Happy Friday, State of Hockey legion. After a holiday lunch with the staff down at Wild headquarters, I thought I’d throw up a late post about this morning’s Wild practice.
After a disappointing loss to the Ottawa Senators last night, I was interested to see the type of practice the Wild would have this morning at Xcel Energy Center. And while the practice itself was a typical skate, if not for a little short so the team could get to the airport and fly to Calgary, it was a moment before practice that stood out.
At the beginning of practice, players arced around the white board on the glass as they normally do when a coach is outlining a new drill or something he wants to focus on in the practice. The only difference this morning is that it wasn’t a drill they were talking about. In a rather calm conversation, Head Coach Todd Richards spoke before John Madden, Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette and other leaders on the team talked. Watching from the stands, it looked more like students responding to their teacher’s questions, than giving a speech to the team.
When he was asked about the talk during his scrum with the media, Richards was noticeably succinct saying they were “just having a friendly conversation.” When pressed for a little more on the subject, Richards would only say, “We just talked about last night’s game. That was really it. Just wanted to have their thoughts on last nights game.”
When I asked if the players that were talking during the gathering spoke up on their own or if he was asking them questions, Richards responded, “A couple guys spoke up on their own, otherwise, I asked questions to certain players.” And while he was completely amiable discussing the topic, it was pretty obvious that Richards wasn’t about to share any more details on the discussion.
The entire talk on the ice only lasted a few minutes, but it was a pretty unusual moment and something I haven’t witnessed at a practice before. Certainly, it had some meaning for this team as it tries to get back on the winning track.
As for the practice itself, the team worked on a variety of drills including breaking into the offensive zone, as well as PP and PK. Clutterbuck was the only player missing from the ice today. Richards said Clutter was “banged up” but his status for tomorrow night’s game in Calgary was uncertain because Richards hadn’t spoken with the training staff yet. But Clutterbuck did fly with the team to Calgary.
As for the rest of the lineup tomorrow night, Richards said he had not decided who would start in net tomorrow and would probably make the decision on the flight. Matt Cullen practiced and Richards said he is expected to return to the lineup tomorrow night. If both Cullen and Clutterbuck play, as Richards said, “We’ll have to make a decision of who’s in and who’s out.”
Practice featured some new lines, including Chuck Kobasew skating on line with Koivu and Brunette, along with Patrick O’Sullivan on the wing with Cullen and Antti Miettinen. Richards said, “We may go into the game tomorrow night with them.”
Finally, as the team gets ready for a home-and-home series with a tough division rival, Richards said the focus is not the rivalry with Calgary, but coming away with wins. “Right now, it really doesn’t matter who we’re playing, whether it’s division, non-division – two points is two points. And we have to get points in games, regardless of who we’re playing.”