With one preseason game separating the Wild from the start of the regular season, when Minnesota plays tonight, it will be something of a final tune-up before the regular season kicks off.
Because of the schedule though, the Wild will have a week off between its preseason finale on Thursday against the Bufalo Sabres and Oct. 8 opener against the Colorado Avalanche. It doesn't change the focus for tonight's game, but does change the plan following it.
"I'm anxious to see what we put into these; sometimes these last exhibition games are almost treated as a bit of a formality," Head Coach Mike Yeo said. "I would like to see us treat it a little bit more seriously than that given that we've got a little bit of time between now and our next game. We'd like to use it the best we could."
Yeo said the upcoming plan would include an off day on Saturday, and an off-ice workout on Monday in the hopes of keeping on-ice practices at a high level.
"If you just practice every day then things get stale, and we don't won't stale practices," Yeo said. "We want to make sure when we're out there, we're practicing with the pace, the battle level—we don't want to have to flip a switch."
For the players, the preseason finale is a final opportunity to really be in a game-situation. Many of the players said it's the best way to prepare for the regular season, and Yeo said that will be a focus during practice.
But game reps and quality reps are difficult to replicate, making the final preseason game so important with the gap until the regular season start.
"We're going to have a lot of practices coming up so it's nice to get into a game and practice the things we did up in Duluth," Jared Spurgeon said. "I'm looking forward to this, and it's the last one in a while, so you're excited for it."
There has been a lot of talk during training camp about getting off to a good start this season, and building off how the Wild finished last season.
"We want to be feeling good coming into the first game of the season, and we've done a pretty good job of getting better each night here no matter the lineup," Charlie Coyle said.
Coyle has bounced around between center and wing during preseason. With Justin Fontaine injured, he'll remain on the wing tonight opposite Thomas Vanek and centered by Tyler Graovac.
It's been a productive training camp for Coyle, who leads the NHL in preseason assists at five, even if being a playmaker wasn't quite on his mind.
"Actually, not really, I want to start shooting the puck more," Coyle said. "It just happened where I was playing, and a few power-play assists from playing on the half-wall. That's one thing I want to do this year, shoot the puck more, and not always look for the pass."
The Wild recalled Zac Dalpe from the AHL on Thursday morning. Dalpe was part of the most recent round of cuts on Sunday and had reported to Iowa on Monday.
"His camp deserved him an opportunity to come up, and certainly shows that role he's playing in tonight could be the type of fit where he could provide something for us," Yeo said.
Dalpe took line rushes at morning skate with Ryan Carter and Brett Bulmer, and Yeo said Dalpe would also play on the penalty kill and get a chance to bring some energy into the lineup.
"He's had to adapt, he's obviously got some speed, and some skills, and some abilities to make plays, but he's understanding to get in here, and to keep a regular spot that he might have to change his identity a little bit," Yeo said. "He did a good job of that through camp, just being a solid defensive player."
Chris Porter Claimed Off Waivers
Forward Chris Porter was claimed of waivers on Thursday by the Wild from the Philadelphia Flyers.
Porter had spent all six of his NHL seasons with the St. Louis Blues before signing with the Flyers this offseason.
"He's a guy with NHL experience, he's a penalty killer, he's a guy with speed, and he's a guy that plays a physical game," Yeo said. "He's a guy that's always been on our radar."