Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Day One of Wild training camp: 2 points already in the bank

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild training camp Updated: September 12, 2013 - 5:21 PM

The Wild had such a good first day on the ice, coach Mike Yeo joked that he planned to call NHL headquarters on Avenue of the Americas and request two points in the standings.

Good bet Gary Bettman and Bill Daly don’t return that call, but as always on the first day of any NHL camp, the vibe was positive around the Wild on Thursday.

Sure, it was weird being at Ridder Arena (thanks to the Blake Shelton concert). Players, like Zach Parise and Niklas Backstrom, said they got flashbacks from a year earlier when Wild players and other Minnesota-based NHLers had to skate daily at Ridder during the lockout.

Of course, guys like Keith Ballard and Erik Haula loved it. The U is their home. Former Badgers Ryan Suter, Dany Heatley and Jake Dowell weren’t as thrillied. Suter JOKED that it was a great day, well, other than the facility.

Good late afternoon from the Ridder press box, where I got to watch Bethany Brausen run the captain’s practice for the national champion Gophers’ women. First time I’ve ever gotten to watch a captain’s practice after hearing about them for years and she does a fabulous job. She sure organizes drills impressively like she’s a coach herself.

Back to the Wild, but as Yeo said today, “waking up this morning was not difficult.” Finally, training camp, and a real training camp, not a condensed six- or seven-day one like last January where NHL coaches and players could barely catch their breath before the 48-game in 99-day sprint began.

Training camp will return to the X Friday. Group B – the second group today – will practice first, and that will be followed by a scrimmage (so be sure to follow me on Twitter (@russostrib) for updates), then a Group A practice.

Remember, on Saturday, all fans can flock to the X and watch a 9:30 and 11:15 practice for free. Single-game tickets also go on sale that morning at 9 a.m. at the X and noon elsewhere. On Sunday, the Wild will scrimmage at 11 a.m., and again, that is free for all of you to come down and witness in person.

Some lines and D pairs today, and I’m meshing the groups here:













Actually Ballard was with everybody, but I’ll be honest, the second group D pairs I didn’t get a good grasp of because I was writing.

In Friday’s newspaper, I wrote a feature on an always very talkative Dany Heatley. I had lunch with him Wednesday, and as I’ve indicated, he is visibly leaner this season, looks quicker and spent a lot of the summer training to not only rehab his shoulder, but to come in tip-top shape and work on his skating with a power-skating instructor.

He is motivated to prove to everybody he can still be Dany Heatley, the threatening goal scorer, as he enters the final year of his contract. Yeo said today that he looks like he’s “gained a step,” at least.

Again, that’s all in Friday’s Star Tribune, and I’ve got a number of profiles planned this month, so please return daily to the site and/or purchase the paper.

Yeo also praised Mikael Granlund today. Granlund looked to be weak on his skates at times last summer and Yeo felt he looked a step quicker and much stronger on his skates. Yeo also praised defenseman Marco Scandella, who should get top-4 minutes this year. I don’t like making predictions early in camp because there’s just so many moving parts as to who can make the team, especially this year.

For instance, there really is no way of telling yet how many of Charlie Coyle, Granlund, Jason Zucker and Nino Niederreiter can make the team. It really all depends on their camps. There’s really no way of telling right now how good a chance Erik Haula and Justin Fontaine have of making the team right now because it all depends how Coyle, Granlund, Zucker and Niederreiter do as well as how they perform.

In addition, for a guy like Fontaine to make the team out of camp, it may have to be on the fourth line, and that could depend largely on injury. As of now, Mike Rupp is trying to overcome his knee injury and will be held out of camp initially.

But I am willing to guarantee Scandella’s on this team. He requires waivers for the first time in his career, and no chance the Wild risks waivers on the young defenseman

On Scandella, Yeo said today, “We saw last year when we put him in that situation, we were a better team. So some of it has to come from us putting him in that situation, showing that faith in him, and certainly the rest has to come from him. I thought he was another guy who had a great day. He looked real strong, skating was real strong, stick was great. He was kind of flawless in the execution of habits part that we were looking. I thought he looked really good.”

