Hello, all. Perfect attendance at Friday's morning skate from the 22 guys on the active roster. Todd Richards is planning one lineup change for tonight's tilt against Anaheim: defenseman John Scott in, D Jaime Sifers out.
That leaves James Sheppard in street clothes again. Richards said Sheppard "tweaked'' his back in Wednesday's morning skate; he's healthy enough to play, but given the success of the current lineup, the coaches are reluctant to mess with it. Richards said he still thinks Sheppard has more progress to make as a player, and he said the coaches are trying to figure out how to bring that out.
The news on the three guys with head injuries continues to be bleak. Richards said he would be surprised if any of them are back by the end of the year. Brent Burns has had a minor setback that caused the staff to halt his workouts, just as happened earlier with Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Petr Sykora. "He's not feeling great,'' Richards said, "so you've got to put the brakes on and start all over again.'' Sykora will resume light workouts Monday.
Richards is a big NFL fan, and he's happy to see that league finally taking a serious look at head injuries and the lifetime toll they can exact on players. He's proud that the NHL had earlier become proactive as far as recognizing the danger of concussions and mandating long-term rest for injured players. That's a far cry from his playing days, as he illustrated in a scary story.
"I got hit one time at the end of the game, and I didn't remember where I sat in the locker room,'' he said. "I didn't remember when I came out of the shower where my clothes were. I had to follow guys around just to lead a trail of where I needed to go. We had a three-hour bus ride home. Even when I got off the bus and into my car, I couldn't remember how to drive home. I just drove. It was stupid. But back then, you got "dinged.'' You "got your bell rung.'' I just got dinged really good that night. Back then, these things were never discussed, that a head injury could affect you down the road. We didn't know. Now, we know how serious it can be.''
While advances in medical science have allowed us to better understand head injuries and how to treat them, Richards acknowledged that the psyche of hockey players hasn't adapted. Many guys still will shake off even a serious injury because they feel they need to be tough. They don't want to let teammates down or miss playing time. It might actually take more time to deal with that part of the equation, to convince players that their long-term health must be the top priority. Here's hoping that players are making some strides in learning to take good care of themselves.
Interesting storyline of the day: Andrew Ebbett, former Duck, facing his old team. He said he has great memories from last year, when he spent 48 games in Anaheim in his first extended stay in the NHL. The only other time he's played against former teammates was during his AHL days, facing Binghamton--his original AHL team--after he had moved on to Portland. "You get a little nervous, and charged up, too,'' he said. "You don't want to try to do too much.''
That's been the key to finding his way with the Wild. "The system the coaches are preaching, they want me to bring my speed and be strong down along the boards,'' he said. "Part of the experience of playing in the league last year was getting a little more mature and experienced. I know now what works in certain situations.''
That's it for now. Enjoy the game!