Minnesota Wild are prepared to host the Chicago Blackhawks in their first ever outdoor hockey game. The experience ways heavily in the Blackhawks, but the only player on either team with that has played at TCF Bank Stadium is Wild defenseman Mike Reilly.
“I’ve been asked a little bit what it was like last time,” the rookie said. “It’s obviously a very exciting event. Obviously, everyone has it circled on their calendar. I’m sure the ice is going to be in better shape than last time. (The grounds crew) is doing everything in their power possible to keep (the ice) in the best shape possible. There are a few things that you can’t control, but the puck wasn’t bouncing too much.”
One big difference for Reilly will be the temperature. When he, then skating for the University of Minnesota, last played at TCF Bank Stadium the temperature was well below freezing. The forecast for Sunday’s game has temperatures in the mid-30s.
“It was freezing,” Reilly said referring to his previous game there. “I don’t know how the fans stuck through two and a half hours of that, but tomorrow is not even to be that cold. The weather is going to be perfect. You can’t write it up any better than that.”
In addition to being a highly anticipated NHL event, it will also be John Torchetti’s home debut outside in front of over 50,000 people as interim head coach of the Wild.
“That usually happens every day doesn’t it,” Torchetti joked about the situation. “It’s really exciting, definitely something I’m looking forward to. It’s an exciting time and we’d like to come out with two points (in the standings) that’s for sure.”
Torchetti has a history with the Blackhawks. He served as the team’s assistant coach when they won the Stanley Cup in 2010 and was instrumental in the development of star forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
“I would only have good things to say about (Torchetti),” Kane said. “I really liked him. Our power play was very successful when he was here. He was here when I first came into the league. I remember he would always take me and (Toews) on the ice early before practice and work on different things. He also taught Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis in Tampa too. (He is a) good offensive minded coach and I really liked him as a person.”
The Wild’s offense has picked up since he took over a week ago. The Wild scored five goals in all three goals since the coaching change. It is the first time in team history that they scored five goals or more in three straight game.
Wild donning green eye black
It is common to see players wearing eye black to reduce the glare and limit the effect of the sun on their vision. It is rare to see colors other than black, but a few players on the Wild had green streaks below their eyes. Does it still work?
“I don’t know if it does anything, but it looks pretty cool,” Marco Scandella said. “I don’t know if I’m going black or green tomorrow.”
Erik Haula had a stronger opinion of the makeup.
“I do (feel like it helped),” he said. “When I first went out there I didn’t have anything on. I put it on because my eyes were watering real bad and it helps with that for sure.”
Dubnyk anticipates better sight lines
Fans are usually right on top of the ice, but for the Stadium Series game, there will be a great distance between the fans and the boards. Devan Dubnyk is not worried about the different depth perception the distance could cause and believes it will be easier to see the puck.
“The vision will probably better I think on long distance shots,” the Wild’s goaltender said. “Sometimes in darker stadiums when the puck gets up there you can be fighting to find it in the dark seats. Here anything that is up in the glass is light and bright. That will be nice.”
Minnesota wins alumni game
The Minnesota alumni team defeated the Chicago Blackhawks alumni team 6-4. Goaltender Don Beaupre shined for the Minnesota team with several huge saves early in the second period to keep the Blackhawks from taking control of the game. Denis Maruk, Brian Bellows, Andrew Brunette, Wes Walz, Bobby Smith and Mike Modano scored for Minnesota.
Minnesota players had two goals: to put on a show and win the game.
“Lou Nanne came in and gave a memorable speech,” Walz said. “Let’s just say that, it was memorable. It was amazing. We wanted to put a show on for the fans. It became evident right before we went out for warmups that we wanted to win this game. We got the win for the fans. This was an amazing experience.”