Do you smell that in the air? That sweet scent that is rolling through the midwest? That means the Minnesota Wild are playing hockey today and it just so happens to be in Denver, facing the Colorado Avalanche for their second preseason game.
It might not be the most beautiful hockey, or something even that appealing to watch, but it is special because it has been too long since we have been able to see our favorite boys play some damn hockey. Unfortunately we were not able to watch the 3-2 overtime win to open the slate of exhibition games on Sunday afternoon, but we might be able to actually catch a peek of action. If you are anywhere near the state of Colorado and have access to Altitude Sports, you can watch this game, or if you have any other means of watching out-of-market games (wink).
If you are able to catch the game, there might not be all the big-time names that will be towards the top of the Wild lineup, but some interesting names will be hitting the ice.
Tyson Jost — Sam Steel — Matt Boldy
Brandon Duhaime — Connor Dewar — Nic Petan
Michael Milne — Steven Fogarty — Vladislav Firstov
Brandon Baddock — Sammy Walker — Sam Hentges
Dakota Mermis — Simon Johansson
Alex Goligoski — Andrej Sustr
Daemon Hunt — Joe Hicketts
The top forward line has been something head coach Dean Evason has been working with — mainly, splitting up Marco Rossi and Matt Boldy to try something else — and they should get a good amount of opportunity to show that they can work together. The second might end up being the fourth line if Nic Petan shows off enough, and the other two might just be Iowa bait.
It is interesting that while other junior players have returned to their respective teams, Michael Milne is still hanging around. The 20-year-old winger was just drafted by Minnesota earlier this year as an overage prospect, and since he is the age that he is, Milne is eligible to be signed to a contract and report to the AHL, or he can go back to the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice and try for a championship with one of the most talented junior teams in North America. We’ll see where this goes, but if he impresses tonight, then Wild management must be begging him to stay close by in Iowa.
On the blue line, it’s a whole lot of meh and could potentially be the Iowa Wild’s defenseman group if you sub in Ryan O’Rourke for Alex Goligoski. That’s easy enough. And we get to see the debut of Filip Gustavsson in green and cream.
For Colorado, who knows and who cares what players they will be playing? Not me.
Puck drop is at 8:00 p.m. CT.
Will the first line look good enough to stick together?
The combination of Jost, Steel, and Boldy can realistically be an actual line when the Wild start playing games that matter. If Evason likes this trio enough and Rossi is flourishing with the likely wingers of Frederick Gaudreau and...uh...Dewar(?) then this can happen. It will also be interesting to see how Steel looks and if he can be good enough to carve out a full-time role on this team. Playing for the Wild and having to be responsible in every area of the ice is a little different than the flippant Anaheim Ducks.
Can Gustavsson impress?
You can’t really judge a whole lot from preseason — but don’t ignore what I just said in the first question — so what Filip Gustavsson does tonight cannot be looked at a massive success or failure. Saying that, it will just be nice to see how he looks and if he can overcome not having the actual six best Wild defensemen in front of him.
Talent missing, but how will the special teams look?
Except Boldy and Dewar, the main characters of the Wild’s special teams are absent from this game, but now we might be able to dissect if there were actual tactical changes, if they end up getting the advantage on both the power play and penalty kill.