Last night the Wild lost 3-1 in their first preseason game to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Overall the game was pretty "meh", with a lot of the positives being washed out with the negatives.
The most important thing to remember about last night is the fact that the vast majority of playmakers for the Wild were not on the ice. Torrey Mitchell, Kyle Brodziak, Nate Prosser and Niklas Backstrom were the only players on the ice yesterday who have been consistent NHLers in the past few years and aren't new to the team.
Winger, and one of the Wild's top prospects, Jason Zucker left the game in the 2nd. After the game, Yeo said he hadn't gotten a full injury report, but that he hoped it was just a precautionary measure for a groin pull that happened on Zucker's first shift.
Zucker's injury explains why he appeared to be having a rough game in the first. He wasn't strong on the puck, and it seemed like every time he was behind the net one of the Columbus players had him face first on the ice. Luckily the Wild are still have almost 3 weeks of training camp left, so Zucker should be able to make a return to the ice even if the pull is more serious than originally thought.
Top prospect Charlie Coyle had a rough start to the game as well. He seemed uncertain about how to adjust to his new role as a centerman (at least for camp), and it took a full period for him to start looking like the Charlie Coyle fans know and love.
To be fair, the Blue Jackets did an excellent job of covering him, and doing their best to ensure that he had zero room to move once he had the puck. However, in the 3rd Coyle managed to pull off a few moves that were somewhat reminiscent of THE SHIFT.
Marco Scandella also had a really rough night, and looked like a shadow of the player he was in the Chicago playoff series last season. He went in to full panic mode multiple times during the game, and was scrambling all over the ice trying to force plays that just weren't going to happen. Everyone is entitled to a few rough games here and there, but Scandella needs to be careful because there are a lot of guys trying to make this team on the blue line.
Jake Dowell decided to show his toughness last night by dropping the gloves in the 1st with Cody Bass. Dowell easily won the first (they actually went two rounds at once, with Dowell winning both), but honestly that is not what the team needs. It looks like Iowa may have found their replacement for Drew Bagnall.
Kyle Brodziak was also somewhat disappointing last night. He looked great to start with, but for the last half of the game he really looked like he did last season. Which is really not good for him, or the team.
There were a lot of positives last night however. The Wild had a lot of really good chances that given a bit more time to practice most likely would have turned into a few more goals. It's really important for people to remember that this was the first pre-season game, and that the team has only been practicing for a total of 5 days prior to yesterday.
On the forward side, Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund looked phenomenal, especially together. It's very nice to see two extremely skilled, but young players developing chemistry this early into training camp. If they continue to grow throughout camp, both guys will have a strong case to make the team.
Granlund looks completely different than he did last season. Instead of a somewhat meek and slow, hesitant player on the ice who routinely gets thrown to the ice and losses his stick, Granlund is quicker, stronger, and managed to only drop his stick a few times last night.
He was throwing himself into hits last night as well (think Jared Spurgeon last season in terms of hits. You don't expect it often, but when he does it's amazing). Granlund was positively dangerous on open ice. He won 50% of his faceoffs, but it would be nice to see that number go up a bit.
Neiderreiter was probably the best forward on the ice. He was always battling, always throwing pucks towards the net, trying to break up plays, and just buzzing on the ice last night. He is going to be a force to be reckoned with on this team, no question about it.
Matt Cooke played an excellent game last night. Regardless on your opinion on his past, he has shown already that he is a great hockey player. His shifts on the PK last night were great, and overall he had a very solid game that made him one of the top players overall for the Wild.
Mathew Dumba looked very good last night as well. He recorded the highest number of shots on net for the Wild, and didn't look out of place on his paring with Keith Ballard. It's tough to weigh what the best option for him would be between returning to juniors or burning a year of his ELC to suit up for the Wild.
He certainly made a few mistakes, but he didn't look out of place in his first somewhat professional game. The Wild will definitely use the "free" nine game clause with him again this season, but it wouldn't be surprising to see him actually playing in those games. He was the best defenseman on the ice last night, and is working his way in to being one of the best defenders in camp. The 55/2 pairing was excellent last night.
The Wild ended the night with 21 shots on goal. Scandella and Dumba topped the time in minuets with over 22and a half each. Coyle topped the forwards with 21:38 and Granlund rounded out the over 20 minutes club with 20:11.
The Wild are on a mandatory off day per the CBA today, but will jump back into practice tomorrow morning before heading to Winnipeg for tomorrow night. We'll have coverage of the practice tomorrow on twitter and another game thread tomorrow night. Rumor has it that a Canadian station will be having video coverage of the game tomorrow, so there may be a feed sneaking around the internet for it. Otherwise, make sure to tune into Wild.com or KFAN for the audio.