Do you hear it? All hockey fans in Minnesota breathed a sigh of relief.
Seriously injured in a win over Boston last week, Wild’s star striker Kirill Kaprizov prepares to play Friday’s game against Anaheim at Xcel Energy Center. He skated with his teammates in training on Wednesday at the TRIA Rink in downtown St. Paul, and although he looked quite out of breath at times, coach Dean Evason has no doubts that he will now play with the 24-year-old Russian.
When asked what he needs to see from Kaprizov to prove that he is ready, Evason smiled and replied: “I’ve seen enough.” In other words, if nothing unexpected happens in the next 48 hours, Caprice will return to the squad when Wild plays the Ducks.
This may come as a surprise to some, considering how jaded the Whims looked after a dangerous hit by Bruins striker Trent Frederick last week. He struggled to skate before the team coach helped him into the locker room.
As bad as it looked at the time, Kaprizov quickly bounced back and started working with figure skating coach Andy Ness this week. However, he clearly felt the impact of Wednesday’s workout, which was harder than most, as Evason tried to keep his players in shape with almost a week between games.
“We’re not relaxing,” Evason said. “I am sure that today he will feel tired, and tomorrow he will have another strong point.”
While Wild recently lamented the start-stop schedule caused by COVID, they are now grateful for it with so many injuries piling up.
The situation around Kaprizov is an excellent example of this. Absent for nearly a week with an upper body injury, he only missed one game last Saturday against the Washington Capitals.
“We were certainly fortunate that we played little games when these guys were away,” Evason said. “However, we were also able to get a good look at different people. We were able to call and have people in different positions. We were also pleased to see several different looks. ”
MERRYL IS EXPECTED
The rest of the time, John Merrill may have the coolest environment for actually agreeing to a contract renewal.
It’s no secret that General Manager Bill Guerin has been chatting with Merrill’s agent for some time now, trying to close a deal. But he never spoke to Merrill in person until the family went ice skating at Target Field, the day before the Winter Classic.
It was then that both sides agreed to a $ 3.6 million 3-year contract extension that would keep Merrill with Wild in the 2024-25 season.
“This was the first time Billy and I had the opportunity to speak,” Merrill said. “It made for a pretty cool setting and a memory, of course.”
After winning the fans’ loyalty this season, Rem Pitlik’s stint in his home state of Wild suddenly came to an end this week. The former high school player Chaska and the Gophers was waived Tuesday and was challenged by the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.
While he clearly has an effective shot, as evidenced by his 14 November hat-trick against the Seattle Kraken, there was a discrepancy between how Pitlik viewed himself as a player and how the coaching staff perceived him. They needed him to agree to a certain role in the lineup, and Pitlik struggled with that.
“Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone to be successful at this level,” Evason said. “He played well for us in the snatch, so I don’t want to take that away from him. He competed. He tried. It’s just a situation where we’re going to go in a different direction. “