Good afternoon high above the Xcel Energy Center ice, where I'm home sweet home:
My press box seat
Good first day of Wild training camp, where players began to learn pieces of the new system, especially the forecheck and defensive-zone coverage. On Sunday, they'll do more d-zone and the neutral zone.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard did not practice today because of a tweaked hamstring. We'll find out Sunday if he hits the ice. Goalie Niklas Backstrom practiced today but didn't scrimmage because of a sore knee. He says it's minor.
A couple thousand Wild fans showed up for today's scrimmage and didn't even get to see a lousy goal. Goalies Josh Harding, Dennis Endras, Matt Hackett and Darcy Kuemper refused to even throw the fans a bone and give up a charity goal. Shutout. There was plenty of play in the offensive zone and some big saves, but the pace was fast and the hits were hard, which usually leads to low-scoring scrimmages early in camp because skaters aren't used to executing at such a high pace.
So not a shock, although one goal would have been nice.
The first line of Devin Setoguchi, Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley showed signs. One shift in the first half, Heatley stole a puck at the doorstep, but as he tried to cut left to open up Endras, the puck slid off his stick. Midway through the first half, Setoguchi made a great setup for Koivu, but Endras robbed the captain. Late in the first half, Setoguchi cut into the offensive zone and fed Koivu. Setoguchi cut to the net and didn't expect Koivu to pass the puck right back.
This is where the chemistry will have to be learned. Koivu is not like your prototypical Thornton-like, Damphousse-like center that holds the puck and holds the puck to draw defenders to him. Koivu is all about quick passes and give-and-go's, and Heatley and Setoguchi will learn that.
Couple players who stood out to moi:
Colton Gillies picked up right where he left off in the Houston Aeros and is showing he's taking nothing for granted with his one-way deal. He was fast, assertive, physical on the forecheck and looked very good on a line with Eric Nystrom and Brad Staubitz.
Casey Wellman looked fast and made plays. Mike Lundin looked real good on the back end, as did tryout defenseman Jordan Hendry, who is coming off a torn ACL with the Blackhawks. Matt Cullen looked fast, and Guillaume Latendresse looked like a force and bull down low.
And Harding, who didn't play a game last season after tearing his ACL in his exhibition debut, looked seamless. He could get the nod Tuesday in Edmonton because of Backstrom's knee injury. That may take a little drama away from Thursday, when Harding originally was supposed to start in St. Louis -- the site of his devastating injury 12 months ago.
That injury ultimately led to the Wild signing Jose Theodore on Oct. 1.
Harding is wearing a brace on that knee and said it's holding strong.
It's always interesting, these first three days of camp, because the coaches are only allowed to keep the NHL players three hours.
That's got to be hard for a new coach who's trying to implement everything from new systems to new ways of saying things. He's also trying to evaluate new players.