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More veterans making their pre-season debuts as Minnesota takes on Colorado

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The Wild will face the Avs twice in the next 48 hours

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Minnesota Wild Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

MINNESOTA WILD VS COLORADO AVALANCHE

5:00PM Central, Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minnesota

TV: Fox Sports-North

Streaming: Fox Sports Go app

Radio: KFAN 100.3 and affiliates

If you’re longing for the pre-season to end and the regular season to get under way, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you still have a long way to go. Believe it or not, there are five more useless contests left to endure before we get to see meaningful hockey. We will progress a little faster through this week, though, with back-to-back games today and tomorrow, followed by games every-other day during the week.

The Wild has gotten out to a good start so far, beating both the A and B teams for the Jets this past week. Remember, though, that Colorado went undefeated in the pre-season last year, and we all know how its regular season went. Oh hey! Speaking of the Avalanche, guess who we’re playing today! Yes, Colorado went 6-0 in their exhibition schedule last year, which General Manager Joe Sakic then proudly attributed to work ethic and attention to detail. Of course, the team went on to have one of the worst regular seasons in modern history, but that’s neither here nor there.

One thing that actually is fun about the pre-season, particularly the early parts of pre-season, is that with every game, we see the debuts of a few more mainstays in the Wild’s regular season lineup. We’ll certainly get a healthy dose of that tonight with several veterans—Eric Staal, Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Ryan Suter, and Devan Dubnyk—all expected to draw in.

COLORADO AVALANCHE

What can we say about the Avs? They represent a once-great organization that has sadly been run into the ground at this point by a cast of characters that once starred for the team on the ice but has failed miserably in managerial and coaching roles.

Last season’s Colorado team went 22-56-4. Oofda. Not much to hang your hat on there, other than hope that your garbage fire of a team might win the draft lottery. But alas, it did not. It was by far the worst season for the franchise since it shed its incredible Quebec Nordiques moniker and exquisite powder blue uniforms in 1995 in favor of a logo that featured a hockey puck falling down the side of a triangle coated in delicious-looking frosting. Lest you forget, Patrick Roy resigned from his position as Head Coach just before the opening of last season’s Training Camp, which put the team in a horrible position, scrambling to find a capable new benchboss with almost no time to do so.

A fresh start had to be the only thing that this franchise could have been looking forward to toward the end of last season, and that opportunity is here now. Even in this new campaign, however, there’s already some animosity amongst the club, as Sakic is STILL trying to trade Matt Duchene. The ongoing saga has been playing out for the better part of a year now, and Duchene was just quoted as saying that his career with Colorado is “day-to-day,” so it could be another interesting year in Denver.

On a positive note for Colorado, the team has some good young talent in the organization, with Tyson Jost, college free agent signee Alex Kerfoot, and 20-year-old stud Mikko Rantanen, who scored 20 goals last year for this terrible team, all looking like future stars. The team also gets its starting goaltender, Semyon Varlamov, back after having most of his ’16-’17 season derailed by injuries, and it added a viable second option in Jonathan Bernier, who went 21-7-4 last season with the Ducks. We should expect to see Bernier in net this evening.

The Avs are coming off their first pre-season win this year, a 5-1 home drubbing of the Stars.

STORYLINES

With every passing pre-season game, we’ll continue to see the lineup for the Wild become more and more NHLish, as the roster continues to get cut down like it did yesterday (Training Camp is down to 40 players now). Seeing Dubnyk in net and the contractually extended Mikko winning all the draws and being a general badass should be fun tonight.

Tyler Ennis is interestingly playing in his third consecutive pre-season game today. Ennis has demonstrated his puckhandling skills on several occasions, setting up Charlie Coyle’s goal in the first game and making a nice spin-o-rama pass into the crease that almost resulted in a goal last game. He’s shifty and quick, but the jury is still very much out on how much of an impact he can have on this team. Perhaps that’s why he’s getting so much playing time in pre-

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*Author’s note: I’m taking care of a co-worker’s cat this weekend, and she just jumped on my keyboard and wrote the above italicized jumble… very interesting analysis. Oh, and she just sneezed in my face and then clawed my leg. Not sure why I agreed to this. I actually hate cats.

Anyway, Boudreau is clearly trying to figure out where to play Ennis to help him be successful, as the diminutive forward looks to rebound after a couple of very tough injury-plagued seasons in Buffalo.

INJURIES

Zach Parise was finally back to practicing with the team yesterday, but as per Michael Russo, we may not see him play in any of the pre-season games, and his injury is something he’ll have to monitor all year. After a herniated disc kept him out of the playoffs two years ago, this really doesn’t sound good as we head into a season that recently appeared like it would be Zach’s year of resurgence. Still no Joel Eriksson Ek.

The Gamethread will post at 4:30PM Central. Here is the projected Wild lineup, though I have yet to find the Avs lineup.

WILD LINEUP

Niederreiter // Staal // Ennis

Zucker // Koivu // Granlund

Rau // O’Reilly // Anas

Malone // Kloos // Stewart

--

Suter // Dumba

Olofsson // Menell

Seeler // Murphy