Krissy Wendell skated out onto the Xcel Energy Center ice on Friday for the Wild's practice to her own personal cheering section.
The former Olympian and Gophers women's hockey legend coaches the Woodbury 10U girls' team, which her daughter Emily plays on, and the squad lined up along the glass across from the benches in support.
"That I had no idea about," Wendell said of the surprise. "That's why we do it, right? We do it for the young kids and the exposure that it gives to women's hockey and the growth of the sport. At the end of the day, that's what we're trying to do. We're just trying to grow the sport. It's wonderful that the Wild are so supportive with what they do. Obviously, I'm a little biased. I have three daughters that are playing. It's wonderful to see the support."
Wendell skated with the NHL team as part of the second annual Minnesota Wild Girls Hockey Weekend. She said she had a lot of fun despite this being her first real practice in 10 years. And while she had kind of forgotten how big NHL players were until she was right next to them on the ice, the whole team was very "welcoming."
Wendell said she was a little hesitant at first to accept the invite, even quizzing former teammate Natalie Darwitz about it, as she skated with the Wild last year. But Wendell eventually realized how important this would be to girls like her daughters, who are ages 5, 7 and 9. Her husband is former Gophers star and former NHL player Johnny Pohl.
"This is what it's about. It's about young girls being able to see a girl out there skating and knowing they can do anything," Wendell said. "At the end of the day, we're all hockey players, and we have a passion for the sport."
Stalock on lock
With goaltender Devan Dubnyk out because of a lower-body injury, Alex Stalock stepped in and grabbed the shutout Thursday against Toronto. He's now facing the Edmonton Oilers and Connor McDavid on Saturday and likely the rival Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.
But coach Bruce Boudreau said other than the Nov. 27 game against Winnipeg in which Stalock gave up seven goals, the goalie has given the Wild a chance to win every time he's in net.
"He's an NHL goalie through and through," Boudreau said. "If we look back and see how many games he played last year, I think it was 50, 60 games in Iowa, and he was going night after night after night, and he did a great job for them. So I anticipate him doing a great job for us."
The Wild has been on a roll despite missing such key figures as Zach Parise, Jared Spurgeon and Dubnyk to injury.
"There's a lot of good character in that room, and they want to win, and it's a tough thing to do in this league," Boudreau said. "Everybody seems to step up when it's their turn to step up, and I think, unlike maybe the last couple years, there's been really good depth in Iowa. So when we've looked to have to get a defenseman or two, we've been able to get it. When we've had to get a forward or two, we've been able to get it, and they fit right in, and they play well for us."
Will Spurgeon play?
Boudreau was a bit like that elementary school teacher trying to teach students about the difference between "can" and "may" when it came to Spurgeon's Saturday status.
"Oh, he can play," Boudreau said, before following up with an "I don't know" when asked more specifically.
In the end, Boudreau settled on the tried-and-true "game-time decision" phrase.
"He's a great player. We all know how good he is," Boudreau said of the defenseman, who has missed eight games because of a groin strain. "You feel more comfortable when he's in the lineup."