Ten days, people, 10 days until opening night.
Now that I’ve got you all excited with thoughts about the looming regular season and the promises it holds, including a nice distraction from yet another failed Twins season and the starting quarterback that is Christian Ponder, time to focus on today.
The Wild heads to Columbus to finish a home-and-home series with the Blue Jackets. Minnesota lost the preseason home opener to Columbus 3-1 on Sept. 17. Winger Jason Zucker will return to the line up after sitting out of both Winnipeg contests and practice for a few days. Zucker suffered a strained groin against the Blue Jackets, which he described as a minor tweak.
Head Coach Mike Yeo said Zucker has had no hesitation on the ice over the last few days and that he simply wants to see Zucker continue to do what he started at the beginning of camp. Zucker got some good looks in the first preseason game and Yeo wants to see him continue to have an impact on the ice with his speed and getting shots on net.
Joining Zucker up front are veterans Matt Cooke, Kyle Brodziak and Torrey Mitchell. Nino Niederreiter, Erik Haula, Jake Dowell, Carson McMillan, Justin Fontaine, David Steckel and Kris Foucault will all likely continue to get plenty of ice time.
After skating with them in practice, Niederreiter is expected to play with Brodziak and Cooke tonight. While Yeo certainly didn’t confirm or deny anything about the potential line, he did indicate that he’d like to see how Niederreiter compliments the two veterans. The bench boss hopes the line gives Niederreiter the chance to have a strong showing.
Keith Ballard, Clayton Stoner, Mathew Dumba, Nate Prosser, Steven Kampfer and Jonathan Blum will most likely rotate in on defense
In practice, Ballard worked from the right, a move Yeo said could open up more options on the ice.
Three younger guys do have the potential to make their debuts tonight as forwards Tyler Graovac and Zack Phillips, and defenseman Jon Landry make the trip. Although, it’s expected one of the forwards and Landry will be the extras.
Notably missing from the lineup are forwards Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund who are battling for a center spot this year. Coyle is simply getting the night off after playing in each of the Wild’s previous three preseason games—racking up two goals and an assist in that time. Granlund, who has also playing in all three games this preseason—notching two assists—is nursing a slight upper body injury, according to Yeo. He didn’t practice either Sunday or Monday although Yeo did say the injury wasn’t a big deal.
Josh Harding will get the nod in net and, like Niklas Backstrom Saturday night, is expected to play the full three periods. Darcy Kuemper will back him up.
You can follow all the action tonight on Twitter via @mnwildLIVE or listen to the livestream. Or both because you can never get enough analysis.