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Wild Warmup: Minnesota at Dallas

Wild continues exhibition season against Central Division rival in Texas

by Kayleigh Jackson / Wild.com
The essentials

Who: Minnesota Wild at Dallas Stars 

Puck drop: 7:30 p.m. CT

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

Follow: @mnwildGameCenter


At the rink 

With a game roster primarily composed of players fighting for the few remaining roster spots, the Wild will ice a relatively inexperienced team Tuesday night against a group of veterans in Dallas. Despite the overwhelming lack of regulars, it's likely that the young guns on the Wild will come out firing.

"You can see how hard they work," Nino Niederreiter said of the younger players. "They want to get into the lineup, and they want to get better, and that's all you can ask for. At the end of the day they do everything they can."

Joel Eriksson Ek played his first game of the preseason Sunday in a 5-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche.

 Video: Wild Pregame at Dallas

"It feels good to play again," he said. "I haven't played for a week and a little bit more, so it's fun to play a game.

"Last year, everything was new. This year, [I know] some of the guys [who] are on the team so that makes it a little bit easier to be yourself and you know how things work, so that's probably the biggest thing this year compared to last year. There's not as much to think about as last year, so that's helped me a lot this year."

Despite understanding head coach Bruce Boudreau's system better now, there are other external factors that Eriksson Ek and others have had to contend with as they begin to get back into the swing of things. One of the most noticeable changes in this young hockey season has been the sheer amount of penalties handed out by officials as they try to crack down on slashing and administer new faceoff regulations.

In the Wild's four preseason games so far, there have been a collective 57 penalties. On the bright side, the Wild has gotten four power play goals out of it. Conversely, it's also allowed four goals while on the penalty kill.

"I started to play PK a little bit, so that was a little exciting," Niederreiter said with a laugh. "But at the same time, you want to play 5-on-5 and hopefully [the officials] figure it out a little better."

"It's harder, definitely, but that's why we're practicing so much on the special teams," defenseman Carson Soucy said.

Soucy has played in every exhibition game except one so far, and emphasized how important making the most of Minnesota's special teams situations would be in getting a win in Dallas.

"We've got to capitalize when we get our power plays and make sure we're buckling down on our penalty kill," Soucy said. "We've got to try to gain that 5-on-5 momentum when we can."

The Wild assigned goaltender Steve Michalek to Iowa on Tuesday, leaving Alex Stalock and Niklas Svedberg to continue battling for the backup job behind Devan Dubnyk. Even though it's difficult to get in a rhythm with so little even strength play, the three remaining goaltenders have been a steady force in net, regardless of which players -- or how many -- are on the ice in front of them, Soucy said.

"It's awesome knowing that they're gonna be there backing us up," Soucy said. "They're three great goalies and we know we're gonna have help back there."

As the camp roster continues to shrink, Boudreau and his staff expect every player to give it his all every time they're on the ice, especially the younger ones on the NHL fringes.

"Nobody wants to talk about the elephant in the room," assistant coach John Anderson said. "You have to make every shift count."
 

The opponent

Dallas will be playing on the second half of back-to-back games after hosting Colorado on Monday. The Stars have just two exhibition games remaining, both against Minnesota. After colliding at American Airlines Center on Tuesday, the two will clash in St. Paul on Saturday in the final game of the preseason for both teams. The Wild has experienced plenty of success against the Stars in recent regular season meetings, having captured at least one point in each of their past seven matchups (5-0-2). Minnesota has gained a point or more in seven of its past eight games in Dallas, posting a 5-1-2 record during that span.


First time for everything

The game Tuesday will mark the 108th preseason game in franchise history for the Wild, but the first-ever exhibition game against Dallas. All seven of Minnesota's preseason games this season come against Central Division teams.  


Wild roster*

32 Alex Stalock G 

35 Niklas Svedberg G

4 Mike Reilly D

6 Ryan Murphy D 

14 Joel Eriksson Ek C 

16 Jason Zucker LW

18 Cal O'Reilly C

19 Luke Kunin C

21 Ryan Malone LW

22 Nino Niederreiter RW

23 Gustav Olofsson D

24 Matt Dumba D

26 Daniel Winnik LW

27 Kyle Quincey D

28 Alex Grant D

39 Kurtis Gabriel RW

41 Landon Ferraro RW

42 Pat Cannone C

47 Christoph Bertschy RW

59 Zack Mitchell C

60 Carson Soucy D

*subject to change

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