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From the Rink: Wild set to make history at Little Caesars Arena

A project years in the making for downtown Detroit, the Red Wings will open their new barn tonight against Minnesota

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

DETROIT -- It's been 17 years since the Minnesota Wild were part of the opening of a brand new arena. The last time it was, its own brand new building opened in downtown St. Paul.

That will change on Thursday when the Wild opens its regular season against the Detroit Red Wings at the sparkling new Little Caesars Arena. 

The game Thursday provides a bit of a bookend; Minnesota was one of the final few teams to play in Joe Louis Arena back in March. That 38-year old building ceased operations at the end of July and will be turned into a residential high rise.

About a mile north sits the brand new barn, dubbed by some as "The Dough Joe."

"It's gonna be awesome, I think," said Wild forward Mikael Granlund. "When you can open up a new arena, it's special. And to be able to be there and play against them, it should be a fun night."

While Joe Louis had its quirks -- electrical wire left exposed, a smell that cannot be exactly defined and a press box that was, literally, tossed in at the last second before it opened in 1979 -- no expense was spared when building the new place.

"I'm really glad the new building is up," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, who has both played and coached in his share of games at the old place. "I'm really looking forward to the new rink. The people of Detroit really deserve it. It's going to be a wild atmosphere because their history is so good, and I'm sure they're going to roll out red carpet for all of it."

Video: Wild Pregame at Detroit

For Wild defenseman Kyle Quincey, Thursday's opener will be his first game with Minnesota but will also be a special night personally. 

Drafted by the Red Wings in the fourth round of the 2003 NHL Draft, Quincey has played 269 of his 568 career games for Detroit.

"I'm excited to see the new rink," Quincey said. "The last couple years, that's all they've been talking about, how nice it's going to be and the design, the architecture. I'm excited to do a tour myself."

Quincey said he's got between 10 and 15 people coming in for the game, including several close friends who, like him, are anxious to check out the new digs.

"I'm playing for free," Quincey joked. "I'm losing money that first game."

Quincey said the new building represents a lot more than just a place to play hockey or basketball, especially for a city that's battling its way back from its fair share of difficult times.

"It's a city that's going through something, where everyone there thinks the city is on the upswing," Quincey said. "It's exciting. The Ilitchs (the family that owns the Red Wings), God bless them, have been so good for that city. And they're doing it again. That whole three or four blocks, the arena district, it's going to be amazing."

Mike Ilitch, the longtime owner of the club, passed away in February, but was instrumental in helping to get the project off the ground. Quincey said it's unfortunate he didn't get a chance to see the project through to its conclusion.

"But his legacy is going to live on there for a long time," Quincey said. "His son (Chris) is doing a great job, so hopefully it keeps on rolling."

Winnik questionable because of visa issue

Even after signing forward Daniel Winnik to a one-year contract on Wednesday, there remains intrigue surrounding the Wild lineup.

Work visa issues have now put into question whether Winnik will make his debut for Minnesota on Thursday. He is trying to expedite the process to have the paperwork done in time for the game, but if it's not, Boudreau said the Wild will play with seven defensemen. 

That seventh defenseman would be Gustav Olofsson, who will be the Wild's lone healthy scratch if Winnik gets his visa in time for the game. 

UPDATE (4:25 p.m. ET): Winnik has gotten the all clear tonight and is expected to play.

Tweet from @mnwild: NEWS: @Danwinnik34 will play for #mnwild tonight in Detroit. #MINvsDET

Here are the projected lineups for tonight's game between the Wild and Red Wings:


Nino Niederreiter - Eric Staal - Charlie Coyle

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund

Marcus Foligno - Joel Eriksson Ek - Chris Stewart

Tyler Ennis - Matt Cullen - Daniel Winnik

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin - Matt Dumba

Mike Reilly - Kyle Quincey

Devan Dubnyk

Alex Stalock


Tomas Tatar - Henrik Zetterberg - Gustav Nyquist

Anthony Mantha - Dylan Larkin - Martin Frk

Darren Helm - Frans Nielsen - Justin Abdelkader

David Booth - Riley Sheahan - Luke Glendening

Danny DeKeyser - Trevor Daley

Niklas Kronwall - Mike Green

Jonathan Ericsson - Nick Jensen

Jimmy Howard

Petr Mrazek

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