. Colorado at Xcel Energy Center.
In the Minneapolis – St. Paul market, 17,280 households represent one rating point. That means more than 175,000 households tuned in for game one of the Minnesota Wild’s playoff series vs. Chicago.
FOX Sports North will televise Game 2 of the playoff series vs. the Blackhawks on Friday, May 3. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with a one-hour edition of Wild Live.