After playing Sunday night, Mike Yeo gave the St. Louis Blues the day off and will get back at it Tuesday before flying to Minnesota for Wednesday night’s Game 1.
The Wild on the other hand had Sunday off, so players hit the ice today for a hard battling practice.
“I liked the enthusiasm,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I thought they were very excited to be in the playoffs, and I think they’re ready to go.”
Boudreau said it was the first opportunity in weeks to have an intense practice like that because the Wild always had a game the next day. No team in the NHL played more games or back-to-backs since the trade deadline than the Wild.
“This is my favorite time of the year,” said Nino Niederreiter, who scored a career-high 25 goals. “We play 82 games, and right from the beginning of the year, you’re always thinking about playoffs and you want to be there already. Now the time’s finally here, and everybody’s super excited about it.
“You could see in practice everybody was excited. Now we’ll [Tuesday] have a good practice and Game 1’s already here. We’re all pumped about it and can’t wait to get started.”
We got an early glimpse at the lines Boudreau may be thinking for Game 1.
Schroeder and White the extras, it appears.
That’s as deep a forward group as the Wild’s ever had, and certainly the most well-balanced for the top scoring team by a wide margin in the west.
Haula makes sense on the Koivu line if Boudreau plans to try to match them against Vladimir Tarasenko.
“You know what? I’m hoping what it does for me is balance out all three lines,” the coach said. “I think all three lines can check that line or should be able to, so I’m not as worried about the matchups when you have three lines that can go like that. If we were on the road, it might be a little different. But I think with Haula, getting back to the original question, he’s a straight-line skater, his whole role has always been third-line checker. So he should be able to know that, and he’s a great skater, so all those things should add up pretty good.”
Blue line is
Victor Bartley, back up from rehabbing in Iowa, and Nate Prosser are the extras.
So, looks like Eriksson Ek and Folin will make their playoff debuts.
Here’s Boudreau on some other subjects:
Is Dubnyk back? “I’ll tell you next week. But I mean, he played better. I think it’s a lot of guys. Mentally, at the end of the year, it’s draining. I think playoffs revitalize everybody. So it should be good.”
Is he worried about Dubnyk? “I would think that would be something, just like every parent worries about his kid when he plays in any important situation. Yeah, we always worry about the goalie, but I’ve got all the confidence in the world in Dubie, and that’s where the worry stops. I think he’s going to be great.”
On the odd schedule with two two-day breaks and one game in five days at one point: “It’s the same for both teams. Obviously I don’t think it’s a perfect world situation, playing at 8:30s and stuff like that. But, hey, we’re in the playoffs so we could play at midnight. We don’t care. And you’re playing anywhere, I think the guys are excited to play. I think that’s the main thing.”
On Tarasenko: “Well, he’s a gifted player. And he’s definitely going to be on the radar of a guy to watch. But the one thing I find about this team is they’re four lines deep. They remind me of the Bruins that won the 2011 Cup. Their fourth line plays as much as their third line, and they can all score. They’re six D deep. It’s going to be a real challenge for us.”
On the decision to come home between Games 3 and 4: “A lot of down time I think with an afternoon game. If it was an 8:30 game on Sunday night, I think it might be a different story. But 2 o’clock game and not playing til Wednesday, I think the guys would A) like to be in their own confines, their own bed and everything and B) if there’s things we have to work on that aren’t going right in the first three games, we’ll do it without anybody seeing us.”
On home ice: “I've done it every year so I don't feel pressure. It is what it is. I always think the visiting team has the advantage because usually the home team is worry about tickets, worrying about everything else, and we've got to try to get all the players to just focus on the game and not worry about things that are happening around them.
On finally the playoffs starting: “It's good. I think guys are tired of focusing on the end of the season when you're playing the Colorados and the Arizonas and such. I think they're looking forward to the challenge.”
On if he figured out how San Jose stopped Tarasenko last year: “I think a lot of that had to do with the third round and him being fatigued coming through a seven game series with Chicago -- a tough series with Chicago -- more than it had anything to do with San Jose really shutting him down. Because there are certain players in this league that if they're on the top of their game and they get the opportunities then it's hard to shut them down.”
More on home ice: “We certainly would love to play in front of our home fans. They’re loud and boisterous and when they get into it, they really lift us. I’d much rather be doing that than playing in the opposite situation where they’re doing the same thing for St. Louis or any other team you play on the road. Other than that, it’s playing at home, sleeping in your own bed, not having to hang out in hotels all day. I think you have your own regimen you do the day of the game. That’s worth fighting for.”
That’s it for now.