If the Minnesota Wild were the clear winners of the “Most Offseason Drama Award,” tonight’s preseason opponent, the Winnipeg Jets, are definitely in contention for “Most Preseason Drama.” Word broke Wednesday that star Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien is reportedly taking a leave of absence from the team, with no indication on when (or if) he will be back. Will he retire? Will he return? In addition to that, there’s the ongoing Patrik Laine situation, which took another turn on Wednesday with the news that he and Colorado Avalanche RFA Mikko Rantanen have joined SC Bern of the Swiss league while their contract impasses continue. This is on the heels of a Laine interview in a Finnish newspaper where he was critical of his ice time and his time on the second line.
On top of all of this, Sami Niku and Kristian Vesalainen were in a car accident that, while minor for all involved thankfully, cost both players a couple days of training camp and the Jets’ first preseason game — a 2-0 loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
The Wild, on the other hand, seem to have put much of the drama of this summer behind them, especially with the recent signings of Jared Spurgeon and Kevin Fiala. Minnesota started their preseason off on Tuesday night with a 2-1 overtime loss to Dallas. The game was an up-and-down affair where they outshot the Stars for most of the night, but definitely had some rust to shake off. Matt Dumba is a prime example. Offensively he drove the play, co-led the team in shots (with fellow defenseman Brad Hunt), and had some decent scoring chances in regulation and in overtime. Defensively, however, Dumba was beaten badly on Dallas’ first goal of the game, and was caught down low in the offensive zone in overtime, which led to the game-winning breakaway. Either way, it was great to see him on the ice in any capacity after missing most of last season.
Tonight’s roster for the Wild features more of the younger stars who sat against Dallas, including the 2019 debuts of Nico Sturm, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway, Luke Kunin, and Iowa Wild playoff star Gerald “#Gerrytime” Mayhew, with Kaapo Kahkonen between the pipes. Winnipeg offers up some of their bigger names as well, with Mark Schiefele, Blake Wheeler and Josh Morrissey (among others) seeing their first preseason action. See both team’s entire rosters below.
Puck drops at 7 p.m. local time.