Other than surprise World Cup of Hockey finalist Nino Niederreiter, the gang was all back together Monday when five World Cup participants joined the Wild for their first practice.
Finland’s Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula made up an invented-solely-for-practice line, while Zach Parise and Ryan Suter were inserted into the spots coach Bruce Boudreau envisions them being once the season starts.
Suter was paired to the left of defenseman Jared Spurgeon, while Parise sprang onto the top line with center Eric Staal.
“I think we’re going to be able to push each other and make each other better players,” Parise said of his potential linemate.
The first experience with Boudreau was a tiring, eye-opener for the five returnees. Despite them not skating since Thursday, Boudreau put them through a high-tempo, up-and-down, congested practice with lots of pressure to simulate game situations and his attacking style.
“If all of our practices continue to be like that, it’s really going to benefit us in games,” Parise said.
Other than being fatigued physically and maybe more so emotionally, the five players are excited to turn the page from a disappointing World Cup. Their teams — the United States and Finland — didn’t make it out of the round-robin portion of the tournament.
Finland often medals in international tournaments, and there were high expectations for the Americans.
“Obviously when you don’t win, you don’t play well, it’s not fun,” Suter said. “That was disappointing, but the experience was a great experience. … We just weren’t able to get going the way we needed to and it ended up costing us big time. … We let a lot of people down, for sure.”
All the players said it was time to turn their attention back to the Wild.
“I care about being here and getting focused and ready to have a good start,” Suter said.
“Everyone seems to be excited,” added Koivu.
Other than soreness, Koivu said he escaped serious injury blocking a shot Thursday against Russia. And Parise, too, said he experienced “no problems” with his back after rehabbing all summer from a season-ending herniated disk.
“By the end, I wasn’t even thinking about it, so it went really well,” Parise said.
In the meantime, Niederreiter will play against Canada in the Final. Games are Tuesday and Thursday, with a potential Game 3 Saturday. At the earliest, he won’t return to the Wild until next week.
That’s bittersweet for a player anxious to make a strong impression on Boudreau. Niederreiter could return to the left side of last season’s solid Haula-Jason Pominville line, but Boudreau wants to try him with Koivu and Granlund, who likely will move from center to wing.
“It’s weird to know the Wild’s getting ready and started with training camp and all the boys are there and I’m not there right this second,” Niederreiter said by phone from Toronto on Monday. “There’s been some change in our lineup, so as a player, you always want to showcase yourself and put yourself in the best position you can be.
“It’s been a lot of fun being here and I’m glad we’re in the Final and playing in a big stage like this, but at the same time, it would be also good to get some opportunity and get some looks on different lines [with the Wild].”
Parise noted that as much heat as the Americans got for losing to Europe, suddenly Europe’s the one in the Final.
“It’s been a fun journey,” said Niederreiter, reminding that Canada struggled to beat Latvia and Switzerland en route to its last two Olympic gold medals. “They have to lose some day, right? So why not us?
“A lot of people didn’t give us a lot of credit because we’re eight different countries in one room put together, but there’s great players in that room and there’s a reason why a lot of us are here.”
• Staal will make his unofficial Wild debut in Tuesday’s home exhibition game against Colorado. Pominville, Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin are among the regulars expected to play, as should roster hopefuls Joel Eriksson Ek, 19, the Wild’s 2015 first-round pick and Zac Dalpe.
• All three home exhibition games can be streamed on the Fox Sports GO app and FOXSportsGO.com. All preseason games can be heard on KFAN (100.3-FM).
• The Wild returned defenseman Braydyn Chizen to Kelowna (Western Hockey League) and released Keegan Iverson from his tryout. The St. Louis Park native will return to Portland (WHL).
• Prospect Dmitry Sokolov (shoulder surgery) was cleared for contact and practiced for the first time Monday.