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Vets flip the switch as calendar turns to October

With the regular season right around the corner, experienced players understand the games count from now on

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

ST. PAUL -- Two days away from the start of the 2019-20 regular season, the Wild practiced on Tuesday at TRIA Rink at Treasure Island Center. But unlike the previous dozen or so practices since the start of training camp, this one felt a little more business-like.

It felt that way because it is for the veterans on the team who every year -- when the calendar first turns to October -- find a way to flip a switch or push a button or, insert cliche here, one that signifies that the exhibition season is over and now the games count for real.

"You do take the preseason to prepare and get into that game shape," said Wild forward Zach Parise. "There's still just that lack of intensity and sometimes you fall guilty of it, just mentally, everyone wants to get to the regular season."

"Preseason is important, but now it's just way easier to get mentally engaged into the games [once the regular season begins]."

That lack of engagement is why so often, teams filled with young players likely headed to the American Hockey League or back to their junior teams go into buildings and compete with established NHL teams they'd normally have no business competing with.

Those young players are battling to stay another day or two in camp, or fighting to make a roster in general.

On the contrary, someone like Parise or goaltender Devan Dubnyk or any of the other veterans on the Wild's roster knows they will be in the NHL. Their only objective is to build towards Oct. 3 and be ready for game one in Nashville.

"The young guys ... they're hard to play against that are battling for a spot," Parise said. "They play hard and they're in your face. It's a little helter skelter there on the ice, where when you get more of an NHL lineup on the ice, the game is more controlled. It's almost a little easier."

While hockey is a team game, the exhibition season for established NHLers is almost more of an individual time. Guys are trying to get in game shape, or eliminating summer hockey habits from their game.

Once the regular season starts, the hope is that the bad has been worked out and they can meld that into a quality team concept.

That's especially true for goaltenders, who are just trying to see pucks again at real game speed. Fighting through screens and playing the puck are things goalies often don't see during summer training, so getting reps in the exhibition season are crucial.

"When you're going through training camp, especially when you get older, you use the time to get prepared for right now," Dubnyk said. "Every time you go out, of course you want to win the preseason games. It's still important to get a good feeling."

"But you're concentrating on individual stuff, for myself, seeing different plays, power play and all that stuff, always about getting your game in order and now you get to the end of it, and you forget about that and you do everything you can to win a hockey game."

For a coach, knowing there is another level to a player's game is simply assumed. 

When asked about Eric Staal, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau responded with an answer that seemingly could have been about nearly any one of the veterans on his club.

"It's really hard, when you talk about veterans in training camp and veterans at the start of the season, there's a button that they push because they've been through so many of those training camps," Boudreau said. "And the goal is not to get hurt. That is their goal. They want to be ready and I know Eric Staal will be ready on Thursday."

Pateryn to miss six weeks following surgery

Wild defenseman Greg Pateryn has been mostly absent from training camp practices because of a lower-body injury. 

The initial hope was that the ailment was minor, but Pateryn had successful bilateral core muscle repair surgery on Tuesday. The operation was performed by Dr. William Meyers at the Vincera Institute in Philadelphia. 

The hope is that Pateryn will be fully recovered and return to the ice in a month and a half.

Tweet from @mnwild: NEWS: #MNWild defensemen Greg Pateryn underwent successful surgery ���

With Pateryn out of the lineup, Carson Soucy made the initial Opening Night roster and will serve as one of the club's seven defensemen. 

How Boudreau deploys his bottom pairing between Soucy, Nick Seeler and Brad Hunt will be something to watch going forward.

Hunt brings more of an offensive element to his game while Soucy and Seeler are more defensive-defensemen. Soucy's 6-foot-5, 210-pound frame intrigues the Wild and was the main reason why he was kept and Louie Belpedio was sent to Iowa on Monday.

"There's a good chance Soucy is going to see action," Boudreau said.

Brown clears waivers

Wild forward J.T. Brown cleared waivers on Tuesday and was assigned to Iowa of the AHL. Brown scored three goals and had eight points in 56 games with Minnesota last season, but had three goals and six points in six games in Iowa. 

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