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Reilly Earns Lineup Spot for Season Opener

Strong camp, preseason have defenseman in driver's seat for early playing time

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

ST. PAUL -- With the regular season opener just two days away, the Wild has apparently called the final of its training camp battles -- at least to start the year.

On Monday, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau hinted that Mike Reilly had made the club and was the favorite to play next to Kyle Quincey in Detroit. 

Tuesday, after the team released its opening night roster, it all but confirmed it.

Reilly, the University of Minnesota product, had a strong camp and overcame a serious charge by Gustav Olofsson for the left-side spot on the Wild's third pairing. With uncertainty surrounding Zach Parise's status to begin the season and the budget crunch regarding a Parise replacement, the easy solution would have been to send Reilly to Iowa to start the year.

But Reilly earned his spot and forced the club's hand.

"I think Mike, I would say, outplayed him a little bit. Whether it was [Olofsson] trying to be a little too safe, or trying to be perfect, Mike was noticed more," Boudreau said on Monday.

For Reilly, the proclamation was welcomed after a summer in which he put in a lot of work to get bigger and stronger and become a more consistent player.

"It's pretty good to hear. Sometimes, coach might not want to say much, trying to push you and get a lot out of you," Reilly said. "I knew it was a big summer and wanted to come in in the best shape I could."

Boudreau shuffled his defensive pairings at practice on Tuesday, moving Jared Spurgeon back to the right side of Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin to the left of Matt Dumba. 

With Reilly and Quincey on the third pairing, Boudreau feels he has a nice mix; with Quincey, the veteran, playing the role of defensive-defenseman and Reilly, the youngster, able to jump into the play if warranted.

"One's a puck mover and one's a defender and if you've got an experienced defenseman, you'd probably want to put him with your most inexperienced defender," Boudreau said. "That's where it is; we're hoping they find a chemistry together. Right now, everything is just moving around and we're trying to find the right ways to do things and the right combinations."

Quincey, a veteran of 568 NHL games, said he's been happy with the duo's early chemistry.

"Really good skater, and he listens. I think that's the most important thing," Quincey said. "We're going to be playing against third and fourth lines, and we're playing with our third and fourth lines, so our job is to take care of our zone, first and foremost. But he's going to get every chance that he wants to skate the puck up the ice."

Reilly said Quincey's experience has been a great resource from him. And while he's gone into the partnership with his ears open, he's been thankful for the communication from Quincey.

"He's really vocal, for sure, and I think the rest of the team can see that," Reilly said. "He's trying to help guys out and it's good for me to be with him right now. He's been around for so long, he's seen it all."

Video: Reilly Looks for Strong Start

Suter-Spurgeon reunited

While Suter and Dumba had formed one tandem and Spurgeon with Brodin was another, Boudreau decided to go back to his pairings from last season, with Suter with Spurgeon and Brodin with Dumba.

Part of the reason? A soft October schedule (in terms of number of games) should allow Boudreau an opportunity to play his two best defensemen a whole bunch.

While Suter's ice time has long been a point of discussion, even going back a couple of head coaches, with just 10 games in the first month -- including four games in the first 15 days -- he could see his playing time increase early in the year.

"Spurgeon and Suter were arguably the best in the League last year," Boudreau said. "They seem to be on the ice all the time, and I thought especially in October, when the schedule is not that tough, they can use the minutes and might as well have them together than apart."

Murphy clears waivers

Defenseman Ryan Murphy cleared waivers on Tuesday and was assigned to Iowa of the American Hockey League.

The move reduced the Wild's training camp roster to 22 hours before the club announced its 21-man regular season roster, which features 12 forwards, seven defensemen and a pair of goalies. 

Daniel Winnik, who has been on the camp roster, can be signed by any team, although a return to the Wild isn't out of the question. Minnesota has two roster spots available without having to make a move but has limited space under the salary cap.

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