Dane Mizutani / St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL — Wild owner Craig Leipold walked into the owner's suite and plopped down at his usual spot during last Wednesday's preseason game against the Dallas Stars. That he was at the Xcel Energy Center in any capacity was a win for the 66-year-old. That he was able to sit down, well, that was a bonus. Last-minute surgery to replace his left hip confined Leipold to a bed nearly all summer — three months.
It doesn't take much to get Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau gushing about defenseman Jared Spurgeon. Just ask a question and sit back for the glowing review. "Well, I don't think it's a big secret when we say that he has done something good," Boudreau said last week. "Every team has one and he's ours." Since arriving in the Twin Cities two and a half years ago, Boudreau has consistently called Spurgeon one of the most underrated players in the NHL. He is quick credit his successes, and even quicker to defend his struggles.
ST. PAUL—Eric Staal doesn't care about the doubters. Not anymore. In fact, the 33-year-old Wild center welcomes them at this point. They serve as motivation for him to keep pushing more than a decade into an already illustrious NHL career. And yes, the doubters are back again this season, claiming there's no way Staal can repeat his 42-goal performance from last season. "That's professional sports," Staal said with a laugh. "You've got to love it. That's the reality of it. That's going to be the case probably until the end of my career."
ST. PAUL—Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau kept his promise Wednesday night. Before the game against the Winnipeg Jets, Boudreau vowed not to play star defenseman Ryan Suter more than 25 minutes in his first game since suffering a broken right ankle March 31. For the record, Boudreau was comfortably below the limit. Suter finished with only about 21K minutes of ice time, though that total was still more than any other Wild player.
ST. PAUL—Matt Read admits last season was "a humbling experience" as he was forced to come to grips with his place in the NHL. After spending the better part of a decade with the Philadelphia Flyers, the 32-year-old winger opened last season in the minors before making his way back to the big leagues and contributing in the postseason. Still, by summer, the eight-year veteran understood that a change of scenery might be a good thing.
MINNEAPOLIS — With his mother Carla Weatherly proudly watching from the stands, Vikings defensive end Stephen Weatherly raced onto the field when the starting lineup was announced before Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills. It was the first NFL start for the 24-year-old Weatherly. He made it was even more memorable by recording the first sack of his career in the Vikings' 27-6 loss. "It's a step in the right direction for me," Weatherly said, adding that the milestone was overshadowed by the Vikings' humbling defeat.
ST. PAUL — Wild coach Bruce Boudreau had a simple message for his team after Thursday's 3-1 loss to the Dallas Stars: It's time to get serious. "You'll see tomorrow," Boudreau said. "There's going to be two practices, and one group is going to be definitively more NHL-loaded than the other group." That was the case during the Friday, Sept. 21, practice as the Wild finally skated the crop of players that most resembled the lineup expected to open the regular season Oct. 4 at Colorado.
No doubt coach Bruce Boudreau wants the Wild to win every single time they take the ice. That said, during the preseason, the 63-year-old coach admitted he isn't necessarily focused on wins and losses. "I think every game the pace picks up a little bit," Boudreau said before Thursday night's game against the Dallas Stars at the Xcel Energy Center. "That's the one thing that's noticeable. I assume that even though (the Stars) aren't bringing their full lineup, that the pace is going to be higher."
DES MOINES — Yes, the backup goaltender spot with the Wild is probably Alex Stalock's to lose. But he's not counting his chickens before the hatch. Stalock, 31, has been around the NHL too long to get overconfident. "Nothing has ever been handed to me in this league," Stalock said Wednesday, Sept. 19, before preseason game against the St. Louis Blues in Des Moines. "I've always had to work of what I've gotten." Indeed.
DES MOINES — Matt Hendricks knows he can still play hockey at a high level. He proved that much during Monday, Sept. 17's preseason opener against the Winnipeg Jets, potting the Wild's only goal in a 2-1 loss. Still, the 37-year-old forward is well aware that if all goes as planned, he's more likely going to be watching from the press box than playing. He understood that much when he signed a one-year, $700,000 contract this offseason.