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Wild Warmup: Minnesota at Nashville

Regular season begins for Wild against Central Division-rival Predators on Thursday in The Music City

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /
The essentials

Who: Minnesota Wild (0-0-0) at Nashville Predators (0-0-0)

Puck drop: 7:10 p.m. CT

Watch: NBC Sports Network, NBC Sports live stream

Listen: KFAN FM 100.3, Wild Radio NetworkWild NHL App

Follow: @mnwild; GameCenter

The Wild Warmup is presented by Bryant Heating and Cooling

NASHVILLE -- It's been nearly two months in the making, but the regular season is finally here for the Minnesota Wild.

After a shakeup in the front office essentially ended the Wild's offseason in late July, Minnesota will hit the ice for the first time in a meaningful hockey game on Thursday night when it opens the 2019-20 regular season against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. 

When the organization dismissed former GM Paul Fenton on July 30, the search for his replacement began immediately. 

So too did the hockey season.

Just over three weeks later, the search settled on Bill Guerin and the work hasn't stopped since. Through the Traverse City Prospects Tournament, a three-week training camp and six exhibition games, the Wild has been getting its ducks in a row with its eyes trained on one game: Opening night in Nashville.

"It's the start of something where you hope you prepared well enough," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "When you love hockey, this is what it's about.

"In the summer, in August, you can't wait for the preseason to start. But by the end of preseason, you can't wait for it to be over and for the [regular] season to start."

Wait no longer, Bruce.

Perhaps nobody has prepared more for the upcoming season than Boudreau. The Wild missed the playoffs last spring for the first time in seven years. It was the first time Boudreau had missed the postseason when spending a full year with one team in more than a decade.

One of the winningest coaches by points percentage in NHL history, Boudreau took it personally and made sure he let the team know they should too.

Video: Koivu, Wild ready for season opener in Nashville

As the preseason prognostications have rolled in over the past several weeks, some of them have been unkind to the Wild. Boudreau has made sure to post them in the dressing room in an effort to motivate his players so they can now go about proving those doubters wrong. 

"It's always exciting to start and see where you are as a team," said Wild forward Zach Parise. "The excitement of playing against someone else, things on the line finally. Regardless of if it's your first game or your 500th, you still get the butterflies for the first one."

Devan Dubnyk will start between the posts for Minnesota. Either Carson Soucy or Nick Seeler will serve with Brad Hunt on the Wild's third defensive pairing, a final decision that will be made after the team's morning skate on Thursday.

Like the Wild, the Predators enter the regular season fully healthy up front. Matt Duchene highlighted Nashville's offseason, signing in The Music City as an unrestricted free agent on July 1. 

Duchene will skate on the team's "second line," with former Wild wing Mikael Granlund and Filip Forsberg flanking him. Craig Smith and Viktor Arvidsson will serve as wings on Ryan Johansen's line. 

The Predators traded defenseman P.K. Subban to the New Jersey Devils, mostly for prospects and draft picks. The deal opened up enough salary cap space for the team to sign Duchene.

With Subban gone, the Predators opened up more minutes for rookie defenseman Dante Fabbro, who takes Subban's spot next to Mattias Ekholm. 

Goaltender Pekka Rinne, entering his 12th full season in the NHL (all with Nashville) and the final year of his contract, is expected to draw the start in goal. 


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