With sweat still dripping from their foreheads after today’s Minnesota Wild morning skate, Stu Bickel and Jordan Schroeder sat in the visitor’s locker room at Xcel Energy Center, took off their gear, cleared out their stalls and packed their bags with drenched equipment. For hockey players on the bubble of making an NHL roster, it’s typically an unceremonious procedure signifying that they’ve been reassigned to the team’s minor league affiliate or placed on waivers.
However, for Bickel and Schroeder it meant they were moving to the Wild’s dressing room for the team’s fourth preseason game, tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Along with getting another chance to prove their worth to the organization’s brass, it’s going to be a special night for both. The Minnesota natives are set to play in front of the home crowd in Wild sweaters for the first time.
“I’m excited, it should be a fun game,” Bickel said. “It will be special coming back home and putting on a Wild jersey.”
The blueliner said he’ll have a number of friends and family in attendance, but they know not to try to contact him until after the game.
“I don’t talk to them too much about that, I try to focus on hockey,” Bickel said. “They’ve been doing it long enough where they know the way I communicate, and I don’t really communicate on game days too much, so they’re well aware.”
The Chanhassen native is aware of the type of game he needs to bring to the lineup. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo believes having a guy like Bickel amongst the ranks makes it easier on his teammates to get into their game.
“There’s no question,” Yeo said. “Your players play a little bit bigger. There’s a part of the game that exists that is very real, as far as your top players; the comfort level that they have and the ability to go out and play their game.”
Schroeder is trying to establish his game in Minnesota. The former first-round pick (22nd overall, 2009) shuttled between the Vancouver Canucks and the team’s American Hockey League affiliates for the past two seasons. Thus far in camp, the Lakeville native believes that the Wild’s style of play suits him.
“I love it,” Schroeder said. “They want to play an up-tempo style and fast paced, so it’s been a good adjustment.
“Those are my assets, speed and skill and making plays, so I’ve got to play to my advantage.”
The former Golden Gopher standout will have another reason to celebrate tonight: He turns 24 today.
“Hopefully a win and a goal,” Schroeder smiled.
Vanek Set For Home Debut
Another former Golden Gopher will make his Wild home debut tonight, Thomas Vanek. The forward missed Saturday’s game with soreness, but is ready to play tonight and will be on the wing with Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle.
Forward Zack Phillips will make his preseason debut tonight and goaltender Darcy Kuemper is expected to play the entire game. Here’s what tonight’s Wild lineup will look like against the Pens:
Zach Parise–Mikael Granlund–Jason Pominville
Thomas Vanek–Mikko Koivu–Charlie Coyle
Matt Cooke–Kyle Brodziak–Jordan Schroeder
Stephane Veilleux–Cody Almond–Zack Phillips
Ryan Suter–Jonas Brodin
Marco Scandella–Christian Folin
Stu Bickel–Matt Dumba
Crosby Out For Penguins
Reigning NHL MVP, Sidney Crosby will not make his preseason debut tonight. According to the team's website, Crosby returns to Nova Scotia today for his grandmother¹s funeral. He was originally going to play tonight in Minnesota, but couldn¹t work out the logistics.
NHL Network Replay
Tonight's contest will be replayed on NHL Network at 11 p.m. State of Hockey Time.
The Wild assigned three players to the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League (AHL): F Brett Bulmer, D Guillaume Gelinas and F Tyler Graovac. Minnesota also placed D Jonathon Blum, D Justin Falk and F Joel Rechlicz on waivers.
“Some of the moves that were made today, some of those guys might factor into our game in St. Louis,” Yeo said. “We had to get down to a point where we got down to one group.”
Minnesota also assigned goaltender Brandon Whitney to his junior team, Victoriaville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).