ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild have waited more than six months to unveil their new $98-million assets. After a lockout and weeklong training camp, the team will officially do just that when Zach Parise and Ryan Suter debut in Wild sweaters at 8 p.m. against the Colorado Avalanche at Xcel Energy Center.
Saturday's season opener also caps the annual "Hockey Day Minnesota" celebration sponsored by the team and the local FOX Sports affiliate. So it's safe to say that the hockey-crazed fans in Minnesota will be even more excited to see the Wild season finally get under way this evening.
For Parise, the delay has been especially long. After all, this is the player who started pining for the season to start in July at his introductory press conference.
"It dragged during November, December. It got pretty long," Parise said. "Everyone can stop analyzing and overanalyzing and now we can just play. I think everybody is looking forward to that."
They say old habits die hard, and for Parise and Suter, who had spent their entire respective careers with their previous organizations, the early challenge will be finding a rhythm in their new system. Suter said that only some of that rhythm can be captured during practice.
"I know what we're trying to do. I just want to get out there now and play," Suter said. "If I make a mistake, I'll fix them."
Saturday also marks the debut of one of the National Hockey League's brightest young prospects: Mikael Granlund will center the Wild's second line with Devin Setoguchi and Matt Cullen on his wings.
Also making their Wild debuts tonight will be wing Torrey Mitchell and center Zenon Konopka, who both signed in the days preceding the Parise-Suter addition.
With Avalanche coach Joe Sacco saying he will go with former Wild draft pick Patrick Bordeleau on the fourth line, look for Minnesota coach Mike Yeo to counter with Matt Kassian.
"It's exciting coming to the rink today," Yeo said. "By the time I got home and had dinner last night, that's when it started to kick in a little bit, that excitement. A little bit of butterflies, that jitteriness before the first game. But that's all good."
For Colorado, PA Parenteau will throw on the Avs crest for the first time after coming over from the New York Islanders. He will join captain Gabriel Landeskog and center Matt Duchene on the second line, forming a trio that has the potential to be one of the most explosive secondary lines in the League.
"It took forever before we could get going, nine months since the last game, but I'm excited," Parenteau said. "For myself, I had a good two weeks of skating in Denver, getting used to new linemates. Obviously we haven't played a game yet, but things are looking pretty good in practice."
The Avalanche are still missing a critical cog in the lineup right now: Ryan O'Reilly, who remains embroiled in a contract dispute with the club. One of the top young centers in the game, O'Reilly scored 18 goals and 55 points last season as a 20-year-old and is still playing in the Kontinental Hockey League.
Until then, Sacco said he's excited to forget all the talk and analysis and finally get the season underway.
"The players have a lot of enthusiasm. They're eager to get started," Sacco said. "It's a great day for hockey today. We have a good feeling in our locker room right now; we're excited, we're upbeat. We have a great test tonight."
Former Wild winger Chuck Kobasew, who has been battling illness, will not play tonight. With eight defensemen on his roster, Sacco revealed that Shane O'Brien will not play tonight. Greg Zanon will play next to Tyson Barrie, meaning the final scratch will likely be either Matt Hunwick or Ryan O'Byrne. Seven defensemen will warm up tonight before Sacco makes the final call before game time.
Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Dany Heatley
Matt Cullen - Mikael Granlund - Devin Setoguchi
Pierre-Marc Bouchard - Kyle Brodziak - Cal Clutterbuck
Matt Kassian - Zenon Konopka - Torrey Mitchell
Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Tom Gilbert - Clayton Stoner
Nate Prosser - Justin Falk
Jamie McGinn - Paul Stastny - David Jones
Gabriel Landeskog - Matt Duchene - PA Parenteau
Steve Downie - John Mitchell - Milan Hejduk
Patrick Bordeleau - Mark Olver - Cody McLeod
Jan Hejda - Erik Johnson
Greg Zanon - Tyson Barrie
Ryan Wilson - Stefan Elliott