Yeo trying to make the most of idle time during NHL lockout

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 9, 2012 - 9:20 PM

The Wild coach and his staff are taking in Gophers practices and -- just in case the work stoppage ends -- preparing for a condensed training camp.

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Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo signs autographs at a hockey charity event at Bielenberg Sports Center in Woodbury on December 30, 2011.

Photo: Courtney Perry, Special To The Star Tribune

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Unable to begin coaching his second season behind the Wild bench because of that pesky NHL lockout, Mike Yeo is trying to maintain his competitive readiness as well as his combative spirit.

Instead of just going stir crazy, Yeo is attempting to use this time wisely.

He has assigned all the members of his staff a series of projects in case the lockout suddenly ends and the Wild has a compressed training camp. He also is picking at the brains of others, spending much of Tuesday with Gophers coach Don Lucia and his staff.

"We're anxious, but we're trying to do everything we can to be a better staff when we come out of this," Yeo said.

When he is not at the rink preparing for a hockey season that might not come, Yeo is learning how to box at Jeremy Clark's gym in Eagan.

It's a little known fact, but Yeo is the all-time leader in major penalties for the Houston Aeros. So, the Wild coach knows how to fight. Boxing, though, is an entirely different animal.

"It's an incredible workout," Yeo said. "Two minutes, I'm dripping sweat. I get beat up."

If you know Yeo, though, the lockout is hardly fun for him. He much rather would be preparing for opening night, which was supposed to occur Saturday, when Zach Parise and Ryan Suter were to suit up for the first time in Wild sweaters against Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene and the Colorado Avalanche.

In fact, on Tuesday the Wild was supposed to be wrapping up three days of training camp in Banff, Alberta. But instead of flying home from Calgary, Yeo, assistant coaches Rick Wilson, Darryl Sydor and Darby Hendrickson, goalie coach Bob Mason and video coordinator Jonas Plumb spent the day at Mariucci Arena shadowing the Gophers.

For 90 minutes, the Wild coaches met with the Gophers coaches before sitting in the stands and watching another 90 minutes of practice as the Gophers prepare for this weekend's season-opening series against Michigan State.

The Wild coaches raved about Nick Bjugstad, were impressed by Seth Helgeson, Zach Budish and, of course, Wild prospect Erik Haula.

They admired the Gophers' battle level and jotted down some drills Lucia deploys that they eventually want to emulate.

"I like this drill," Yeo said to Sydor, referring to a high-speed, 2-on-1 drill with suffocating back pressure. "I like the pace."

Afterward, Yeo said, "I love watching other teams practice at all levels, and I'm always trying to learn new drills and any way to make your team better."

Because there are limitations to how much time college coaches can spend with their athletes, Yeo asked Lucia about how he condenses system-work into such an abbreviated period.

Yeo assumes that if the NHL lockout ends, teams will have no exhibition games and a shortened training camp. The Wild coaches are beginning to put templates together for a seven-, 10- and 14-day training camp.

In addition, the Wild coaches are watching video of other NHL teams to see what they do successfully and if there's anything that can be incorporated into the Wild's game.

Yeo also is updating a Wild systems book, while Hendrickson is tediously uploading the Wild's drills onto a computer as Wilson and Sydor do power-play and penalty-kill work.

The hours are a lot different, but the coaches are at the arena just about every day working. Yeo will fly to Houston to watch the Wild's AHL affiliate open its season on Saturday. Mason left for Houston on Tuesday night.

"We're trying to keep busy," Yeo said. "We're trying to find a way to stay sharp and make sure we're ready to go [if the lockout ends]."

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