While many Wild players said they felt the Monday preseason opener against the Buffalo Sabres was about getting their feet wet, today's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets is no longer about dipping the toes.
"There's a little bit of a difference," defenseman Jonas Brodin said. "The first game was pretty tight. This game, we need to keep getting better, and keep thinking about small things to get better at."
The Wild is bringing a more veteran lineup to Columbus on Thursday, and though some younger players are also making the trip, anticipation toward the regular season is building with lines and defensive pairings taking shape.
"The practices are getting more intense, and you're starting to throw around your body more and more," forward Nino Niederreiter said. "You can tell that it's getting closer and closer to the regular season, and now it's time to sharpen up and make sure you're ready to go."
On Wednesday, Head Coach Mike Yeo made it clear that there are still spots to be won in training camp for younger players.
"I met with a few of those guys in the morning and what the message was to them getting back in the lineup was a show of our confidence and trust in them that they're in consideration here," Yeo said. "But at the same time, we need to see a response, and we need to see a progression of them improving, and getting to know our game, and finding a way to be more effective as they go along here."
Both Niederreieter and Brodin were part of the group that played in the preseason opener against Buffalo. They both said in their second game, small details need to be improved, and it's about getting ready with the regular season now two weeks away.
"I had a few good chances [in the first game], and you want to sharpen up in front of the net," Niederreiter said. "Defensively, you want to get better in wall battles, and creating more offensive time, and all the little things like that."
Neiderreiter (right) and Jason Zucker (left), who played on opposite wings outside of center Mikko Koivu against Buffalo, will likely be playing with a new center with Koivu not expected to play. Whoever that is, for Niederreiter, Thursday is about making sure the process is moving in the right direction.
"In the second game you have to make sure you sharpen up the details," he said. "Get your passes cleaner, and get more shots to the net, and play more physical."
Here is the projected Wild lineup:
Kevin Lalande G
Devan Dubnyk G
Charlie Coyle C
Christian Folin D
Ruslan Fedotenko LW
Justin Fontaine RW
Jason Zucker LW
Zac Dalpe C
Nino Niederreiter RW
Gustav Olofsson D
Jonas Brodin D
Thomas Vanek LW
Tyson Strachan D
Nate Prosser D
Jared Knight RW
Zach Palmquist D
Tyler Graovac C
Brett Bulmer RW
Erik Haula C
Marc Hagel LW
Maxime Fortunus D