With short camp, every minute will count for Wild

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 14, 2013 - 12:08 PM

Wild coach Mike Yeo

Photo: Courtney Perry, Special To The Star Tribune

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For a week, Mike Yeo stood atop the stands watching the 2013 edition of his team, yet the Wild coach wasn't permitted to stick a single toe onto the ice as lawyers in New York worked to officially end the lockout.

On Sunday, Yeo was finally handed the keys to his new cast.

"I knew there was a storm a-brewin' and things were going to be coming real quickly here," Yeo said, smiling. "It was just a lot of fun coming to the rink today knowing that we finally get to start doing this for real."

In a condensed six-day training camp leading into a condensed 48-game schedule, time is precious. Yeo has the week planned out to the minute.

Sunday's main focus was defensive-zone coverage (altered slightly from last year), neutral-zone forecheck, rushes against and breakouts. Tuesday will be all special teams.

Monday and Wednesday will be scrimmages, with Monday's more of a controlled scrimmage with coaches making certain system work is done properly. There will be no time clock in the scrimmage. Houston Aeros players will be implemented into both teams.

Wednesday's 7 p.m. scrimmage at Xcel Energy Center is free to the public, but there was so much demand Sunday that the team actually had to suspend ticket distribution to ensure season-ticket holders can get tickets.

"We want that game to feel as real as possible," Yeo said.

Frequent flyers

According to an analysis done by ontheforecheck.com's Dirk Hoag, the Wild will be the most traveled NHL team this season, logging 31,345 miles -- almost 20,000 miles more than New Jersey.

"This will be a big adjustment for me," former Devil Zach Parise said.

Yeo said the Wild will balance "rest vs. rust" this season. "Rest is a weapon, I think, this year. We have to make sure our guys are fresh enough."

That means the Wild will stay overnight in some West Coast road cities, move back practice times when they get into a city or return home late, cancel morning skates and sometimes practices.

Yeo, a former assistant in Pittsburgh, said the biggest "eye-opening" experience last year for him was the difference in travel in the west compared to the east, particularly for the Wild, which is in the Northwest Division.

Yeo and GM Chuck Fletcher are delighted with the fitness level of each player. There was concern, considering the players had been locked out since Sept. 15.

Oops, wrong system

After seven years of having the Nashville Predators' system ingrained into him, defenseman Ryan Suter found himself accidentally reverting in Sunday's first practice.

Defense partner Jared Spurgeon has been helping, and Wild assistant coach Rick Wilson pulled Suter aside a few times.

"I don't think it'll be a big hurdle," Suter said. "You can't go wrong with the stuff they are teaching. I just have to get into the routine."

Parise also spent his entire career with New Jersey, and Yeo said he will pay close attention to both to help them get used to some of the differences in systems.

"They're quick learners," he said.


• Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who hasn't played in more than a year because of a concussion, looked "terrific" in his first day of training camp, Yeo said.

The Wild will monitor Bouchard daily, but he will get his first real contact in the scrimmages and "has not shied away from anything," Yeo said.

• Defenseman Marco Scandella, who probably will miss another two weeks because of a groin injury, is expected to skate lightly Monday.

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