The leaves are changing, the temperatures are dropping and hockey has started in Minnesota. Fall is officially here.
This year, there’s a special addition to the State Of Hockey — the Twin Cities Harvest Festival and Maze in Brooklyn Park features the Wild’s logo in the state’s largest corn maze!
Most NHL teams look at their schedule late in the preseason or early in the regular season and try to plan a “team bonding” trip. It didn’t take more than a cursory glance to see a five-day break between games for the Wild this week as the perfect opportunity.
So the Wild departed for Southern California after practice today for a couple days of team bonding before playing in Anaheim on Friday night.
After enjoying a well-deserved Sunday away from the rink, the Wild went back to work Monday at Xcel Energy Center. With no games until Friday, the coaching staff focused on a lot of individual skill work with the players, leading to an extremely spirited 3-on-3 game on a half sheet of ice.
“There was a lot of hidden work,” Mike Yeo said. “They’re having fun, so they don’t realize how hard they’re working.”
It might seem easy to get distracted without a game until Friday, but that didn’t seem to be the case.
Two games against Colorado — two shutouts of various degrees of difficulties. They combined to give Darcy Kuemper this week’s NHL No. 2 star designation.
Christian Folin was back home in Sweden when the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche faced off in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, the distance and time change didn’t keep him from following the electrifying series. Game 7 was on at around 6 a.m. local time and he had a comfortable spot to watch, as Nino Niederreiter scored the series-clinching goal in overtime.
“I was sitting on the couch and it was already bright out,” Folin said. “I remember watching the playoffs and it was a pretty wild building, so it should be a good experience tonight.”
Last season’s back-and-forth, seven-game series between the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche became an instant classic in the State of Hockey. The Wild rode a Nino Niederreiter overtime wrist shot in the deciding game past the Avalanche and into the second round.
With a new season and a budding rivalry building between the two teams, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo wants last year’s series to stay where it is: In the rear-view mirror.
Typically, when the Lighthouse references the phrase “goaltending duel” it is a confrontation between opposing netminders making body-contorting saves in a mano-a-mano showdown, leaving a pile of frustrated shooters shaking their heads in their wake.
However for the Minnesota Wild, the goaltending duel was a showdown during training camp for the team’s game one starter, an open competition between Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom. Coming into camp, both had things to prove for very different reasons.
When the Minnesota Wild brought NHL hockey back to Minnesota, Ryan Carter was a student at White Bear Lake High School. While the team was on the road, he’d stay up late after his own practices and games and watch televised Wild games, kind of like a hockey study hall. While observing more pro hockey was beneficial for his game, the late-night hockey cramming might’ve had an adverse impact in the actual classroom.
“My grades in high school probably weren’t as good as they should’ve been because I stayed up late watching the West Coast games back in 2000, 2001,” Carter joked.
The media poured into the Minnesota Wild locker room after practice and flooded around defenseman Matt Dumba. On the day that the team’s final training camp roster cuts were announced, reporters were intent on getting a few words with the rookie, who was one of the players fighting for a roster spot. As the moat of cameras and microphones surrounded Dumba, they spilled in front of the stall of his defensive partner from today, fellow first-year blueliner, Christian Folin. While Dumba was asked about making the team, Folin sat as calm as still water across the room in Nino Neiderreiter’s stall until a lane was cleared so he could hang his equipment and field questions himself.
With the Minnesota Wild's preseason in the books, the club has made a number of roster moves.
The Wild has placed forwards Cody Almond and Stephane Veilleux on waivers. The team also assigned forwards Joel Rechlicz and Kurtis Gabriel to the Iowa Wild, Minnesota's American Hockey League affiliate.
The club has released goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov from his pro tryout.
Minnesota has placed forward Justin Fontaine on Injured Reserve, retroactive to Sept. 27. Fontaine is out with a lower-body injury.