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Wild Warmup: Minnesota at St. Louis

Division rivals clash at Kansas City's Sprint Center on Thursday

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com
The essentials

Who: Minnesota Wild vs. St. Louis Blues (at Kansas City) 

Puck drop: 7:10 p.m. CT

Listen: KFAN 100.3 FM, Wild Radio Network, iHeart Radio

Follow: @mnwild; GameCenter


At the rink

Wild coach Bruce Boudreau was back with the team for the first time since his 58-year-old brother, Bryan, passed away suddenly on Saturday. 

Minnesota played two preseason games without their coach, who tended to business in the Toronto area the past few days. Boudreau returned this morning and will be behind the bench tonight when the Wild and Blues play in Kansas City.

"It's good to be back," Boudreau said.

Much has changed since Boudreau left.

The team cut nine players on Wednesday and has seen 11 players sent to Iowa since Tuesday. With 26 players remaining on the training camp roster, Minnesota's roster is looking more and more like the group that will suit up in Detroit one week from today. 

One of the roster spots still up for grabs is for the third-line center job, a battle between Joel Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin. 

While most Wild players have been in town and on the ice for 13 days, both Kunin and Eriksson Ek got their feet wet the weekend before, playing for Minnesota's team in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament. 

While Eriksson Ek appears to be the front runner, Kunin said he doesn't feel any pressure with the preseason winding down and precious few opportunities left to show why he should make the team out of camp. 

"I look at every game the same, I focus and prepare the same way I always do," Kunin said. "My goals have been the same the whole time; I want to make the team, that's my goal."

Boudreau said he's gotten a good idea what Kunin will bring, based on camp and what he saw in Traverse City. Whether he starts the year in Minnesota or in Iowa, he's likely going to be a big part of the Wild's future.

"He's going to be a solid NHL player for a lot of years whether it's right now at the start or much down the road or six months down the road," Boudreau said. "We know his character and he can play."

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Nino Niederreiter - Eric Staal - Tyler Ennis

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund

Marcus Foligno - Joel Eriksson Ek - Charlie Coyle

Daniel Winnik - Luke Kunin - Chris Stewart

Jonas Brodin - Jared Spurgeon

Mike Reilly - Kyle Quincey

Gustav Olofsson - Ryan Murphy

Devan Dubnyk

Alex Stalock

BLUES

Jaden Schwartz - Paul Stastny - Vladimir Tarasenko

Vladimir Sobotka - Brayden Schenn - Sammy Blais

Magnus Paajarvi - Oscar Sundqvist - Klim Kostin

Wade Megan - Kyle Brodziak - Chris Thorburn

Joel Edmundson - Alex Pietrangelo

Vince Dunn - Colton Parayko

Jake Walman - Robert Bortuzzo

Jake Allen

Carter Hutton


The opponent

Minnesota and St. Louis will play for the first time since the Blues knocked the Wild out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the first round last season. While the Blues bring back a roster very similar to last year's, perhaps no team has had worse luck with injuries over the past several weeks. Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester has an ankle injury and could miss significant time. Forwards Patrik Berglund and Zach Sanford will each miss several months with a shoulder injuries. Forward Alexander Steen will likely begin the season on injured reserve because of a broken hand. Then on Wednesday, the Blues got more bad news when it was announced that promising young forward Robby Fabbri will miss the season with a knee injury.


Same face, different place

The Wild plays its third neutral-site game in as many preseasons Thursday, visiting the Sprint Center in Kansas City. The Wild earned a 2-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres at Penn State University last preseason and suffered a 3-0 loss against Edmonton in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan during the 2015 preseason.


Wild roster*

32 Alex Stalock G 

40 Devan Dubnyk G

3 Charlie Coyle RW

4 Mike Reilly D

6 Ryan Murphy D

9 Mikko Koivu C

10 Chris Stewart RW

12 Eric Staal C 

14 Joel Eriksson Ek C

16 Jason Zucker LW

17 Marcus Foligno LW

19 Luke Kunin C

21 Ryan Malone RW

22 Nino Niederreiter LW

23 Gustav Olofsson D

25 Jonas Brodin D

26 Daniel Winnik LW

27 Kyle Quincey D

46 Jared Spurgeon D 

60 Carson Soucy D

63 Tyler Ennis RW

64 Mikael Granlund RW

*Subject to change

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