Well, the team has landed in Minneapolis in preparation for tomorrow night's game against the Minnesota Wild, however prior to departing for the Twin Cities they hit the ice this morning at Centennial Sportsplex for a final tune-up.
Coach Peterson lead the majority of the drills during the morning session with Coaches Trotz and Horachek assisting him and Coach Korn on the ice monitoring the goaltenders. The forwards were divided with an array of colored jerseys and the defensemen all wearing navy blue.
The practice focused mainly on transition with working a series of flow drills with different elements built in to practice initial zone entry and quick regroups among other skills. As the team went through their paces the theme of practice today was clear, it was evident both through the drills and through the verbal encouragement of Peterson and then Trotz that the coaches want to see less passing and more shots on goal. It is simplier than that though, the coaching staff used drills designed to carry the puck wide with speed, get a player to the net, and if no pass is immediately open, a shot on net.
Special teams practice was lead by Trotz and Horachek and had a similar message. The coaching staff wanted quicker puck movement, less passing, and more shots on goal. Three forward units (top three forward lines) rotated through the drill while the defensive pairings of Weber-Suter and Bouillon-Franson stayed at their respective ends to man the points. The units worked with varying degrees of sucess, but as the drill progressed the increase in chemsitry became more evident as the chances improved both in number and quality.
Another victim of "The Cannon" was added towards the end of special teams work when Belak took a Weber snapshot off his foot while defending the ice in front of Dan Ellis. Belak went down immediately and struggled to get up to his feet before leaning on the goal for support. Wade gingerly made it over to the bench, putting minimal weight on his injured foot, a minute later with the help of his teammates before actually returning to the drill a couple minutes later without missing a shift and completing practice.
Practice ended with a shootout with the initial round consisting of two shots for each player (one against each goalie), then a final round with only the players that had scored shooting. Ryan Suter was the first player to score in the initial round, followed by Joel Ward, Mike Santorelli, Dave Scatchard, Alexander Sulzer, and Cal O'Reilly. Santorelli was the last shooter to go in the final round and like in the season opener at Dallas, won the shootout with a quick deke.
After practice veteran forward Dave Scatchard lead some basic shooting drills down at one end of the rink with most of the rookies, while the centers worked on faceoffs with Trotz, and (to the delight of fantasy owners like myself) Horachek worked with Suter and Weber on rotation on the power play setting Weber up for more shots. As the ice started to clear, Colin Wilson and Patric Hornqvist began playing "hacky sac" trying to keep a puck in the air between themselves using their stick and any other part of their body as long as it didn't hit the ice. O'Reilly saw this going on and immediately made it a threesome that ended after a couple of rounds when Wilson left to do his standard extra skating at the end of practice. Santorelli and Goc both did some individual work with Scatchard, O'Reilly, and then Sulzer and before you knew it the session was over and the players were headed up to Minnesota.
On the injury front, defenseman Dan Hamhuis participated in his second straight day of practice and is scheduled to play Wednesday night, while forward Jordin Tootoo (quad) participated in his first full practice since getting injured, but looked a half-step slow and clearly was not pushing it with full extension on his strides or quick changes of direction. No time-table has been established for Tootoo's return to the lineup, but I would rule him out through the weekend at a minimum.
Lines today were the same as the night before during the team's practice session in Franklin with Santorelli at his natural center position and O'Reilly appearing to be the odd man out skating with Tootoo:
Sullivan - Wilson - Hornqvist (White)
Dumont - Legwand - Scatchard (Gold)
Erat - Santorelli - Ward (Grey)
Smithson - Goc - Belak (Red)
XXX - O'Reilly - Tootoo (Powder Blue)
With Hamhuis back in the lineup, the defenseman rotated pretty evenly throughout the drills. Franson saw time on PP2 and with the return of Hamhuis from injury, I'd assume that the decision on who to sit Wednesday night will come between Kevin Klein and Alexander Sulzer.
Pekka Rinne stayed out on the ice to get some extra work after practice, leading one to believe that Dan Ellis has the edge for the start against the Wild tomorrow night...