Dane Mizutani / St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL — Mikko Koivu very easily could have skipped town seven years ago. It would have been the easy way out. He was a highly regarded, 27-year-old center from Finland approaching his hockey prime, and the future of the Wild was very much in question after missing the NHL playoffs two years in a row. "He would have had an opportunity to become an unrestricted free agent" the following season, general manager Chuck Fletcher said. "He chose to sign here and to kind of be the rallying point for how we were going to rebuild."
ST. PAUL — Joel Eriksson Ek admitted that this time last year he took more of a "happy to be here" approach to training camp. Who could blame him? Eriksson Ek was a wide-eyed teenager vying for a roster spot — a roster spot which he eventually claimed — and was awestruck to be skating with some of the players he grew up watching. No longer is that the case. "Now I know how it works around this organization," Eriksson Ek said. "That has helped me a lot so far."
ST. PAUL — Goaltender Niklas Svedberg could walk around the Twin Cities in broad daylight and easily go unnoticed. He isn't exactly a household name around these parts after spending the past two years playing in Russia. That said, there's a chance the 28-year-old Swede could be the solution to the backup goaltender problem that plagued the Wild all of last season. Coach Bruce Boudreau was frustrated with the erractic play he got from last year's backup, Darcy Kuemper, who signed with the Los Angeles Kings in the offseason.
ST. PAUL—As soon as the Wild unloaded Marco Scandella's fat contract via a trade in the offseason, the door immediately swung open for up-and-coming players like Gustav Olofsson and Mike Reilly. While both players have been given ample opportunity to prove themselves earlier in their careers, neither has been able to turn that into a full-time position. Olofsson has struggled through a constant stream of injuries, while the NHL game has looked too big for Reilly at times.
ST. PAUL—Ryan Malone has the fire again. Not something he could say two years ago. "You look at the end when I fizzled out," said Malone, an NHL veteran who has played nearly 650 games. "I kind of lost that fire. That's the reason I wasn't playing anymore." Malone said the moment he knew he had officially lost it came during a minor-league game a couple years ago. He recalls a youngster chirping him during a game and somehow resisting the urge to make him pay. A hard-nosed player throughout his career, Malone took it as a sign.
ST. PAUL — Wild coach Bruce Boudreau could hardly contain himself when talking about Daniel Winnik on the first day of training camp Friday, Sept. 15. Winnik is currently on a professional tryout, and while he's far from a household name in the Twin Cities, Boudreau believes the 10-year veteran has a legitimate shot at making the team. "I firmly believe we got the best free agent tryout guy out there," Boudreau said. "He's going to push guys to play better."
ST. PAUL — Wild winger Zach Parise missed Day 1 of training camp, although it doesn't appear to be anything serious, according to coach Bruce Boudreau. "It's day to day with him," Boudreau said. "As soon as the trainers tell me he's ready to go, he'll be here. I really don't think it's overly serious. ... With three weeks (until the regular season), we want to make sure everybody hits Game 1 on the upswing."
ST. PAUL — While the mood around the Xcel Energy Center was light on Thursday, Sept. 14, as Wild players reunited after nearly five months apart, there was also an overarching feeling of nervousness about what was to come Friday. That, of course, is when coach Bruce Boudreau will administer his vaunted skate test, which features players skating 4K lengths of the ice sheet in back-to-back-to-back fashion. You have to finish the opening run in under 38 seconds and the final two runs in under 41 seconds.
ST. PAUL — Wild players walked around the Xcel Energy Center on Thursday morning, Sept. 14, sporting T-shirts plastered with four words that perfectly sum up coach Bruce Boudreau's thoughts heading into this season. "Our motto this year is 'Good Isn't Good Enough' because we're always good, it seems," Boudreau said. "We want to strive to be better than good. We want to be great. ... We have a team that's built to win." As cliche as it sounds, Boudreau is on to something.
ST. PAUL — It's an uncharacteristically hot September day and Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau has taken a break from watching the NHL Network at his suburban St. Paul home to attend the team's annual golf tournament at Troy Burne Golf Club. How's his golf game? "Not good," Boudreau said with a laugh. "You know, it's the last one of these of the year, though, so let's hurry up and get it over with."