ST. PAUL, Minn. — Ryan Suter is still trying to get used to playing with his new Minnesota Wild teammates following a crash-course, six-day training camp.
The NHL lockout left Suter with limited time to adjust to new surroundings, and the quick training camp was followed by the emotion of debuting at home in Saturday’s season opener. Then seeing his former team on the other bench Tuesday could only add to a head-spinning first few days with the Wild.
The result: Suter was minus-2 and on the ice for each of Nashville’s three goals in a 3-1 loss to the Predators – the team he left to sign a 13-year, $98 million deal with Minnesota.
Before the loss, Minnesota’s first of the season after a 2-0 start, Suter said it would be tough facing Nashville, the team that made him the seventh overall pick in the 2003 draft. After the game, Suter didn’t seem bothered.
“For me, it wasn’t that big of a deal,” Suter said. “Obviously, the media makes it more than it is. I’ve still got friends over there, but I’ve got friends on a lot of teams. You’ve got to go out and play hard against them. Unfortunately, they were the better team.”
Suter’s departure from Nashville wasn’t without some acrimony. Predators general manager David Poile was vocal after Suter and the offseason’s other free-agent prize, forward Zach Parise, chose Minnesota and signed matching contracts. Poile was upset and felt betrayed. According to Suter, the two didn’t talk after the signing until Tuesday morning’s pregame skate.
But Suter said he wanted to keep the conversation private.
“He’s just a classy guy, and I have a lot of respect for him,” Suter said. “He’s given me a lot of opportunities, and I’ll always respect him and appreciate him.”
Those opportunities allowed Suter — who is from nearby Madison, Wis., and has a wife from the Twin Cities – to sign such a lucrative deal. But quick the transition because of the lockout means Suter is still trying to grasp new coach Mike Yeo’s systems.
In the early portion of training camp, Suter said he would often revert to his responsibilities with Nashville, so much so that 23-year-old defensive partner Jared Spurgeon had to show the eight-year veteran where he was supposed to be.
In the season opener, Suter was a minus-1, and he’s now a minus-3 for the season. He’s also been held without a point after setting career highs in assists (39) and points (46) a year ago. But Suter feels the adjustment coming along as he logs a team-high 25 minutes per game.
“I think the first game, I was really sloppy,” Suter said. “I wasn’t really sharp. Second game I played a little better, and then tonight I felt good. I’d like to chip in more, help out offensively, but I think that will come as I get more comfortable.”
Yeo said he talked to Suter before the game and that emotions were high. But Yeo believes Suter is adapting well to his new surroundings.
“This was a tough game emotionally for him,” Yeo said. “I do think there was a couple of times where maybe he was really trying to create something, and that’s to be expected. That’s his job. That didn’t work out, but overall you can see what he does defensively. You can see what he does offensively.
“His execution, his ability to especially capitalize off turnovers and make plays through the neutral zone, and again defensively, I thought that he did a real good job for us tonight. He’s getting there, for sure. It doesn’t take much with guys like this.”