On Saturday morning, the Minnesota Wild hosted an open practice that was free to the public to coincide with the single-game ticket sale. The practice was split up into two identical sessions and went over a number of different drills all focusing on offensive zone pressure, breakouts, and faceoff strategies.
The first drill of the day was on faceoffs in the offensive zone and getting a one-timer at the net. Once the shot was taken all of the players would grab a puck and skate down to the other end of the ice and take a shot at the other goalie. Johan Gustafson and Niklas Backstrom were in between the pipes in the early session and both saw rubber early and often. Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, and Jason Pominville skated together on a line today. From all accounts today, Parise and Pominville like playing with each other. Jason Pominville appears to be the right-handed shot that the Wild have been searching for a long time. I think he'll be great for the Wild this year.
Mikael Granlund centered a line between Justin Fontaine and Jason Zucker. The line is young, but fast and very skilled. In one drill where they played 5-on-5, Granlund's line matched up against the Koivu line. Parise checked Granlund hard near the left corner of the net and caught an errant Granlund stick in the face.
Erik Haula was also playing at the pivot position and was trying hard to make plays. He split the defensemen and had Gustafsson beat and sprawled out, but instead went over Gustafsson's stick and hard in to the end boards.
In the second session, we finally caught our first glimpses of Nino Niederreiter and Matt Cooke. Charlie Coyle lined up between Niederreiter and Dany Heatley. Our own Giles Ferrell tweeted out during practice,
"I'm sure you've heard this already, but my goodness Heatley looks good."
The line is a very interesting combination because they all possess size and skill. If this line can click, look for big things in the secondary scoring department. Matt Cooke played along side Kyle Brodziak and Torrey Mitchell and chirped, laughed and busted chops all throughout practice. That line was so all over the place that Cooke and Brodziak both ran into each other while executing one of the drills. Everyone was laughing and smiling afterwards.
Josh Harding debuted his new Iron Range Red pads today. Harding looked excited to be out there today. He was making the first and the second save with a purpose. He looked quick out there. Maybe it was the trimmed-down goalie pads.
Remember the Wild are opening their doors again on Sunday for a Green versus White inter-squad scrimmage at 11:00 AM. Doors open at 10:45.The scrimmage will be the Wild's last time to simulate real game-like action before their first preseason game on Tuesday. Some of your favorite Hockey Wilderness writer will be in attendance to take in the game. If you see us, make sure you say, "Hi." Just don't be like the one lady today that kept yelling, "Go Wild!" while the team was gathered around the rink board and Darryl Sydor was busy diagramming the next drill.