Fun practices, lawn games, bonding, a pig roast! It's all over as the Wild packed up its golf clubs and lake attire and returned to the Twin Cities this afternoon to gear up for Thursday's season opener at the X against the Los Angeles Kings.

"It’s time for sure," coach Mike Yeo said after the Wild practiced in front of a few thousands fans here today at AMSOIL Arena, which has a FIREPLACE overlooking the stands (I've already hired a contractor to install one in the wall behind press box seat 45 in the middle of the Wild press box at the X).

"This has been a great trip, but bottom line, we have to make sure we’re ready for Thursday now."

Today was a hard practice, lots of battles and tactical stuff. Tuesday will be more execution, running through routes, handling pucks and making sure players are up to speed for the opener.

As a reminder, I will host a live chat at 2 p.m. Thursday on, so please join and come armed with questions.

If you missed today's NHL preview coverage, please also go to for my Eastern Conference, Western Conference and playoff predictions OR purchase a Star Tribune. enlightened

Here are the articles:

Mikko Koivu shows his human side when talking about his newborn daughter and the coming season

The NHL is realigned and raring to go tonight with three games; Wild's ecstatic to be in the Central but would have to get through Chicago and St. Louis in the new divisional playoff format.

Here's a look at the NHL's offseason changes, from players changing teams to the coaching carousel to the playoff format.

Some highlights of today:

-- Fans were excited to see the Wild on the ice today and even gave the team a nice ovation after practice ended.

“We were all saying, we’ve never ever gotten applauded for a practice,” defenseman Ryan Suter said.

-- Yeo on the Duluth turnout (many kids) at practice on a Tuesday morning: “I didn’t know that today was a holiday. No school here today (laughing). I think it’s awesome. The turnout here, this trip has been great. That’s why we came back.”

-- Zenon Konopka’s got his first shiner of the hockey season and it wasn’t from a fight, since he didn’t get into any scraps in the preseason. Blindfolded, he apparently connected head-first with assistant coach Darryl Sydor in a lawn game or team-building thingamajig.

-- Injured Mike Rupp skated before the team the past few days and will start the season on injured reserve after offseason knee surgery. He says it’s getting stronger and he plans to skate with the team the next few days.

“I need to start doing different things that I can’t do by myself out there,” Rupp said. “I feel in my head it won’t be too long.”

-- Mikko Koivu joined the team after spending Sunday and Monday with his fiancée and newborn daughter. He looked good with Zach Parise and Jason Pominville.

-- Speaking of Pominville, he got a text after practice letting the former Buffalo Sabres captain know that Thomas Vanek is the new Sabres’ home captain and Steve Ott the new Sabres’ road captain.

Said Pominville: “I think it’s weird. They’ve done [the rotating thing] in the past. I don’t know if it’s their way of doing it. It just feels a little weird to have a couple guys. Usually you want that one guy.”

I got some funny tweets on Twitter from Wild fans saying this now cinches the fact the Wild signs Vanek next summer, since you know, the Wild seem to love themselves some former captains (Parise, Pominville).

-- Speaking of Pominville Part Deux: The Wild and Pominville, 30, have been talking about a contract extension since before camp began. It obviously hasn’t been signed yet and the season starts Thursday.

I hear the Pominville camp is looking for a long-term deal north of $5 million per – something the Wild has been trying to crack down, especially since the team wants to make certain in a few years it can afford to re-sign potential key entry-level expiring guys like Charlie Coyle and Jonas Brodin and because next summer, it would like to potentially pursue a top free agent, maybe one who used to star at the University of Minnesota.

Pominville is still hopeful he can sign an extension by Thursday and would “prefer” not negotiating during the season.

“I don’t want to really talk during the season,” Pominville said today. “I don’t want it to be a distraction for me and the way I play, and then you’re always thinking. If you know they’re talking and things aren’t going the way you want it to go, then you’re thinking, ‘Oh, are they not wanting to sign me anymore?’ I don’t really want to have that distraction, so hopefully it can get done before [the seaspn]. If not, there’s still a lot of time.”

So you still hope it gets done by Thursday (I don’t hear well or comprehend)? “Hopefully something gets done and they keep talking and we can work it out. If not, we’ll see where it goes from there.”

How close are you guys (one source of mine says they’re not too far apart)? “It’s tough to say. Tough to say because they’ve talked on and off. They can go on a stretch where they talk four or five hours and get it done in a day or so or if you’re in no hurry, it can go a couple weeks without talking. We’ll see where it leads us, but we’re hopeful.”

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Hybrid icing approved for the upcoming season

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Fontaine returns 'home' to Duluth; Koivu gets day off