PITTSBURGH – Ryan Suter didn’t get voted into the NHL All-Star Game as the Wild’s candidate on the Last Men In ballot, but the upcoming break will be put to good use by the defenseman.
Suter has been playing banged up, leaving recent practices early after blocking a shot a couple of weeks ago.
“Everybody plays with injury,” Suter said. “Let’s not make a big deal out of it. Everyone deals with these.”
Despite being hobbled, Suter hasn’t missed any game action.
Actually, he has been a productive cog on the Wild’s blue line, racking up 13 points over the previous 14 games entering Tuesday’s matchup with the Penguins.
“When we’re winning, we’re scoring goals,” Suter said. “We need to get back to finding ways to score goals, and it makes it a little easier. So when you do make a mistake [and] it goes in, it’s not as big.”
That Suter was in contention for the All-Star Game (St. Louis’ David Perron was the final player voted onto the Central Division roster by fans) wasn’t a surprise considering the season he’s assembling. Before Tuesday’s action, Suter led the Wild in assists (24), average ice time (25 minutes, 12 seconds) and points on the power play (12). His 30 points overall ranked second.
“I’m looking forward to the break,” Suter said. “It’d be nice to finish this. We have [four] games left here. Finish it off on a high note, go and recharge and get ready for the last stretch.”
Football meets hockey
The Wild had a few extra spectators at its morning skate Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, special teams coordinator Danny White and conditioning coordinator Garrett Giemont took in the session, with Tomlin watching from the Wild’s bench.
White is a friend of coach Bruce Boudreau; their coaching tenures overlapped in Washington when Boudreau was at the helm of the Capitals and White coached special teams for the Redskins.
“We just stayed good friends, and he phoned me the other day and wanted to do dinner [Monday] night and I said I couldn’t do it,” Boudreau said. “And he said, ‘Can I come to the morning skate?’ And then he texted me [Monday] morning and said, ‘I’m going to bring Mike Tomlin. Can you get another pass?’ And I said, ‘I don’t think Mike Tomlin needs a pass to get in anywhere here in Pittsburgh.’ He’s a great person.”
In awe when he watched the action at Steelers training camps in the past, Boudreau said the Steelers coaches had the same reaction to seeing the Wild operate up close.
“They can never understand the speed of the game because they’re either watching it on TV or they’re watching it in the stands, which is not like watching it from behind the bench,” Boudreau said. “Their thing is how do you change all those lines. And they’ve only got 16 games, and they take a whole week to prepare and we sometimes play four games in a week. We have to turn the page and get on to the next team.”
Although he was a defensive coordinator with the Vikings, Tomlin is mostly known in his coaching career for leading the Steelers, and that’s why Boudreau didn’t have Tomlin address the Wild ahead of Tuesday’s game.
“I thought it would be pretty non-prudent for a Pittsburgh guy to be talking to a Minnesota team, and I told him that,” Boudreau said.
The Wild was poised to make only one change to its lineup Tuesday, subbing in center Victor Rask for Ryan Donato on the fourth line and keeping Brad Hunt as the lone defensive scratch to give Greg Pateryn a second consecutive game after his return Sunday following core muscle surgery. But Donato ended up dressing after he was included on the official playing roster, and Pateryn was listed as a scratch.
Pateryn was on the bench when the mistake was pointed out to Boudreau by the officials before opening puck drop. He left, and Donato emerged during the first period.