EDMONTON, ALBERTA – Zach Parise and Ryan Suter were back in uniform Thursday night against the Edmonton Oilers, trading USA Hockey’s sweater for the Wild’s jersey again after two weeks together in Russia.
Parise and Suter, who came to the Wild as a free-agent tag team two summers ago, roomed together for the first time at the Sochi Olympics. Parise took the living room, Suter the bedroom, and Parise quickly discovered the difference between him and the Wild’s 30-minute-a-night defenseman.
“He’s neat. I’m not,” Parise said. “My room was a complete mess compared to his room. His stuff was all folded and neat and put away in the closet. Mine was kind of a disaster.”
Suter explained to Parise that his tidiness was ingrained in him during one year at Culver Military Academy in Indiana as a teenager.
“He said he had to do that at Culver every day, have everything folded and nice and put away,” said Parise, before adding with a huge laugh, “I guess at Shattuck we weren’t up to those standards.”
Parise and Suter had a fun time in Sochi. The weather was 60 degrees almost daily, and the Americans bought bicycles to get around.
“The meals were a 15-minute walk, the Olympic Village, no buses were allowed in there. Like the USA House was literally a 45-minute walk,” Parise said. “So the whole team just bought bikes and rode them everywhere, even to the games. It was awesome.”
As fun as the experience was, the Americans came home empty-handed after being shut out by eventual gold medal-winning Canada in the semifinals and Finland in the bronze medal game.
“When I think of it, I just think disappointment,” Suter said. “You go there with winning a gold medal in mind and at least coming home with something. And we weren’t able to come home with anything. That’s frustrating.”
Suter added, though, “I’m sure when I look back some day, to be part of the Olympics, to be part of two Olympics, it will be pretty special.”
Added Parise: “It ended on a sour note. You forget about how much fun we were having, how well we were playing those first four games. The last few games ruined the trip for us. Unfortunately that’s what we’re left with.”
Rookie Justin Fontaine, who entered Thursday as the Wild’s third-leading goal scorer with 12, played his first NHL game at Rexall Place. Fontaine grew up 2½ hours northeast in Bonnyville, Alberta.
Fontaine said “pretty much everyone” was coming, from his entire family to 15 buddies.
“This was the first NHL rink I ever came to and stepped on as a kid,” Fontaine said. “I think I was 10 years old playing a tournament here. Even just coming out of the locker room at that age, you look up and see how big the atmosphere is. To finally be here at this level is definitely a dream come true.”
Fontaine skated with Dany Heatley and Charlie Coyle on the second line during the Wild’s 3-0 victory over the Oilers.
• Fresh off making the all-tournament team at the Olympics, Mikael Granlund centered Parise and Jason Pominville on Thursday. “He’s flying, he’s flying,” coach Mike Yeo said of Granlund in practice the past two days. “He should be used to playing at a high pace. Those are fast games that we got to watch in the Olympics.” Granlund then went out and scored the Wild’s first goal against the Oilers.
• Captain Mikko Koivu wasn’t able to return Thursday from ankle surgery, but Yeo said, “[Friday’s] a new day and we’ll see where that takes us,” an indication there’s a chance Koivu plays at Vancouver. Koivu has missed 16 games. Yeo also said there’s a chance defenseman Marco Scandella (sprained right knee) returns Friday.