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Hybrid icing gets test in Wild's preseason loss to Columbus

  • Article by: Michael Russo
  • Star Tribune
  • September 18, 2013 - 6:24 AM

 

Last April, when Kurtis Foster saw Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen crash into the end boards after a collision on a race for an icing, the former Wild defenseman had to look away.

“When is it enough?” Foster texted the Star Tribune. “There’s no need for it anymore.”

Foster was talking about the race for icing. Remember, Foster broke a femur in San Jose in 2008 when Torrey Mitchell, now with Minnesota, tried to beat out an icing.

Pitkanen will miss this season after a major ankle injury. His career is said to be in jeopardy.

The NHL wants to get rid of the dangerous race for the puck on icings. This preseason, the league is experimenting with hybrid icing — the linesman blows the play dead if he feels the defending player will win the race by the end zone faceoff dots.

It was debuted for the Wild during its 3-1 exhibition loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.

“I’m all for it, I think it’s great,” forward Jason Zucker said before Tuesday’s game. “The only negative in my opinion is for a [fast] guy like me, those last 15 steps is where I can end up beating a guy.

“But for the one out of 10 times I beat that guy, the other nine it’s probably not worth it.”

Wild captain Mikko Koivu, close friends with Foster and also a Finnish countryman with Pitkanen, also says it’s not worth it.

“The way I look at it, how many times do you actually create offense by winning that icing?” Koivu said. “You think about the injuries to Fozzie and Pitkanen, I think safety should come first. So I hope we do it.”

Later this preseason, the NHLPA will vote to decide whether hybrid icing will be adopted for the upcoming season.

“The [linesmen] are supposed to be able to tell who wins that race. Hopefully they do a good job of that,” Zucker said. “It’ll be very tough for them to do though. It’ll be an adjustment not only for them, but for us. But like I said, I’m all for it.”

Zucker hurts groin

Speaking of Zucker, the 21-year-old tweaked his groin on his first shift Tuesday, coach Mike Yeo said. Zucker tried to play through it, but he left after two shifts in the second period.

“Hopefully it’s nothing serious,” Yeo said.

Ryan Johansen had a goal and an assist for the Blue Jackets, while coincidentally, his junior linemate with Portland of the Western Hockey League, Nino Niederreiter, scored for the Wild.

Niederreiter found Charlie Coyle’s rebound after Mikael Granlund’s pretty setup from behind the net.

“He has a presence in front of the net,” Yeo said of Niederreiter.

Defenseman Matt Dumba had four shots. Goalie Niklas Backstrom gave up three goals on 10 shots in 30:09 in the nets. Darcy Kuemper was spotless on seven shots.

“First exhibition game, and it was blatant that it was,” Yeo said. “We gave up more odd-man rushes tonight than I hope we give up in the first month of the season.”

Cooke looks good

Left winger Matt Cooke had a strong debut for the Wild, and the hard-hitting agitator says he feels like a more effective player since he’s “cleaned up his act.”

“On the forecheck before, I always just went for the biggest hit without any stick detail,” Cooke said. “Now, the first thing I think about is stick on puck and I’ve turned over a lot more pucks. They still don’t know if I’m going to hit them or not, but my stick’s always down and I’ve gotten to a lot more pucks and created more offensive zone times.

“For me, I’ve enjoyed the game a lot more since I’ve changed because I’ve learned a lot of the nuances of the game that I didn’t even know existed because I was putting myself in bad positions.”

Etc.

• The Wild returned Alexandre Belanger, Dylan Labbe, Cody Corbett and Carter Sandlak to their junior teams. The training camp roster is now down to 47 players.

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