Hey, have I happened to mention that the Star Tribune 2016-17 Wild preview is Monday at noon?????
OK, maybe I have been promoting it just a wee bit too much, but please come on down and join us. Click this link and get your ticket now to attend Monday’s Q and A with Wes Walz, Anthony LaPanta and yours truly.
It’s always a fun time talking hockey and the Wild with Wes and Anthony, and where else can you get a Russo’s Rants T-shirt? They're, uh, flying for the shelves.
In addition, don’t forget about the four Star Tribune Chalk Talks this season with Walz and moi. To purchase those packages for the four Wild games, click this link!
If you didn't see today's loco article on Bruce Boudreau's disastrous move to Minnesota, please give my article a read here.
On Saturday, the final dress rehearsal so to speak for Thursday’s opener in St. Loueeeeeeeeeee is against the Winnipeg Jets.
You can tell the season is closing in because Boudreau’s game face is slowly but surely coming into fruition.
I had a pretty good sense today’s practice would be a doozy after I sat down with him Thursday for a very fun, wide-ranging interview. But when talking about the team, he indicated he’d flip a couple players in lines today and said he had to find that happy medium in getting the fastest team he has ever coached to also add physicality.
“What is taking time to get used to a little bit is we’re nowhere near as physical as the teams I coached in Washington and Anaheim, so it’s a little bit of a different tactic,” Boudreau said Thursday. “I’m trying to find sort of a halfway medium that they become more physical but don’t get out of what they’re good at. Like, I can’t make them into a bunch of Alex Ovechkins hitting everything that moves.
“But at the same time, if we can get into their face a little bit more, it’ll go a long way.”
So, today, following a long video session to show the players that you “can’t play the game without making contact with people,” he conducted a bigtime battle practice and said this is only the beginning.
As for the lines, Boudreau likes the look of the Zach Parise-Eric Staal-Charlie Coyle line and so far wants to keep Mikael Granlund-Mikko Koivu and Nino Niederreiter-Erik Haula as tandems. But he’s trying to find proper fits for right wings Jason Pominville and Chris Stewart and left wing Jason Zucker.
Pominville moved to the Koivu line, Stewart to the Haula line and Zucker to the fourth line with rookie Joel Eriksson Ek and rotating wingers Zac Dalpe and Christoph Bertschy.
Veteran Ryan Carter once again didn’t practice with an injury and he seems destined to be released from his tryout.
Here’s Boudreau on a number of subjects, both from Thursday’s sitdown and after practice.
On Zucker’s camp: “I like parts of it, but he was instrumental in both goals against [in Colorado]. But he always finds a way to get at least one good scoring chance a game. I just think we can get him to be a little more complete. I think he’s the kind of guy that has always thought if he didn’t score he wasn’t valuable, and I think he can be valuable and do good things without scoring. Scoring will be the natural part of it.”
He said Zucker has the capability of moving up and he’s still experimenting.
On changing things: “[Former coaches Mike Yeo and John Torchetti] did different things than I do. Mike did a great job. This team was well coached, but different drills, different probably ideals a little bit, and some of these guys have been here a long time and they have to change a little bit. It’s the same [with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf] when I got [to Anaheim]. Those kind of guys had been with Randy [Carlyle] for the previous five years. Now all of a sudden everything was changing. You have to find trust in a new coach again. It took a little while. In Anaheim, it took 2 ½ weeks before the team started to turn around and believe in it.”
-- On voicing his concern about the depth and fourth line, and if they have to make a move: “I don’t know what Chuck has in mind to be quite honest. The reason I’ve voiced concern is I’ve always been a four-line team and try to roll four lines as much as possible. Over the course of a year, it keeps you consistent. If you end up being a three-line team, my worry is you overuse some of your players and come January or February they’re a little tired or beat up and you go into a swoon.”
Swoon? Never heard of it.
But Boudreau made clear he still thinks this team will be a very good with time and his expectations are high.
He loves Eriksson Ek and Tuch’s future, by the way.
On Erik Haula: “I think he can be a third-line guy. He can skate. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet.”
Lastly, on Devan Dubnyk, this was interesting.
He hasn’t looked the greatest in practice and he has shown frustration at times on the ice.
Boudreau revealed that Dubnyk has been battling an injury or “soreness” for a couple weeks, something Boudreau said he only found out about Friday, “so obviously it can’t be bad.”
He said that injury has “derailed him from stopping as many pucks as I would like to see him stop. I told him today, ‘You’re our No. 1 goalie, but you have to play every practice like a game. … Let’s not revert to bad habits.’”
Talk to ya Saturday.