EDMONTON, Alberta – Ryan Suter never stopped working out while the Wild was on hiatus for four months.
“I’m going to either be the best one in shape in the middle of July,” he said, “or we’re going to play again, and it’ll be good for me.”
The latter turned out to be the case, with the team in its second week of training camp as it continues to get ready for its qualifying-round matchup with the Canucks in Edmonton next month.
And this late-summer return by the NHL after it was stalled in March by the coronavirus pandemic has presented the veteran defenseman with an unconventional opportunity, getting to embark on the playoffs recharged instead of battle-weary from the regular season.
“I feel really good,” Suter said in a phone call from St. Paul. “I feel great. It’s normalcy, and I think everyone is looking to find that right now with everything going on. Conditioning-wise, just being on the ice, is normal. It’s exciting to be able to get a chance to play for the Stanley Cup. Who would have thought?”
Although the Wild was on the rise in February and into March, the team wasn’t guaranteed a postseason invite and was actually a point shy of a wild-card berth when the season officially paused.
Still, it was in contention and that helped it get included in this tournament for the Cup with 23 other teams, all of whom gained the same time to rest, recover and refuel as Suter and the Wild did.
Because of that, Suter sees a “wide-open field” and believes what happened in the regular season is now irrelevant.
“You’ve got a lot of energy,” said Suter, who had a team-high 40 assists through 69 regular-season games and finished second in points at 48. “Your body feels good so just everything that in a normal year going into the playoffs that you’d have you don’t have. It’s a fresh start for every team and every player, and it’s going to be what team can get playing at the top of their game the fastest.
“It’ll be fun to just get playing, and I wish we could just play right away.”
The Wild will hold another scrimmage Thursday at Tria Rink in St. Paul, and unlike Saturday’s session, this game will include special teams now that players have been reintroduced to the team’s strategy at camp this week.
Although Zach Parise has been skating on a line with Joel Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin, he’ll work with Kevin Fiala and Eric Staal in the scrimmage since those three are together on a power-play unit.
Team brass is still working to get recent signee Kirill Kaprizov to join the Wild for the postseason experience, but instead of having Kaprizov go to Minnesota, the team is hoping to have him travel directly to Canada.
The Wild leaves for Edmonton on Sunday.