When the Minnesota Wild faces off in Denver Tuesday night against the Colorado Avalanche, it will do so with some familiar faces back in the mix together.
Minnesota's final road tuneup before the regular season will feature Nino Niederreiter, Jason Pominville and Erik Haula, the same group that helped carry the Wild down the stretch last season and into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a fourth consecutive time.
Niederreiter just returned to practice on Monday after spending the last few weeks with Team Europe in the World Cup of Hockey, advancing to the finals of the tournament last week. After losing in two games to the Canadians, Niederreiter met Boudreau for the first time late last week before re-joining his teammates on the ice for the first time this week.
"It's been a crazy week, a crazy month," Niederreiter said on Monday. "It's definitely fun to be a part of the team again and I'm looking forward to the next few days."
Despite practicing just once, Niederreiter is in game shape and found some familiarity while skating on a line with Haula and Pominville on Monday at Xcel Energy Center.
"We talked a lot, and getting to know the system, it's a lot easier when you get used to players you played with last year," Niederreiter said. "But at the end of the day, no matter what position Bruce puts me in, I'm trying to give my best."
With the regular season opener against the St. Louis Blues still nine days away, plenty can change regarding the lineup. But Boudreau said he wanted to see what the Niederreiter-Haula-Pominville line could do and if it could re-capture the magic it had late last season and in the playoffs.
Even in Niederreiter's first practice, Boudreau said he could see the chemistry between the trio.
"He's like part of a glove fitting in with that line," Boudreau said. "They look very comfortable out there, so now let's just see them in a game."
Kurtis Gabriel's tenure with the Iowa Wild was a short one.
After being assigned to the minor-league club on Monday, Minnesota recalled the forward on Tuesday and he will play against the Avalanche.
Boudreau had indicated he wants Gabriel to get plenty of playing time, so it's still unclear where he may fit in once the regular season begins. But with several of the Wild's regulars, including Zach Parise, Eric Staal and Charlie Coyle, not making the trip west, Gabriel will get an opportunity to play.
Kuemper in goal
In addition to the Wild's top line remaining in the Twin Cities, captain Mikko Koivu, defensemen Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon and goaltender Devan Dubnyk will also not make the trip.
That means Darcy Kuemper is expected get the nod in goal. Kuemper made 24 saves in a 4-1 loss to Winnipeg on Thursday in his only preseason action thus far.