MINNEAPOLIS - There was plenty of talk about practice on Tuesday as the Minnesota Wild were on the ice for morning skate at Xcel Energy Center, ahead of hosting the Los Angeles Kings.
Putting the Allen Iverson rant aside, Wild coach Dean Evason and his players have to walk a fine line as they race through a 56-game season. They’re off to a 4-2 start, and in six games, haven’t had more than one open day in between.
The Wild is in the middle of playing 10 games over a 19-day stretch since the season started Jan. 4 in L.A. In February, it’s more of the same. Starting Feb. 2, the Wild will play another stretch of 10 games in 19 days before getting a five-day break. That’s 20 games in 38 days. Wild coach Dean Evason said Tuesday they’ll sit down as a team and evaluate their practice and skate plans after 10 games.
"There’s so many hockey games and it’s so new to everybody. We’re not 100 percent honestly on what we’re going to do day to day," Evason said. "Our bottom line to the group is that when the puck is dropped, you play. Regardless of if we fly the day before or if we skate the day before, if we practice the day of. When the puck is dropped, we’re ready to play."
Evason said the coaching staff tries to do whatever they can to keep the players fresh. That might mean more film than practice one day, or the option to give players rest instead of participating in morning skate. Ironically at morning skate Tuesday, Evason said in general, he’s not a fan of it.
"I’m not a big believer in morning skates. I think there’s a 15-18 minute warm-up before the game that’s plenty. I think if we can conserve energy, everybody prepares differently. We’re just trying to find our groove," Evason said.
He said the players are in constant communication with the coaching staff about when they should and shouldn’t be on their feet. After all, what matters is healthy, fresh and available come game time.
"We’re playing so many games right now so if you have a little injury, I think it’s just better to stay off on the practice day so you’re 100 percent for the game," defenseman Jonas Brodin said. "We’ve got to take care of our bodies right now because there’s so many games. That’s important."
The Wild will have Nico Sturm available Tuesday night against the Kings after he’s missed the last two games. But they won’t have goaltender Cam Talbot, who left last Friday’s game against San Jose with a lower body injury. Kaapo Kahkonen will make his second start in Talbot’s absence.
Tuesday night marks the third of six straight home games for the Wild to end the month of January. They’ll be looking for a faster start against the Kings after getting behind 3-1 in consecutive games last week, coming back in the third period to force overtime before eventually winning.