On the same day the Wild reduced its roster size to 28, one staple of its lineup was excused from practice – for good reason.
Mikko Koivu was absent from practice today as his fiancée Helena went into labor with their first child. Now if everything goes well, fans can expect Mikko in the lineup tomorrow night as the Wild take on the Blues in its fifth preseason game, and final one at home before the season opener Oct. 3 against the Kings.
Bench boss Mike Yeo noted after practice that while the Wild used the first several preseason games to make decisions about their younger players, these final two games, home and away, with the Blues are all about getting in game shape for the year. The newly reduced roster can be found here.
That being said, there are a few players still vying for a roster spots. Defenseman Mathew Dumba arrived at Xcel Energy Center this morning, bracing for any sort of news. After a rough performance in the first two periods of last night’s tilt in Columbus, Dumba rebounded in the third and showed a strong response to his play earlier. Still, he wasn’t sure if he would be allowed to keep wearing a Wild sweater or would be heading back to junior hockey.
He was one of the lucky ones, earning a spot in the Wild locker room, despite a very temporary feel. Dumba is set up in the far end of the locker room in a floating stall that is really a fancy way to describe a coat rack with a folding chair in front of it. When asked about it Dumba said he’s just happy he has somewhere to sit in there.
Former UMD Bulldog Justin Fontaine will also continue to skate with the Wild. Fontaine said he feels he needs to continue to battle and concentrate on the details out on the ice while Yeo also said the young forward also needs to continue to contribute offensively regardless of where he is in the lineup or who he’s skating with.
One notable name no longer on the Wild’s roster is Erik Haula, the speedy former University of Minnesota Gopher. While Yeo said he’s a good skater, reads the play well and was a factor in games throughout camp, the bottom line is he, and a lot of the other guys who will now call Iowa home, wasn’t going to be on the Opening Night roster. The young players need to keep working, getting in reps and simply need to play so they can continue to develop.
On the Wild’s first day of one cohesive practice session, it capped the day with a shootout competition, and it wasn’t short on entertainment. After countless rounds, it came down to Zenon Konopka and Mikael Granlund—who practiced for the first time since sustaining a slight upper body injury in Saturday’s 4-3 win over Winnipeg. Konopka and Granlund went head to head for about eight rounds, battling to not be the overall loser.
The two each took a lead at some point, with the other keeping things tied on the rebuttal. Just as the rest of the Wild were growing impatient, as one of them shouted “can we go get undressed?” jokingly, Granlund netted the final goal, with Konopka missing his final chance.
The shootout definitely ended practice on a positive note as the group heads into its final days of camp. Part of that time, the team will head to Duluth and practice at AMSOIL Arena on Monday Sept. 30 and Tuesday Oct. 1 with a little team bonding on the side. Tuesday’s practice will be open to the public and starts at 10 a.m.
Fans can also catch Jake Dowell tonight on ESPN as E:60 profiles the center and his family’s battle with Huntington’s disease. The episode airs at 6 p.m. CT. Read here for more information.
NHL.com also came out with its “30 in 15” features about the Wild today, discussing the Wild’s lineup this year, Dany Heatley looking forward to a healthy season, Mikael Granlund’s potential for a breakout year, three questions the Wild face this season and a video on the keys to Ryan Suter’s success in 2013-14.