Yeo talked about a number of players specifically. One was Kyle Brodziak. I’ll probably write about him for Saturday’s paper. The Wild’s looking for a bounceback year from its third-line center and Yeo talked with him on the ice today.

Yeo wants to alleviate pressure from many of the players who didn’t play well last year, saying it was such a weird, unique year. Brodziak is one of them, and again, you’ll hear from Brodziak on Saturday. As always, Brodziak was a great interview on the subject – honest, accountable and is motivated to have a good year.

All month, the ongoing theme will be the tweaked system as the Wild looks to carry the puck into the offensive zone more often and potentially activate the weakside D more often for support.

Yeo made that clear again today when he stopped practice 10 minutes in to preach this to the first group. He says he wants to gear the system more to his personnel.

This will be a work in progress as players try to get out of habits. With this will come mistakes, too, because this is the NHL. Teams jam up the neutral zone. Defensemen step up at the blue line. That’s why often players have no other choice but to dump that puck. You have to take what your opponent gives you. You can’t force plays with bad decisions.

So a lot of camp will be about how to generate that neutral-zone speed, and that starts with good retrievals, proper breakouts and exits from the D-zone. Yeo wants much better wall play this season, saying too often players are leaving the D-zone without the puck.

Offensively and defensively we want the right details, we want the right habits and like I said we're not just going to do something for the sake of doing it,” Yeo said. “If we're going to do it, we're going to do it right. So that part of our game is one that we have to improve on -- there's some tweaks that we're making in that area off the rush, in particular in our entries into the offensive zone, so it has to be a focal point for us. We've talked a lot about this already, but we want to be a better team off the rush, we want to create more off the rush. And we still want to be a good defensive team. We want to be a team that makes the playoffs. The one thing that's important to understand is you can't just create off the rush every single time. That's a sure fire way to not make the playoffs if you start turning pucks over night in and night out, so we want to be a good team in the offensive zone, we want to be a much better team off the rush, and that's putting yourself in a better position to make something happen and more importantly reading those situations, reading your support and making the play.”

Like I said, I’ll be writing about this probably ad nauseum all month.

Yeo said the results of Wednesday’s fitness testing was good for each player.

“The one thing on top of that, we’ll be monitoring that, we’ll be pushing the guys hard,” Yeo said. “It’s good to see where everybody came in at, but there’s another level we want to get to before we drop the puck.”

Yeo and his staff met with each group before each practice.

“We met with each group separately as opposed to the entire group, and that’s by design,” he said. “We plan to have sort of a little bit more philosophical, bigger picture meeting a little bit later on in camp (reading between the lines, when the Wild gets down to its team before Duluth Sept. 29-30).

“This one did touch on some of the things, some of the goals that we have, but the main one for me is that big, shiny goal that we all want, that the 29 other teams are talking about right now, there’s a way of getting there. What’s really important for us to understand is if you want that to happen, you have to have a great season. If you want to have a great season, you have to have a great start. And if we want to have a great start, then it’s pretty simple, we better have a great training camp. That was our message.”

Here’s some quotes by some of the heavy hitters:

Parise: “We have to keep progressing and keep moving forward and building on what we did last year. We can’t keep using the excuse ‘we’re young, we’re young, we’re young.’ We have to start developing and making progress and winning now.”

Koivu on the system and if it’ll be hard to break habits: “I don’t think so. Obviously we have six or seven preseason games, so I’m sure a lot of the guys will play three to five games, and then we scrimmage, and three weeks skating and that’s where you learn stuff. That’s when it starts to come out automatically, so I don’t see that as a problem. To be honest, obviously you have to be responsible with the puck, but I think a lot of players like that, to get the puck and try to get it at full speed.”

