As pleased as Bruce Boudreau was with Thursday’s 1-0 victory over Winnipeg at Xcel Energy Center, the Wild coach got an even bigger lift when Zach Parise was cleared to practice Friday.
Parise has been dealing with a back injury since training camp started a week ago. The winger has yet to participate in any practices and has instead been skating before or after the team sessions. Parise’s workouts have become more intensive this week, and he got the go-ahead to dive into a full practice after speaking to his doctors Thursday.
“I think he’s feeling better,’’ Boudreau said. “It’s still a day-to-day type thing. But from my reports, he’s skating good on his own, and he can’t wait to join the group.’’
About the victory
The Wild moved to 2-0 during preseason play, thanks to its strong defensive performance in its victory over the Jets. Jared Spurgeon scored the game’s only goal at 9 minutes, 20 seconds of the second period, and goaltender Alex Stalock stopped all 21 shots he faced.
Stalock, the top candidate to back up regular goalie Devan Dubnyk, praised his teammates for keeping many shots to the outside and helping him see the puck well. Marcus Foligno had eight hits as the Wild outhit Winnipeg 25-17. The Jets, using a lineup heavy with young players, also lost to the Wild on Monday in a shootout.
Making his case
Carson Soucy got a bit of a flashback Wednesday, when he ran into some old friends. Minnesota Duluth coach Scott Sandelin and winger Karson Kuhlman were at Xcel Energy Center for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference’s preseason news conference, giving Soucy — a former Bulldog — a chance to catch up.
As nice as it was, Soucy’s mind has turned firmly to his future with the Wild. The 6-4, 212-pound defenseman has played both preseason games, catching the eye of Boudreau with his physical play and the strides he has made in his short time as a pro. Though Boudreau said Soucy “is going to need time’’ to adapt to the NHL game and will likely start the season with the team’s AHL affiliate in Iowa, he is excited at what the big defenseman could become.
A native of Viking, Alberta, Soucy was a fifth-round pick in the 2013 NHL draft and played four seasons at UMD.
“He’s a first-year guy, and defense is an awful hard position to come in as a first-year guy,’’ Boudreau said. “I think he’s going to need games in the American League. But he’s definitely a high prospect.’’
The competition for the final roster spots on defense is deep, but Soucy believes he can lend some muscle, energetic defense and quickness on breakouts.
“You want to try to make a lasting impression,’’ he said. “I’ve got to play the best I can in these exhibition games. And if I get sent down, make the best of that, play my minutes and keep working on what the coaches have to say.’’
The national anthem was sung Thursday by former NFL tight end Ben Utecht. The Hastings native and former Gopher also did the “Let’s Play Hockey’’ chant with his extended family.
Utecht and Francine Roche, who handled the Canadian national anthem, filled in at a position that remains empty after the departure of longtime anthem maestro James Bohn. He announced in August that he was giving up the gig he held since the 2010-11 season in order to devote more time to his family and to traveling. Wild officials plan to hire another permanent voice, but no decision has been made.
Finland’s president, Sauli Niinisto, did a ceremonial pregame puck drop with the Wild’s Matt Cullen and Jets forward Matt Hendricks, a Blaine native who played at St. Cloud State. Niinisto wore a No. 17 Wild jersey and got loud applause from the crowd, which might have included some folks with ties to the country. Minnesota has the largest percentage of residents with Finnish ancestry of any state in the U.S.