By Brian Stensaas
Good sunny Friday afternoon to you all. I really hope all this sunshine gets the ball rolling on some major meltage at my place. The snow scraper truck made a visit through my neighborhood while I was in downtown St. Paul this morning, and left behind yet more crud for me to clear. It's to the point now where I'm seriously going to lose some undercar parts if much more of this happens. I plow and shovel, but the end of my driveway is like a slush/ice factory.
Speaking of ice, let's talk some Wild shall we?
A pretty sluggish start to practice this morning. Coach Todd Richards said the whole crew - coaches included - just weren't very ready to go today. About 5 minutes into practice, Richards stopped a drill, pulled all the players into a huddle and had a few choice words for them all. He never raised his voice (if anything he was calm) but the point came across. The rest of the hour was quite crisp.
Only Clayton Stoner (groin) missed the skate. Everyone else was accounted for and moving just fine. From what I could tell, Richards was rolling the same lines used during the win over Calgary. Owen Nolan and Petr Sykora (who was scratched against the Flames) switched in and out a few times on a line, and James Sheppard (also scratched against Calgary) was in at center today a time or two.
Best exchange of the session was Mikko Koivu checking hard against Boogaard in one of the corners. He got him down on the ice, and kept on pressuring him. I give Captain Koivu credit - he never let up on the Boogeyman. Though, I don't know if I'd put money on Mikko often in that situation.
Greg Zanon also had an ice capades-worthy spin-save after his skate slipped on him. Richards whistled in approval; Josh Harding heckled. I will say, it was a good show.
Here's some of what Richards had to say to us media folks after practice:
On the Brodziak line: "They know what their elements are and what they bring. Latendresse has to play physical. Brodziak has to finish his checks. And Marty Havlat has to make plays with the puck on his stick. It’s a great mix. They’ve shown everyone what they can bring and what they can do. (And) they have to maintain it. They’re having success now, but they cant think they’ll have it just by showing up. They have to think about what they need to do."
On Robbie Earl: "He’s a guy that I can trust. As a coach, when you’ve lost four in a row and you’re looking to make changes you want guys you can trust. There were a couple of points in the game the other night where guys had to get skates worked on during the game, I had no problem inserting Robbie in different positions, right wing or left wing. And it’s the same after power plays."
On whether Petr Sykora is in the doghouse: "He's worked, he’s competed, he’s trying. But as far as the lineup, it’s making a change, adding some speed. And the one thing that Petr does extremely well is shoot the puck, but we have to get hbim in positions where he can shoot and get the puck to him. Our feeling going into the game is we needed more speed, and Robbie provides that."
On if Pierre-Marc Bouchard will ever play this season: "You get up in the morning and come to the rink - I don’t want to lead myself to those false hopes of him coming back. It’s almost like a tease to some extent. We focus as a coaching staff with what we have. If we get him back, it’s a huge plus but I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen. I’m not going to allow myself to start leaning to, ‘Well, is he coming back next week, next month?’ The guys what we have have done a nice job. If at some point he can come back, that’s great. But he has to prove he’s ready to go."
That's it from me for today. Russo will be back with you tomorrow for the game against Chicago. But before that, he'll be hosting a special extended edition of Russo Radio on AM-1500 tonight from 5:30-8 p.m. He'll have several guests, including Doug MacLean to open the show, Cal Clutterbuck at 5:45, Star Tribune colleagues Judd Zulgad (6-6:30) and LaVelle E. Neal III (6-7), former NHL GM and coach Rick Dudley (7:00) and Minnetonka boys' coach Brian Urick (7:30). Russo will also take your calls.
Funny, but I haven't gotten the e-mail or call yet to be a guest, so perhaps I'll be in that latter boat tonight, eh??