Pominville on playing with Parise and Koivu: “It would be nice to try to find a little chemistry and get together for some practices and even some scrimmages or some games. I mean we all know throughout the course of the season a lot of things can happen and a lot of things can change. If they want you to play with certain guys, it's nice to be able to find that chemistry and get to know them and know what they do in certain situations and even talking. I think communication is huge and when you know you're going to be on the ice with certain guys, you can talk about what they want you to do and what you want them to do when you have the puck.”

Parise on playing with Pominville: “I like playing with Pommer a lot. He’s a really good playmaker and scorer, too. He can finish. So if that happens to be the line I think we’ll do really well together. We played a little bit last year and if I remember right we had games where I feel like we had a lot of puck control in the offensive zone. But that’ll be up to the coach, what he decides. If we do play together, I think we’ll play well together.”

Backstrom on an actual training camp this year: “For sure it's fun, for sure it feels better to have the 21 days before the season starts. Last year, we skated at this rink, but it was a long couple months. You never knew if you were going to play or not. And then the season started, I think it was seven days and we had the first game, so we didn't really have time to work on anything, Just get yourself into the best shape as possible and start to play. Now we have some time to work on things. It's the same thing for every team, but I think it's good for us to get the system going and get to know each other and be ready when the season opens."

Talk to you Friday. It’s hockey season!


