Wild players ready to move on from World Cup talk
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Almost a week removed from effectively bowing out of the World Cup of Hockey, answering questions about the debacle hadn't gotten any easier for the principals.
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Almost a week removed from effectively bowing out of the World Cup of Hockey, answering questions about the debacle hadn't gotten any easier for the principals.
Wild players who returned - Zach Parise and Ryan Suter of Team USA and Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula of Team Finland - were back in St. Paul on Monday morning for their first practice under new coach Bruce Boudreau.
It was a fast-paced workout, with players facing pressure on every repetition, just the way Boudreau likes it. That up-tempo style, for the moment at least, helped those players shift their focus to the coming NHL season.
Still, when the hourlong practice concluded, talk of the World Cup of Hockey lingered in the locker room. Suter mentioned players trying to move on "as soon as possible," although it's clear that going winless in three games left a mark on the Americans.
"To come out and have that showing was extremely disappointing for us," Suter said. "We let a lot of people down."
The U.S. lost to Team Europe to start, then had to beat Canada to stay alive. They lost that one, too, then played the Czech Republic in a meaningless game to end the tournament, a 4-3 loss.
"I don't have an answer for what went wrong," Parise said. "We put ourselves in a spot where we had to beat Canada to give ourselves a chance to make it to the final round. That's a pretty tough task. ... We couldn't do it. Then we find ourselves playing a meaningless game at the end of the tournament. It's unfortunate the way it went."
That feeling was shared by the Finns, who also went 0-3.
"It's a little disappointing to be finished that early," Granlund said. "It's good to get started here. We have a good team and guys that are excited to be here. Everyone is ready to start."
Nino Niederreiter, playing for Team Europe, is the only Wild player still left at the World Cup of Hockey. He and his teammates will play Team Canada in the finals, a best-of-three series starting Tuesday night.
"I honestly don't even care (who wins)," Suter said. "I care about being here and getting focused. We are ready to have a good start. I felt like we played well at certain times, so I know we have that. I'm saying Zach and I watched Mikko and Granny and those guys play. We played well at times. We have to carry that over here now."
Boudreau was excited to have his top players in practice for the first time, so much so that he switched up the original game-day schedule so they could skate with the team before hopping on a plane to University Park, Pa., for a game against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.
"It was good," the coach said. "You could see the skill and the speed on these guys. It's always nice to have that."
"I wasn't worried to much about their conditioning," he added. "I wanted us to make sure we can play under pressure. I think everything we did today there was pressure. There was a forecheck in the neutral zone or whatever. When the pressure is on players, player have ... to move pucks fast. That's what we want. To move pucks fast."
Koivu said things obviously felt new under Boudreau, understandable considering he played the past five seasons under Mike Yeo. Koivu said that learning the new systems will "take awhile to be where it needs to be" but added that he's excited to get started.
"You don't really know what to expect ... because every day is new," Koivu said. "And I think sometimes that's good for a player."
The World Cup players won't play Monday, or on Tuesday when the Wild are host to rival Colorado at the Xcel Energy Center. When they finally get a chance to play in a preseason game, it will be the last step toward putting the World Cup of Hockey debacle to rest.
"There's nothing we can do about that now," Parise said. "Now we have to get ourselves ready to play games here. We are looking forward to it."
Parise played in a handful of games, including exhibitions, at the World Cup of Hockey, and it appears his back responded well to the action, his first since suffering a herniated disk late last season.
He opted for rehab as opposed to offseason surgery.
"No problems," Parise said. "I was a little nervous about that to start, but by the end I wasn't even thinking about it."
Koivu had a health scare at the World Cup of Hockey when inadvertently blocked a slap shot with his skate in a meaningless game against Team Russia. He missed part of the game but appears to have avoided anything serious.
"A little sore," he said. "I'm fine skating-wise. ... It's part of the game."