Day 2 is in the books as the Wild held two group practices today and a scrimmage. The scrimmage ended 2-2, so … each team got a point.
Green jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Niklas Backstrom. Kyle Brodziak scored first, although he said it was a questionable one because the whistle just may have blown. Then, Dany Heatley scored on a penalty shot on a deke, then slide through the five hole.
Josh Harding pitched the first-half shutout. Josh Harding then gave up a goal late in the first half when Jason Pominville scored a spinning point-blank beauty with a blind backhand. Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu got the apples after Koivu dug the puck out from along the wall.
In the second half, early on, Parise tied it up on Darcy Kuemper.
Johan Gustafsson pitched the second-half shutout.
I wrote a feature on Brodziak for Saturday’s newspaper. He looks to bounce back after a tough 2013 campaign and get back to his 2011-12 self – the one that earned a three-year contract extension because of a mix of offense, defense, work ethic and leadership.
I also plan to write a notebook on Backstrom and Harding and their shrinking pads. Backstrom lost about an inch, Harding an inch-and-a-half after the NHL reduced the length of leg pads for goalies this season. They both got their new pads last week and are trying to get used to it. The big thing is the five hole. It suddenly opens up more, especially when you slide.
Rule 11 – GOALKEEPER’S EQUIPMENT
Note – The new formula for vertical pad height ( Limiting Distance Size) effective this
season is Floor to Knee + 45% (reduced from 55%) of Knee to Pelvis + 4” (inch) skate
Rule 11.2 Leg Guards – The leg guards worn by goalkeepers shall not exceed eleven inches
(11”) in extreme width when on the leg of the player. Each goalkeeper must wear pads that are
anatomically proportional and size specific based on the individual physical characteristics of
that goalkeeper. The League’s Hockey Operations Department will have the complete discretion
to determine the maximum height of each goalkeeper’s pads based on measurements obtained
by the League’s Hockey Operations Department, which will include the floor to center of knee
and center of knee to pelvis measurements. Each goalkeeper will be given a Limiting Distance
Size based on these measurements. The Limiting Distance Size will be the sum of the floor
to knee and 45% of the knee to pelvis measurements plus a four inch (4”) allowance for
the height of the skate. The Limiting Distance Size is a vertical measurement from the playing
surface and will be measured with the Limiting Distance Gauge when inspected at the clearing
house phase and during post game spot checks to ensure compliance. Any pads deemed too
large for a goalkeeper will be considered illegal equipment for that goalkeeper, regardless of
whether or not they would have fallen within previous equipment maximums. The minimum
length of the boot of the pad is to be no less than seven inches (7”). The goal pad must have a
defined boot channel with no inserts. The channel must be big enough so that the skate slots
into it and is not resting on the pad. No attachments such as plastic puck foils are permitted.
Pads can only be ten and one-half inches (101/2”) deep. The measurement will be taken from
the front face of the pad to the last edge of the inner knee protection.
Both goalies have new helmets from local maskmaker Todd Miska. Harding’s looks like a big Wild touque. I should have snapped pics. They wouldn’t have minded, but we’re technically not allowed to snap iPhone pics/video inside the Wild locker room.
I liked the Matt Cooke-Brodziak-Torrey Mitchell line today. Cooke and Brodziak should be a tag-team. Mitchell played fourth line for much of last season and definitely has the ability to win that spot. A lot will depend on the kids in my opinion though.
If healthy, you have, let’s just say, Parise-Koivu-Pominville on Line 1 and Zucker-Coyle-Heatley on Line 2 with Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter and Erik Haula also battling for spots. Let’s say Zucker and Coyle get it, but a guy like Niederreiter deserves a spot on the team, he’s a guy that definitely has the ability to play on that third-line right wing spot. So would Justin Fontaine. So if they make a hard decision for the Wild, Mitchell may wind up back on the fourth line. Or, perhaps Fontaine.
“I prefer to think that it has to do with [Mitchell] more,” coach Mike Yeo said. “If he kind of plays himself onto that line, then it means that he's probably beat somebody else out. But certainly we are looking at other players as possibilities too and I'm sure we'll see some of that through camp.”
Remember, Saturday, the Wild will open up the arena for fans to watch practice. There’s one group going at 9:30 a.m., the other at 11:15 a.m. It’s free. Also, tickets go on sale at 9 at the arena and noon elsewhere.
Sunday, there will be a white-green scrimmage at 11 a.m. Doors open both days at Gate 1 15 minutes prior.
“Our guys are excited about that,” Yeo said. “[Saturday], we’re going to have some practice time that we’re going to really get after some stuff and put the guys through the pace a little bit, and then on Sunday play that green-white game, which is going to be as far as we’re concerned a very real game. Most times in training camp that’s a day where you are playing an exhibition game. The way we’ve worked it out, we want all our guys, especially our big guys, getting into some game action there.”
I’ll be interested to see the legs Sunday. If they’re being put through the pace Saturday and Day 3 is usually a tough day of camp, I wonder what Day 4 will look like. Also, special teams practice and scrimmage will occur Monday, so if they go with power plays and penalty kills Sunday, I wouldn’t expect flawless play.
Some other Yeo-bits today:
“Day 2 was really good,” he said. “I thought through two days we’ve been able to cover a lot of things. What I really liked in the scrimmage being able to see how many things that we’ve worked on and the players going out and applying them, whether it’s things we’ve done in the past or new twists to our game, we thought some of both.”
Coyle at center so far: “What I like is we all know how good he is from the top of the circles and down, but I think he’s a guy that’s gained a step and looked quicker and he’s showing that he’s got the ability to play a big ice game, too. And I think that’s a real important thing for him if he’s going to play that center position, you need somebody that’s going to carry the puck, you need somebody who can work his way into the open ice and then distribute it from there, and he’s so far shown that ability.”
On Niederreiter’s scrimmage: “Good. I like the fact that he’s a big man and plays a big man’s game. He goes to the net really well, competes real well. I probably would have seen him get a few more puck touches today, but overall, there’s a lot of things in his game that I’ve liked.”
On Fontaine and Haula: “I liked both guys today -- I really liked both guys. I thought that Fonzy was making some nice plays. He was pretty good on the wall, which is important to me. And he's got the skill level to execute the plays, but on top of that he's a smart player and sees the game at a high level. Haulsy, what's really important for him is that he keeps growing every day. He's been a successful college player, but this is a big jump and I want to see him really start to grasp the pro game. And I saw him already starting to apply some of the things that we want to do on both sides of the puck.”
Despite being a scorer in college and minors, could Fontaine have to adjust to third or fourth line to make this team: “Well, certainly he's a guy that you probably want playing with skill players. But at the same time, I'm not going to rule anything out and the reason for that is because he also has the ability -- when you're looking at your third, fourth lines -- you're counting on a line that's not going to get scored against as much as you're hoping that they're going to score a goal. So you need guys that can manage the puck well, you need guys that can bring momentum to your team. I think that he has the ability to manage the puck the right way. He makes smart plays, he executes, but on top of that he plays his position well.”
Yeo on whether he’ll change lines Saturday/Sunday: “We're going to go meet on that right now. We'll discuss it. Certainly there will be some changes for [Saturday] -- I don't know how many. And that's kind of what we're going to do. Who do we want to keep together and give another chance to go at it? And who do we want to split up and maybe put with somebody different?”