Suter receives opponent's praise and new partner

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 29, 2013 - 10:57 PM

Wild defenseman Ryan Suter battled with Colorado's Cody McLeod earlier in the month.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune file

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Whether it has been coaching in the Central Division behind the benches of Columbus and St. Louis or with Team Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics, Ken Hitchcock has seen the best of Ryan Suter in Nashville and in a United States sweater.

Suter admittedly has had a rocky start to his Wild career. The Blues coach says fans and media should be patient.

"You get off on the wrong foot, you get off on the wrong foot. That's happened a million times to people," Hitchcock said this week. "In the Olympics, he was arguably the first- or second-best defenseman in the whole tournament. He is an incredible hockey player."

Hitchcock puts Suter's play in the tournament (the United States won silver) right up there with Canada's Shea Weber (Suter's old defense partner in Nashville) and Drew Doughty and Sweden's Niklas Kronwall.

"We all knew how good he was. We didn't know how competitive he was," Hitchcock said. "I've coached against him a lot, and I know how good he is. The best way to describe it is he's a coach's player because all the little things he does really grow on you, like getting you out of trouble, escaping your zone, keeping pucks in.

"He does a lot of the little things that to the naked eye go unnoticed, but if you watch it really closely, the body of work is really, really impressive."

Tuesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Suter was paired with 19-year-old rookie Jonas Brodin, 19, playing his third NHL game and making his home debut. Both had assists on Mikko Koivu's first-period goal.

Coach Mike Yeo said Brodin had a "pretty tough welcoming to the NHL," having to get integrated on the road in two tough cities -- Detroit and St. Louis. But the mobile, smart, 2011 first-round draft pick played two solid games.

Long-term, the Wild projects Suter to play a long time with either Brodin or 2012 first-round pick Matt Dumba.

"But at the same time, let's give [Brodin] a fair chance," Yeo said. "This is only his third game in the NHL. We are asking a lot of him, but we think he's capable of doing it."

Suter likes what he has seen from Brodin so far.

"He's steady," Suter said. "He doesn't make mistakes, makes the right play most of the time. You couldn't tell he's a rookie by watching him. He's patient out there and thinks the game well."

Growing pains for Granlund

With a second consecutive game of struggles after a quality first three games, rookie Mikael Granlund played 13 seconds in the final eight minutes of regulation Sunday at St. Louis and no shifts in overtime.

"It's good for a young player to have to battle through that," Yeo said. "Sometimes you're going to have tough shifts. The key is to not have it turn into a tough game."

Yeo met with Granlund on Monday. The message was to play better without the puck.

"Just a shift in focus [of] 'let's get back to doing those little things right,' and the offensive side of it, the skill part, that's always going to be there for him," Yeo said.

Granlund, a star in Finland, said he is learning daily what he can and cannot get away with in the NHL.

"This is a new league and I've got to adjust to everything," Granlund said. "It's the best league in the world. I'm going to learn a lot and I have already."


• Defenseman Jared Spurgeon (foot) tried to skate Monday and it didn't go well, Yeo said. He missed his third consecutive game and is day-to-day.

• Linesman Thor Nelson took a puck to the face in the second period and had to leave the game.

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