Suter now finding his mojo
Updated: February 23, 2013 - 9:38 PM
CALGARY, ALBERTA - Coming off a game in which coach Mike Yeo said he put on a "clinic" in Edmonton, defenseman Ryan Suter said he finally is feeling comfortable on the Wild back end after a shaky start.
"I'd like to think this is how I've always played," said Suter, who had to get used to a new team, system and life without longtime partner Shea Weber. "Look at Shea down in Nashville. He had a rough start, too, and now he's starting to find his groove.
"I think it's just normal when you change things up."
Before Saturday's game in Calgary, Suter was plus-3 with five assists and 16 shots over a seven-game stretch. This was after being minus-7 in his first nine games with the Wild.
Suter, who is paired with impressive 19-year-old rookie Jonas Brodin, was leading the NHL in average ice time (27 minutes, 38 seconds a game) and was tied for ninth among defensemen with nine assists.
He logged 31:19 of ice time in Thursday's 3-1 victory at Edmonton, the fourth time he topped 30 minutes this year.
In that game, Yeo said Suter put on a "clinic with how physical he was, how strong he was, just his composure, his ability to skate pucks out of pressure and out of traffic, his ability to get us to the offensive zone. There wasn't one aspect of his game that wasn't dead-on.
"He's been coming right from Day One. This is what we said. We saw the subtleties in his game and ... with no training camp, exhibition games, a new team and new system, we didn't expect him Game 1 playing at the level we knew he would get to eventually. He's coming quickly, that's for sure."
It's been a tough few days for Suter. His wife, Becky, gave birth to their second child Tuesday. "Had a baby and left the next day at 10 a.m.," Suter said. "It's kind of sad that you have to leave home, but obviously my wife understands."
Defenseman Nate Prosser entered Saturday having not been on the ice for a goal-against this season. The Wild was 6-2 with him in the lineup. "I love the way he's competing," Yeo said. "He's a guy that not fun to play against."
Prosser showed in Thursday's victory how much he is willing not only to take a hit to make a play but to go down in order to block a shot.
He also will get into any player's face who gets too close to the goaltender. "We want to protect our goalies," said Prosser, an Elk River native. "At the same time, it keeps me involved in the game. Mentally, physically, it keeps me invested in the game.
"Whenever I can get another player off his game and thinking about me on the bench, that's perfect. Whenever a guy like [Nashville's Mike] Fisher is thinking, 'Who's this Prosser guy?' that's what I want."
Flames coach Bob Hartley had spent the past few days calling out his players for not responding when Los Angeles forward Trevor Lewis bowled over goalie Joey MacDonald on Wednesday.
Hartley wants his players to be more physical in general. The Flames called up 6-foot-4 Akim Aliu, who has 80 penalty minutes with Abbotsford, for Saturday's game.
The Wild dressed gritty Zenon Konopka for the first time in three games, although Yeo said he planned to play him regardless of Hartley's challenge. "I'm excited to play," Konopka said.
Rookie Mikael Granlund, a 2010 first-round pick who has been playing the fourth line, was scratched to make room for Konopka.
Cal Clutterbuck (thigh contusion) was walking without crutches Saturday. Yeo said there is no fracture, so his return will be a matter of "time and comfort."
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