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Wild Opens Home Schedule Against Winnipeg

Central Division rivals come to St. Paul off season-opening win over Carolina

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Wild will try for a better start, and outcome, when it hosts the Winnipeg Jets in the 2016-17 home opener at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night.

The Wild had just two shots on goal in the first period and fell behind early in a 3-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday at the Scottrade Center. 

Minnesota eventually tied the score in the second, but never led in the game, unable to overcome a sluggish start to the regular season.

"I think going into St. Louis, if you're not willing to compete and get physically engaged in the game, that's a tough place to win," said Wild forward Zach Parise. "So there's just a lot of things that, watching some clips this morning, we could've done a lot better. The outcome speaks of kind of the game we played."

Wild coach Bruce Boudreau put his team through a rigorous practice in St. Paul on Friday as a bit of a reminder that while the Wild isn't the biggest team in the League, it still must battle harder than it did on Thursday.

That's especially true against a big, physical Winnipeg team known for its willingness to throw bodies around. 

"They're a big team, they are physical. I think for us, in the offensive zone against them, you gotta keep your feet moving against their D, try to get them running around a little bit in the D-zone," Parise said. "But again, it really doesn't matter who you're gonna be playing. Again, if you're not gonna get engaged physically in the game, more often than not, you're not gonna get the outcome that you really want."

Winnipeg got a bit of bad news on Friday when it announced that center Bryan Little will miss extended time with a lower-body injury sustained in the Jets' season-opening victory against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday. 

Little has been a dependable pivot for the last five years in Winnipeg and for the previous four years when the franchise was in Atlanta. He scored 17 goals and had 25 assists in just 57 games last year before a back injury cost him much of the final half of the season. 

A four-time 20-goal scorer, Little's absence will force several of the Jets' younger prospects into higher profile roles, perhaps a little earlier than Jets coach Paul Maurice would have liked. 

"You can play just about any kind of different winger with him. You can put him with defensive guys and he can play against the other team's best or you can play him with some offensive guys and continue to do that," Maurice said. "He's our most experienced center, our strongest right-handed draw man. Power play, penalty kill, there isn't a piece of our game that we won't miss him in."

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