Cleveland 11/23/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee 11/23/14 12:00 PM
Detroit 11/23/14 12:00 PM
New England
Green Bay 11/23/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville 11/23/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati 11/23/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay 11/23/14 12:00 PM
Arizona 11/23/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis 11/23/14 3:05 PM
San Diego
Miami 11/23/14 3:25 PM
Washington 11/23/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
Dallas 11/23/14 7:30 PM
NY Giants
NY Jets 11/24/14 6:00 PM
Baltimore 11/24/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 11/27/14 11:30 AM
Philadelphia 11/27/14 3:30 PM
Seattle 11/27/14 7:30 PM
San Francisco
Phoenix 7 1st Qtr 5:56
Philadelphia 16
Orlando 17 1st Qtr 4:00
Charlotte 16
Detroit 6:30 PM
Milwaukee 6:30 PM
Boston 7:00 PM
Cleveland 7:00 PM
Brooklyn 7:00 PM
Oklahoma City
San Antonio 7:00 PM
LA Lakers 7:30 PM
New Orleans 8:00 PM
Chicago 9:30 PM
Utah 9:30 PM
Golden State
NY Rangers 0 Postponed
Buffalo 0
NY Islanders 2 1st Prd 11:13
Pittsburgh 1
Boston 0 1st Prd 9:54
Columbus 1
New Jersey 8:30 PM
Texas A&M 59 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 50
Drexel 70
Clemson 70 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 72
Dayton 64 FINAL
Connecticut 75
Akron 51 FINAL
Miami-Florida 79
Seton Hall 68 FINAL
Nevada 60
Valparaiso 59 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 46
UNC Greensboro 79 FINAL
Longwood 81
Syracuse 66 FINAL
Iowa 63
Central Conn St 49 FINAL
Towson 58
Boston College 66 FINAL
West Virginia 70
Ill-Chicago 58 FINAL
Yale 70
Alcorn State 63 2nd Half 3:11
Hampton 71
LSU 28 1st Half 5:18
Old Dominion 21
Prairie View 14 1st Half 11:51
Baylor 17
Montana State 0 Postponed
Buffalo 0
Maine 13 1st Half 9:16
Central Mich 22
Youngstown St 6:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Wofford 9 1st Half 8:15
Fairfield 6
Troy 16 1st Half 10:00
Georgia 29
IUPU-Ft Wayne 11 1st Half 11:39
Georgia Tech 15
Stony Brook 15 1st Half 8:15
Hofstra 18
Boston Univ 12 1st Half 12:19
Kentucky 16
Loyola-Chicago 2 1st Half 11:48
Michigan State 15
Toledo 19 1st Half 8:57
Oregon 23
Lehigh 18 1st Half 11:55
Rider 11
Charlotte 13 1st Half 12:07
South Carolina 17
UNLV 3 1st Half 14:23
Stanford 16
George Washington 10 1st Half 10:07
Virginia 9
Hiwassee 15 1st Half 7:58
Western Carolina 18
Texas 6:30 PM
Florida Memorial 6:30 PM
Southern Ill 6:30 PM
Kent State
Bethune-Cookman 6:30 PM
New Mexico 6:35 PM
George Mason
Delaware State 7:00 PM
ULM 7:00 PM
Austin Peay 7:00 PM
Morehead State 7:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Jarvis Christian 7:00 PM
McNeese State
Milwaukee 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
Stephen F Austin 7:00 PM
Kennesaw St 7:00 PM
North Dakota St
North Dakota 7:00 PM
South Dakota St
Iona 7:30 PM
Wake Forest
Louisiana 8:00 PM
Georgia State 8:00 PM
Colorado State
Penn State 8:00 PM
Marshall 8:00 PM
Oral Roberts 8:00 PM
Oregon State
UC Riverside 8:00 PM
Idaho State 8:00 PM
Washington St
Illinois State 8:00 PM
Weber State
Florida A&M 8:00 PM
Grand Canyon
Sam Houston St 8:00 PM
South Dakota
Temple 8:30 PM
Presbyterian 9:00 PM
American Univ
Delaware 9:00 PM
Cal Poly
Washington 9:00 PM
Kansas State 9:30 PM
Long Beach State
Pittsburgh 10:59 PM
(12) Kansas State 26 FINAL
West Virginia 20
North Carolina 45 FINAL
(25) Duke 20
Arkansas State 27 FINAL
Texas State 45
Kent State 0 Cancelled
Buffalo 0
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
Air Force 8:30 PM
San Diego St
San Jose St 8:30 PM
Utah State
Char Southern 11/22/14 11:00 AM
(9) Georgia
South Alabama 11/22/14 11:00 AM
So Carolina
Rutgers 11/22/14 11:00 AM
(10) Michigan State
Minnesota 11/22/14 11:00 AM
(21) Nebraska
Northwestern 11/22/14 11:00 AM
(18) Marshall 11/22/14 11:00 AM
Kansas 11/22/14 11:00 AM
(23) Oklahoma
Indiana 11/22/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Penn State 11/22/14 11:00 AM
(14) Eastern Ky 11/22/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio 11/22/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
SMU 11/22/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech 11/22/14 11:30 AM
Wake Forest
Washington St 11/22/14 12:00 PM
(13) Arizona State
Louisiana Tech 11/22/14 12:00 PM
Old Dominion
Western Mich 11/22/14 12:00 PM
Central Mich
New Mexico 11/22/14 12:30 PM
(22) Colorado State
