Locked out but hopeful, players lace 'em up daily at Ridder

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 3, 2012 - 11:46 PM
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Wild center Matt Cullen is one of more than two dozen players skating daily at Ridder Arena during the NHL lockout.

Photo: Andy Blenkush, Associated Press file

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With the NHL lockout approaching 80 days, more than two dozen players continue to skate daily at Ridder Arena.

That includes Wild players such as Niklas Backstrom, Mikko Koivu, Cal Clutterbuck and Kyle Brodziak and several other NHLers, including former Gophers Erik Johnson, Keith Ballard and Kyle Okposo.

"It's like Groundhog Day," said the Wild's Zach Parise, echoing the sentiment of many who are trying to stay sharp in case the lockout suddenly ends and training camp begins.

"I'm still optimistic that will happen. I think people are smart enough to know we can't miss a full NHL season. I've been proved wrong before, but I can't get my mind around missing a full season."

Matt Cullen agreed, saying, "I just think this is so needless. That's the shame of it. It's pointless. It's ridiculous that it's taking this long. I really don't think the issues that divide us are so much that it should cost us a season. It'd be an absolute shame for the game, for the fans, and it would just be a travesty. I honestly still believe it's going to get done."

Owners from six teams -- Boston, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Winnipeg, Tampa Bay and Calgary -- and six players, including superstars Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews, are supposed to meet Tuesday in New York to try to get dialogue and positive traction from fresh voices.

"I'm for whatever gets people in the room chatting," Parise said." I think it's a good idea to get new people in there. Let's get some new ideas, let's try to get something positive to build on."

On Wednesday, the NHL Board of Governors will meet. Cullen said he thinks it would be a good idea to establish a drop-dead date in order to put pressure on both sides to get a deal done.

"It's scary whenever there's a deadline out there, but if that's what we need to spur it on, fine," Cullen said. "Everyone knows time is slipping and we're getting close to some sort of breaking point anyway because once you get past Christmas, we're either going to be playing or they'll be canceling the season soon.

"So as frustrating as this has been for all of us, you've got to start ramping it up because if we're going to play, it's going to be soon."

Spurgeon injured

Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon returned to Minneapolis on Monday after injuring his groin while playing in Switzerland during the lockout, agent Eustace King said.

He will be examined by local doctors, and if the injury is minor, he might return to Switzerland if the lockout continues and the injury heals.

Devin Setoguchi (ECHL's Ontario Reign) and Clayton Stoner (Banska Bystrica in Slovakia) are the other Wild players skating elsewhere.

Junior achievement

Wild draft picks Tyler Graovac and Matt Dumba were invited Monday to Canada's world junior selection camp this month. Raphael Bussieres, who scored 10 goals and 23 points for Baie-Comeau of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last month, was not chosen.

Jonas Brodin, who won gold with Sweden last winter, will miss the tournament because of a broken clavicle, while Christoph Bertschy is expected to play for Switzerland.

Mario Lucia is expected to be chosen Tuesday to attend the United States' camp. The tournament is Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Ufa, Russia.

Etc.

• The Houston Aeros have won five consecutive games. Jason Zucker leads all American Hockey League rookie forwards with 11 goals, a league-leading six on power plays.

Mikael Granlund, who has missed 12 games because of a sprained ankle, is expected to return this weekend.

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