Greetings from St. Paul, where there’s a heat wave going on: The temperature is in in the 30s and expected to hit 40 next week.
The Ducks, who arrived in Minnesota too late Thursday to hold a practice, skated Friday morning at the Xcel Energy Center. Newly acquired defenseman Colby Robak practiced with the team but isn’t expected to play against the Wild on Friday night. Defenseman Mark Fistric, who had a lower back injury and then took a puck to the mouth during a practice and required stitches, is expected to play against the Wild.
Mat Clark appeared to be the defenseman pushed out of the lineup by Fistric’s return.
The Ducks won’t have to worry about facing Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter, who will miss his second straight game because of the mumps. He skated with the Wild on Friday morning but Coach Mike Yeo ruled Suter out of the game.
Fistric, who last played on Oct. 30, said he was excited and a little nervous about the prospect of rejoining the lineup.
“When you’re out that long you miss a few steps, and guys are 20-plus games into the season,” said Fistric, who’s wearing a face shield to protect his facial cuts. “It’s up to me to go out there early and get my feet under me and contribute.”
At 28, Fistric brings age and experience to a defense corps that has become young because of injuries to veterans like him and Francois Beauchemin (broken finger). Can he also calm down a young group?
“We’ve got good young D-men. If anything, they’re the most calm out there. They’re phenomenal players,” he said, mentioning 20-year-old Hampus Lindholm and 23-year-olds Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen and Josh Manson. “It shows a lot for the organization and how they’re able to draft players and a lot of the players coming in, their character, to come in and play and play big minutes and contribute so much as they have.”
The Ducks acquired Robak, 24, from Florida for Jesse Blacker and a draft pick that will be a fourth-rounder in 2016 or a sixth-rounder in 2017, depending on how many games Robak plays. They made the move after Eric Brewer, acquired from Tampa Bay, suffered a broken foot two games into his Ducks career.
Robak, 24, is listed at 6-foot-3 and 194 pounds and he shoots left-handed. He played only seven games for the Panthers this season.
“I’m excited. I haven’t been here very long, obviously, but it’s a great group of guys and a great organization and something I’m very excited to come into and just take it as a good opportunity and try to make the best of it,” he said.
The Panthers, he said, “have got a great group of guys that are developing well. And it’s one of those things where they need the room. Hopefully there’s an opportunity for me here and we’ll see what happens.”
Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said Fistric could be “a settling influence on our team,” especially for the young defensemen. Boudreau also said he knew little about Robak except “he’s a second-round pick, he’s pretty big and he’s a really good skater.” Boudreau said he planned to let Robak participate in some practices before throwing him into a game.