Eastern Mich 11/22/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Appalachian St 11/22/14 1:00 PM
Tulsa 11/22/14 2:00 PM
(15) Arizona 11/22/14 2:30 PM
(20) Utah
FIU 11/22/14 2:30 PM
North Texas
(8) Ole Miss 11/22/14 2:30 PM
Louisville 11/22/14 2:30 PM
Notre Dame
Maryland 11/22/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech 11/22/14 2:30 PM
Iowa State
(14) Wisconsin 11/22/14 2:30 PM
Syracuse 11/22/14 2:30 PM
Boston College 11/22/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Georgia State 11/22/14 2:30 PM
Tulane 11/22/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Stanford 11/22/14 3:00 PM
Western Carolina 11/22/14 3:00 PM
(2) Alabama
ULM 11/22/14 3:00 PM
New Mexico St
So Florida 11/22/14 3:00 PM
Colorado 11/22/14 3:30 PM
(3) Oregon
Fla Atlantic 11/22/14 6:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
Samford 11/22/14 6:00 PM
(16) Auburn
Miami-Florida 11/22/14 6:00 PM
Vanderbilt 11/22/14 6:30 PM
(4) Miss State
(19) Missouri 11/22/14 6:30 PM
Oklahoma State 11/22/14 6:30 PM
(6) Baylor
(24) USC 11/22/14 7:00 PM
(11) UCLA
Cincinnati 11/22/14 7:00 PM
Boise State 11/22/14 9:15 PM
Oregon State 11/22/14 9:30 PM
Fresno State 11/22/14 9:30 PM
UNLV 11/22/14 10:00 PM
Ohio U 11/25/14 6:00 PM
LSU 11/27/14 6:30 PM
Texas A&M
(5) TCU 11/27/14 6:30 PM
Northern Ill 11/28/14 10:00 AM
Western Mich
(21) Nebraska 11/28/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky 11/28/14 11:00 AM
(18) Marshall
UCF 11/28/14 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11/28/14 11:00 AM
Akron 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Toledo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 11/28/14 1:30 PM
(19) Missouri
Navy 11/28/14 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(15) Arizona
Stanford 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(11) UCLA
(22) Colorado State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 11/28/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 11/28/14 7:30 PM
BYU 11/29/14 2:00 AM
(20) Utah 11/29/14 2:00 AM
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 2:00 AM
Oregon State
Kentucky 11/29/14 2:00 AM
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:00 AM
(24) USC
So Carolina 11/29/14 2:00 AM
Florida 11/29/14 2:00 AM
(1) Florida State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 2:00 AM
(25) Duke
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 2:00 AM
Montreal 11/23/14 12:00 PM
Edmonton 11/23/14 3:30 PM
TBA 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Delaware 60 FINAL
East Carolina 89
Wiley 65 FINAL
Sam Houston St 48
SE Louisiana 78 FINAL
Troy 80
St Francis-NY 63 FINAL
North Dakota 70
Eastern Kentucky 56 FINAL
Central Arkansas 55
Chattanooga 53 FINAL
(3) Notre Dame 88
UT Martin 27 2nd Half 14:00
Dayton 56
William & Mary 35 2nd Half 11:59
NC A&T 38
LSU-Alexandria 0 Cancelled
Nicholls 0
Eastern Illinois 41 2nd Half 11:40
Florida State 67
Marquette 49 2nd Half 12:30
Wake Forest 61
Columbia College 18 1st Half 5:10
SC State 36
Rider 26 2nd Half
Towson 25
Jackson State 2 1st Half 18:19
Mercer 2
High Point 14 1st Half 10:18
NC State 20
Cleveland State 9 1st Half 13:55
Florida Atlantic 16
Alabama A&M 14 1st Half 10:38
Samford 9
Morehead St 16 1st Half 10:39
Indiana 23
Lehigh 10 1st Half 11:30
Alabama 9 1st Half 13:22
Kansas 11
Canisius 2 1st Half 15:42
Bryant 4
San Diego State 12 1st Half 6:54
Furman 14
East Tenn St 15 1st Half 10:55
St Francis-PA 10
Evansville 12 1st Half 12:03
IUPU-Ft Wayne 17
Winthrop 7 1st Half 11:44
(4) Tennessee 23
Mount St Marys 9 1st Half 11:20
Campbell 16
Elon 15 1st Half 13:05
Charlotte 7
Hofstra 13 1st Half 10:42
Fordham 12
Columbia 9 1st Half 11:43
Stony Brook 8
USC 6:30 PM
Long Beach St
Saint Louis 6:30 PM
SE Missouri St
Massachusetts 7:00 PM
North Texas
Kent State 7:00 PM
Hampton 7:00 PM
Kansas State
Bradley 7:00 PM
Houston 7:00 PM
North Florida 7:00 PM
Arizona 7:00 PM
Texas Tech
ULM 7:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
Tulsa 7:00 PM
Oral Roberts
Graceland 7:00 PM
Nebraska Omaha
Pepperdine 7:30 PM
(19) Iowa
Temple 7:30 PM
Denver 8:00 PM
(24) Gonzaga 8:00 PM
Montana State
Boise State 8:00 PM
Southern Utah
Missouri 8:30 PM
Cal Poly 9:00 PM
Loyola Marymount
Montana 9:00 PM
Portland 9:00 PM
Villanova 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Seattle 10:30 PM
Washington St
(14) California 10:59 PM


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