He looked almost sheepish when he entered the room Saturday evening, introduced as the lone Wild player chosen to participate in the NHL All-Star Game. And the way his season has gone, Ryan Suter couldn’t resist a self-deprecating joke when asked if he might be part of the skills competition at the Jan. 24-25 event.
“You’ve seen me lately,’’ Suter said, chuckling. “Last year, I got to be a passer. Maybe that’s what they’ll have me do.”
Or, maybe, Suter will just get to relax and have some fun in the midst of a trying season. The Wild defenseman again leads the NHL in ice time, averaging 29 minutes, 35 seconds per game, and his 21 assists are tied for eighth-most among the league’s defensemen.
But he has not scored a goal since opening night, missed two games because of the mumps and is minus-15 in his past 18 games.
That doesn’t meet Suter’s exacting standards, and neither does the Wild’s inability to pull out of its long tailspin. Still, Suter will go to the All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio, filled with gratitude and humility.
“I’m very excited,’’ said Suter, who played in the 2012 All-Star Game when he was with Nashville. “I feel very privileged to represent our team. It’s too bad our team is playing the way we are; we’d have a few more guys [on the All-Star roster] for sure if we were higher in the standings. But I’m very, very proud and very honored.’’
The NHL named 36 players to the All-Star rosters Saturday. The two teams will be chosen through a draft, and the captains who will do the picking will be announced this week.
Zach is back
Winger Zach Parise returned to the Wild lineup Saturday, registering three shots on goal, one hit and one blocked shot. Parise’s father, J.P., died on Wednesday evening, and Zach sat out the Wild’s games against San Jose on Tuesday and Chicago on Thursday.
Parise said he thought he had beaten Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne on his first shift of the game, but he just missed. Though the outcome wasn’t what he hoped for, Parise was glad to be back in his favorite environment.
“It was good to be back out playing,’’ said Parise, who is second among Wild scorers with 14 goals and 30 points. “It was hard preparing for the game, and playing the game at different times was really hard. I was anticipating that to happen in the first game.’’
Wild coach Mike Yeo also welcomed Parise’s return. “He gave what I knew he would,” Yeo said. “He’s a fierce competitor, and he’s got a ton of character.
“It’s not easy for him. You could tell there’s a quietness about him right now, which is completely understandable. But when he steps on the ice, he’s giving everything he’s got.’’
Wild fans got to see some other All-Stars in action Saturday, including the group behind the opponents’ bench. Nashville coach Peter Laviolette and his staff were named Friday to coach one of the All-Star teams, because the Predators have the NHL’s highest point percentage — points earned divided by total possible points—at the halfway mark of the season. Nashville has earned 60 points in 41 games.
Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter and his staff will coach the other All-Star team, selected because of their status as defending Stanley Cup champs.
Rinne and Predators defenseman Shea Weber also were named to the All-Star roster, while Nashville rookie center Filip Forsberg will participate in the skills competition.
• The Wild scratched forward Justin Fontaine and defenseman Jonathon Blum. Defenseman Marco Scandella missed his second game because of an upper-body injury.