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Roster Battles Heat Up as Wild Travels to Winnipeg

Haula, Kuemper to make preseason debuts

by Phil Ervin /

Less than a week into training camp, the battle for precious few roster spots is starting to crystallize.

The Wild continues its preseason tour at 7 p.m. Thursday night in Winnipeg on NHL Network, giving a new coaching staff another in-game look at who might round out the lineup for the Oct. 13 season opener.

"When you're a new coach on a new team, you learn an awful lot by watching a game," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It's like watching them for the first time sometimes."

Tweet from @mnwild: Take a peek at tomorrow's expected lineup for #mnwild vs. #nhljets in Winnipeg.

Forward Marc Hagel and defenseman Zach Palmquist were added to the travel roster Thursday morning.

At forward, Boudreau is taking a hard look at professional tryout Ryan Carter, first-round draft picks Joel Eriksson Ek and Alex Tuch, Kurtis Gabriel, Tyler Graovac and Zac Dalpe. All of them are slotted to play against the Jets, who were shut out 3-0 in their preseason opener Tuesday against Calgary. 

Graovac, Carter, Tuch and Gabriel will play their third exhibitions in four days Thursday.

Carter, 33, played 113 games for the Wild the past two seasons, tallying 10 goals and 15 assists, and has spent parts of nine seasons with five different NHL teams. Gabriel, 23, appeared in three regular season and four playoff games last year. Graovac, 23, who made last year's NHL opening-night roster but was hurt in the Wild's first game, has spent most of the past three seasons with the Iowa Wild while appearing in five NHL contests. Dalpe, 26, signed with the Wild in 2015 and re-inked this past offseason after playing in five games, including three playoff tilts.

Selected 20th overall in 2015, 19-year-old Eriksson Ek played for Sweden professional team Farjestad BK last season. Tuch, 20 years old and Minnesota's first pick in the 2014 draft, had 34 points in his sophomore season at Boston College.

It's the first NHL training camp for both first-round picks.

On the blue line, Christian Folin (who isn't in Thursday's lineup) and Mike Reilly candidates to make the NHL club. Folin has played parts of the past three seasons with the Wild, and Reilly appeared in 29 games last year as a rookie.

"I think you can see the skill right off the bat," Boudreau said of Reilly. "He reads the play. I think (it's) just experience, and he's going to get it and get it on the fly.

"I think he's going to be a good player down the road."

Erik Haula -- fresh off his World Cup of Hockey stint with Finland -- will play in his first 2016 preseason game. So will backup goalie Darcy Kuemper.

Haula's fellow World Cup returnees Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter won't make the trip but are expected to debut as early as Sunday's home matchup with Carolina.

Thursday night's game can also be heard on KFAN 100.3 and streamed live via iHeart Radio. Minnesota will practice Thursday morning at Ridder Arena before making the short flight to Winnipeg.

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