Good afternoon from the Twin Cities. Late blog for a morning scrimmage, I know, but I was distracted by the Dolphins-Vikings game. Twice the Dolphins coughed up the football immediately after Brett Favre interceptions, and alas, the Vikes still couldn't pull it out.
Purple is 0-2. When's Donovan McNabb available again?
Speaking of the Dolphins, I showed off downtown Minneapolis to the Phins media contingent last night. Fun, fun reunion with some old pals, reminding me how lucky I've been to work in two great sports markets with great colleagues at great papers. Tonight will be another reunion. For 10 years, I covered the Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel with colleagues Brian Biggane from the Palm Beach Post and David J. Neal from the Miami Herald.
We had went toe to toe competitively for a long, long time, yet we managed to put business aside and stay friends. They now cover the Dolphins, so we're doing dinner with the old agent of original Panthers captain Brian Skrudland. Should be a lot of laughs.
Enough about me, but last night put me in a nostalgic mood.
News of the day:
-- Pierre-Marc Bouchard got the go-ahead from a Denver doctor to ramp up the intensity in skates and the fitness room. He skated before today's practices with assistants Dave Barr and Darby Hendrickson and the goal now is to get into game shape. His head felt fine afterward. His legs and lungs were a bit heavy though.
Right now, he'll skate for a few days with the coaches before practice. The next step will be to join the team in practices, then start taking some contact.
There's no timetable as to a return, but Bouchard said his goal is still to be ready by the start of the season.
"He's excited. We're excited," coach Todd Richards said.
More on this in the paper.
-- Amazingly, with so much going on in town Sunday, 2,500 Wild fans made their way down to the X for this morning's scrimmage. I predicted a white rout, and rout they did -- 5-1 over the green team.
Nick Schultz got things started 13 seconds in off a pass from Twins season-ticket package partner Andrew Brunette. They must have spent the summer diagramming the play from Target Field. It worked to perfection.
Robbie Earl tied it for green from Clayton Stoner, but that would be all she wrote for the greenies.
Jon DiSalvatore from Carson McMillan and Brent Burns; Brunette from Antti Miettinen and Mikko Koivu; Burns from Koivu (great goal) and McMillan from Petr Kalus. Josh Harding got the win, playing the first half for white.
In reaction to Bouchard hand-picking Burns for his eventual first contact in training camp, there'll be a funny quote from 'ol Burnzie in tomorrow's paper, too.
-- I always say to people, Schultz reminds me a lot of Rob Niedermayer, whom I covered for awhile in Florida. As nice as can be, as mild-mannered as there is, but for some reason, there's something about these guys in scrimmages that always ticks the absolute you know what out of opposing "teammates."
For the last few years, Schultz has gone head-to-head with Petr Kalus, but they're now teammates in training camp, so Kalus is taking out his normal Schultz aggression on Nate Prosser, who by the way is having none of it. Prosser stood up to the intense Czech in both the last two days, which impressed me bigtime.
Today, Schultz got Eric Nystrom and Brad Staubitz to focus much of their energy on him after Schultz checked Nystrom, who did much of his own hard checking today on opponents, too. Nystrom and Staubitz went after Schultz a couple times, and later, Schultz became incensed when Guillaume Latendresse took a run at him a few seconds after he gave up the puck. But afterward, Schultz put it all behind him and said it was just competitive people being competitive. So did the other two, too.
-- The players got more and more crabbier as the scrimmage went on. Staubitz, taking exception to a hard hit from roster hopeful Justin Falk, dropped the gloves with the big defenseman. Remember, Staubitz, acquired for a draft pick from San Jose on the day of the NHL Awards ceremony (I remember because I was in Vegas), has had 20 fights in 82 NHL games.
Staubitz is a tough, good skating cookie, and he's only played forward for two years after spending his entire junior and minor-league career at defense. The one great strength of the Wild this year should be those third and fourth lines with good skating, hard-working guys like Nystrom, Staubitz, Kyle Brodziak, Cal Clutterbuck, John Madden and as of now Chuck Kobasew.
I'll write more about Staubitz and Nystrom in Monday's paper. Incidentally, I'm digging the new room. Lots of good quotes in there, including the four new guys -- Matt Cullen, John Madden, Nystrom and today, I learned, Staubitz.
-- I think Falk's got a shot to crack the roster. Marco Scandella, after two days, looks to me like he'll need some time developing in the minors with Darryl Sydor. Like Tyler Cuma last year against Rick Nash in Columbus, Scandella's head was spinning trying to deal with Koivu, Brunette and Miettinen today.
Scandella not only was suspended last year in juniors, but he then got a appendicitis. So he's missed some hockey, and because he doesn't need waivers, I bet he goes down for some development with Cuma as long as the Wild remains healthy on the back end. So, Clayton Stoner's got No. 6. No. 7 to me will be either Falk, Prosser, who looks good and even though he's inexperienced at the NHL level, remember, he's 24, or Drew Bagnall.
And since the Wild will at least take eight D to Finland, maybe two of those three stick until the Wild at least returns to the States. I spent today really watching the young D. I'll spend tomorrow or Tuesday really looking at the young forwards vying for spots.
-- Koivu, Brunette and Miettinen line hasn't lost chemistry since April, and the Cullen, Latendresse, Marty Havlat looked very promising today. I think coach Todd Richards should just leave this line assembled for awhile to let the chemistry transpire.
-- It's taken one scrimmage for Brett Bulmer to show he's a pain in the butt to play against. The 2010 second-round pick might be Kristian Huselius skinny, but the guy's got guts and got into a chirping match with Cal Clutterbuck after one collision, which was undeniably rated NC-17. Very good sign for the youngster that will soon return to his junior team, Kelowna. Remember, Bulmer was the only 2010 top draft pick that was in Traverse City. No Granlund, Larsson or Zucker. Heck, no Haula, and the Wild still won the title, which is a good sign for the future. It seems at the very least the Wild's filling what was a barren cupboard of young talent.
-- Marek Zidlicky missed his second day today with a strained hammy, which allowed tryout Colton Jobke to play. Good opportunity, and he held his own and showed he's a very smart defenseman. At 18, he'll soon return to Kelowna also, but this is a free look at the undrafted free agent. Technically, the Wild can sign any of these tryout kids, from Jobke to Josh Caron to Brandon Buck to Jared Spurgeon, and they wouldn't count toward the Wild's 50-man reserve list. Their contracts would slide. All you'd have to pay is their signing bonus, and then if you like them, you don't have to waste a draft pick on them next June. For a team trying to add more and more young talent, I bet this is very much in the cards for some of these kids.
OK, I should write for the paper. Richards wasn't overly in love with today's scrimmage, which he felt lacked structure. He was considering scrapping tomorrow's scrimmage and practicing instead. We'll see. Talk to you Monday.