It has been a long awaited 5 months wilderness, but here we are! The 2014-2015 is upon us. The Wild are 7-1-1 all-time when opening the season as the home team. The only "home" loss was in Finland four years ago. This is the third time the Wild have faced the
#WhyNotUs crew Colorado Avalanche for their home opener. Minnesota has an all-time record of 37-32-10 and 20-14-5 at Xcel Energy Center against the Avs. Of course we ended their season last year and the Wild will see Colorado again at the Pepsi Center on Saturday.
After off season moves and training camp, the roster appears to be set. Stephane Veilleux and Cody Almond were placed on waivers as Minnesota claimed hometown boy, Ryan Carter from New Jersey. Matt Dumba and Christian Folin both made the team and will dress tonight. Keith Ballrd, Stu Bickel, Nate Prosser are all in the press box. Justin Fontaine is on the IR (for now) but is expected to return soon. Darcy Kuemper will start between the pipes and Im hoping the kid runs away with the job. He came into camp late because of contract negotiations, but it appears this is Kuempers job to lose. Niklas Backstrom has been healthy all camp and wants to put an AWFUL season behind him. He has received high praise from Mike Yeo on his work ethic this off season. Backstrom has had good success against Colorado in his career and I was honestly a little surprised to see Kuemps get the start for tonight.
Yeo has Mikael Granlund centering the top line with Zach Parise and Jason Pominville beside him. A line that had tremendous success in the playoffs. I know once Fontaine comes back, lines will shuffle again and becasue Mike Yeo loves to shuffle players around. But I hope the top line isnt an area Yeo tinkers with too much. Minnesota is fortunate enough to have two centers that are amazing on the power play in Granlund and Mikko Koivu. Id much rather see a veteran like Mikko start with Thomas Vanek, the prized off season acquisition that fans have been begging for. Its not that Vanek puts up over the top by any means, hell this same team did just fine without him last year. However what I like most about Vanek is his knack for finding the net and making the most of even off angle opportunists. Think of it this way, the last guys in Vanek's (skates) shoes were: Heatley, Moulson, Setoguchi and even, yes, Kyle Brodziak... Instead, insert Vanek into that mix and you should be doing your best Ned Flanders.
I do not see Matt Cooke lasting very long on the 2nd line, I get why he's there for the time being, but he belongs elsewhere on this team. Finally the third line, is their a third line right now that's more talented than Nino Niederreiter - Erik Haula- Charlie Coyle? Its almost reminiscent of what those crazy kids in Colorado are doing as the oldest of the trio is just 23. They all played amazing in the playoffs and have even bigger expectations moving forward. The 4th line of Zucker-Brodziak-Carter is interesting one. Jason Zucker isnt going to do anything for himself or this team being in the minors. Its also time to stop getting mad at Kyle Brodziak. The Wilderness has been big a fan of him and he's an awesome penalty killer. Also, since he's on the 4th line you cant really get mad at him for missing opportunists to score, IF HE IS PLAYING THE 4TH LINE.
Finally, the blue liners. The Suter-Brodin love affair has been rekindled. That's another area I do not see really working out long term for Minnesota. Im not a big fan of having two of the same handed shots playing with alongside each other, but its worked in the past. Dumba and Folin will most likely have all most eyes watching them. Dumba made the team last year but it didn't last very long and Folin only dressed in one game for the Wild last year. I hope Dumba really puts it together on both sides of the ice. He will be on the top PP unit with Suter which is awesome! Lets hope the Wild win another opener and Matt Cooke doesnt get killed for taking out Tyson Barrie... Anyway, GO WILD!