The last day before the first preseason game bore little resemblance to the previous three days of Minnesota Wild Training Camp presented by Wells Fargo. The 22-man roster skating in the day’s first session was very similar to the players likely to be facing Colorado on Opening Night in October.
That’s not to say that fans won’t get some looks at the Wild’s future beginning with Tuesday night’s preseason game.
Mixed in among veterans for tomorrow night’s lineup is former Gopher, Danny Irmen. Irmen will play alongside Stephane Veilleux and Wyatt Smith on the fourth line tomorrow night against the Detroit Red Wings.
“We like what we saw from him in Traverse City,” said Wild head coach Jacques Lemaire. “We like what he’s done so far in camp. We’ll see what he can do.”
It couldn’t have worked out better for Irmen, who will get to play in front of many of the same fans that cheered him on as a Gopher the past three WCHA seasons.
"It’s been kind of perfect being with the Wild organization," said Irmen. "For them to give me a chance tomorrow night is definitely exciting. We’ll see what happens."
Lemaire went on to say that just because Irmen is the lone rookie to go against the Wings, it doesn’t mean he’s got the inside track ahead of other Wild prospects.
The club did trim its roster as promised on Sunday, but not to the anticipated number 30. Only four players were assigned to the Houston Aeros including: Paul Albers, Ben Thomson, Mike Madill and Bryan Lundbohm.
Bring on the Wings
Lemaire will continue to search for the perfect complement to play alongside Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra. Pascal Dupuis will make the first audition on Tuesday night. As expected, Todd White will center Brian Rolston and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. The third line will compose of Wes Walz centering Mark Parrish and Branko Radivojevic.
As for defense, Brent Burns will pair with Keith Carney, Nick Schultz will play alongside Kim Johnsson, and Erik Reitz will man the point with Kurtis Foster.
Josh Harding will back up Manny Fernandez.
Erasing the Unknown
Very little was known about defenseman Petteri Nummelin before his arrival to Wild Training Camp. To
| Defenseman Petteri Nummelin has impressed the Wild brass with his skating, shooting and passing. |
recap, here’s what we knew, or at least what we heard: He’s a smooth skater, an above average passer and shooter with great vision. He’s also small.
Well, those are all accurate, and Lemaire is pleased with what he’s seen from the 5-foot-9 blueliner, who has played the last five seasons in Switzerland after playing one year with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“I like what I’ve seen in practice,” said Lemaire. “There are a lot of little players that play defense. A lot of good little players. I’m sure he’s confident. He’s at his best in his career, and he has a chance to succeed because he’s mature.”
Nummelin signed with the Wild in June, a month before the NHL free agency period began. He was ready to make his return to the NHL, and everything moved so quickly, he only had a few hours to call his buddy, Mikko Koivu, to find out if this was the right place to go.
“He said, ‘this is a great place to play. The other players are good. The team is good. Everything is awesome.’ I said, ‘OK, thanks a lot. That’s good for me.”
“I feel pretty good. I know I’m in shape because I practiced hard this summer. It’s really easy to come in here because of everybody here. I feel like I’ve been here a couple years.”
Nummelin was 27 years old when he spent his first NHL season with Columbus in 2000-01. It was a struggle as he posted four goals and 12 assists while trying to get a grasp on the smaller rink, the faster pace and the culture. When he returned to HC Lugano of the Swiss League, he found what it took to succeed, and to score. He piled up at least 45 points in each of his last four seasons.
“I’ve gotten older and smarter,” he admitted. “I’m not running around everywhere and I pick my spots on offense better.”
Lemaire couldn’t keep himself from teasing the local media about the obsession with goaltending. When pressed for an answer to the back up goaltender controversy, Lemaire convincingly stated the job belonged to Josh Harding.
Then, after stunned silence and a very long pause, “And it’s always subject to change.”
The lines on the ice during the first session did not totally resemble what we’ll see tomorrow night. Lemaire made the first of what promises to be many line shuffles from the first three days of camp. Dupuis replaced Peter Olvecky on the line with Gaborik and Demitra. Mikko Koivu centered Mattias Weinhandl and Radivojevic. And Mark Parrish moved onto the checking line with Wes Walz and Stephane Veilleux.
Defensive pairings were Nick Schultz with Brent Burns, Petteri Nummelin with Martin Skoula, Kim Johnsson with Kurtis Foster. Derek Boogaard was a rover, getting some time next to Keith Carney on the blueline.
Nothing new to report on this front. Clayton Stoner, Matt Foy and Riley Emmerson missed their fourth days of practice.