Mike Reilly’s stint with the Wild is temporary and he has yet to debut, but the young defenseman has gotten good tutoring in the press box the past two games.
The former Gophers defenseman has sat next to the Wild’s eye-in-the-sky assistant coach Darryl Sydor, a former terrific NHL defenseman who played over 1,400 NHL games and won two Stanley Cups.
Between action, Sydor has talked to Reilly about different situations and how he should react with stick position and footwork. They’ve talked systems, and Sydor points out the habits of each Wild defenseman.
“I told him, offense will get you in the league, but defense will keep you around,” Sydor said. “What I like is he asks questions, and I want him running the game through his mind.
“Even on the bench when he’s not on the ice, he needs to watch the game like he’s playing it. You should still be playing the game in your head, not just sitting there waiting for your next shift. He’s working hard. He’s getting a lot of info, but he’s a pretty smart kid.”
Reilly said he played mostly man on man in his own zone at University of Minnesota, and the Wild’s trying to break him out of that habit. He apparently gets running around at times in Iowa.
“I’m trying to learn and pick apart as much as possible from little things in each guy’s game,” Reilly said. “I’m also touching up on stuff with the systems. Things are different from college, and I feel like I’m transitioning still a little bit. But I feel like I have a way better grasp than I did a month ago.”
Reilly is also a finesse defenseman, so it takes courage going into the corners in pro hockey. Sydor is showing Reilly nightly how blue-liners such as undersized Jared Spurgeon and mobile Jonas Brodin get away with it.
“We don’t have a lot of physical D, but we have a lot of smart D,” Sydor said.
A son’s tribute
One day after the death of his father, Francesco, Wild defenseman Marco Scandella mustered up the ability to play Thursday night against Toronto.
“It wasn’t easy,” Scandella said Saturday. “I just want to carry on the legacy of my dad and be strong. It’s very tough for me and my family right now, but I’m going to keep pushing. He was a great man.”
Switching it up
The Wild tinkered with the blue line Saturday, playing Ryan Suter predominantly with his preference, Spurgeon, and for the first time deploying a Scandella-Brodin second pair.
Part of the reason for the revamped second pair was to attempt to decrease Suter’s league-high ice time. In the previous nine games, he averaged 30 minutes, 21 seconds a game. The goal this season was to play him in the 24- to 26-minute range, and the first 10 games, he did average 26:20.
But that strategy had gone out the window recently as Scandella missed seven of 11 games. And Suter still logged 29:12 Saturday.
Coach Mike Yeo said Saturday morning that now that Scandella’s back, it’s an “opportunity to scale things back a little bit. It’s something we have to keep an eye on.”
Chico Resch, who recently became the fourth player to have his number (No. 1) retired by Minnesota Duluth, took in the Wild’s skate Saturday with the Brainerd High hockey team. They were in town to play Bloomington Jefferson and Resch, now retired after 18 years of being the New Jersey Devils color analyst, is helping Dave Aus with Brainerd’s goalies.
“We’ve never been to state,” Resch said. “We’re hoping this will be the year.”