After three days of training camp practices, the Wild will play its first preseason game tonight against the Buffalo Sabres at Xcel Energy Center.
It's a quick turnaround, but a welcome one for players who finally get a chance to get back into game-situations against another team.
"Obviously, coming out of camp you've had a couple of hard days before, and it's just excited to get into a real game against someone else other than your own teammates," defenseman Jared Spurgeon said.
Monday's game is about taking the concepts the coaches have preached throughout camp, and incorporating them into play, according to Head Coach Mike Yeo.
"Our veteran guys, we expect them to go out and get to our identity, and play within the concepts of how we want to play the game, and be leaders for those young kids," Yeo said. "The guys that are getting opportunities, whether it's to try to get themselves on the map, or noticed, or even quite potentially make our team, I want to see that."
Special Teams Get Going
Monday's morning skate was the first time the Wild has practiced any special teams work this training camp. There were two power play units working on either end of the rink, with defenseman Ryan Suter, and forwards Mikael Granlund, Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, and Jason Pominville in one group. The other unit featured defensemen Mike Reilly and Spurgeon with forwards Jason Zucker, Nino Niederreiter, and Tyler Graovac.
"It was good to get back into it a little bit and see some looks that they're thinking for this year," Zucker said. "There are some guys that aren't playing [Monday] that could be there, and different things can change, but it was good to get a little bit of that before the game tonight."
To that point, Yeo said the depth of the Wild's forward group would likely mean some good players are left off the power play.
"We spent a lot of time in the summer going through video, and obviously we knew that status quo was not going to work," Yeo said. "We've got a few different plans that we're going to be looking at, and obviously we felt this was a good opportunity to get to that one tonight."
Reilly Ready For Action
Rookie defenseman Mike Reilly said he found out he was playing in Monday's preseason opener on Sunday. He said his parents and brothers would likely be in attendance, although he said one of his two brothers might not be able to make the game due to class.
"It's obviously very exciting, and something I've prepared for a long time now," Reilly said. "I was just hoping to get a chance to get a game in the preseason, and to get the first game here is pretty special."
There was a moment late in the morning skate where Yeo pulled Reilly aside and talked to him before he jumped back into drills.
"I told him on the ice that, by design, we spent a lot of time talking to him," Yeo said. "I won't let him off the hook with anything in practice, I don't think that benefits him, but I let him know once we get into the game tonight I want him to play the game, and I'm not going to be breathing down his neck every time something good or bad happens."
As for the game itself, Reilly said he's focused on doing what he does best, and continuing to improve on the areas the coaches are asking him to.
"You're going to make mistakes, and you have to talk a lot and have good communication, because [Nate Prosser], who I'm playing with tonight, he'll help me out a lot," Reilly said. "He'll instruct me on what to do, and he'll bark at me if I'm in the wrong position."
Here is the Wild's projected lineup:
Zach Parise – Mikael Granlund – Jason Pominville
Jason Zucker – Mikko Koivu – Nino Niederreiter
Ruslan Fedotenko – Tyler Graovac – Zack Mitchell
Matt Carey – Brady Brassart – Kurtis Gabriel
Ryan Suter – Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin – Christian Folin
Mike Reilly – Nate Prosser