It’s Opening Night! 8 p.m., the Wild will drop the puck on the 2013 season against Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Erik Johnson and the Colorado Avalanche.
Zach Parise and Ryan Suter will make their long-awaited Wild debuts, and 20-year-old Mikael Granlund, a 2010 first-round pick, will make his NHL debut.
“I’m so excited. Eight hours. It’s just, ... it’s just going to be amazing,” Granlund said.
If you didn’t read today’s coverage:
Here is the advance on the Wild’s season opener and how it’s time for the franchise to take the next step
Here is my notebook on Torrey Mitchell, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, injuries, etc.
Here is Chip Scoggins’ real good column on Mikko Koivu being a bit overshadowed right now.
I will be on KFAN at 12:55 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. and on Fox Sports North around 3:45 p.m. or a little afterward.
Granlund will be playing with a half-dozen Finnish media outlets in attendance, and it’s not because of Mikko Koivu. That’s how big Granlund is in Finland, and I will have a lot more on this scene in Sunday’s newspaper.
The game will also be televised live in Finland at 4 a.m.
Interesting tidbit: Granlund has been centering a line with Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi. I asked coach Mike Yeo about this because Cullen was the Wild’s best drawman last season at .532 and ranked 25th in the NHL.
Yeo said the original plan this week was to have Cullen take the draws and then reset positions with Granlund afterward. But Granlund has been so surprisingly good on faceoffs this week, the plan now is for Granlund to take them and Cullen to replace him if he’s booted from the circle.
So we’ll see if that lasts.
Yeo arrived at the arena around 6:30 a.m. to begin his day. He said when he got home last night, after eating dinner is when it kicked in that the 2013 season is opening tonight.
“Little bit of butterflies, little bit of jitteriness,” said Yeo, echoing players on both Minnesota and Colorado.
Yeo said before the lockout ended, he was sleeping like he was eight years old again.
“And all of a sudden this week comes along, I don’t even know if I was really sleeping this week because your mind is going 100 mph just because your days are so busy,” Yeo said.
I’ll be interested in the type of hockey we’ll see the first couple weeks in the NHL. It could be very sloppy, which could also make it very entertaining.
Just think: Coaches haven’t coached since April, May and June. Players haven’t played NHL games since April, May and June. Refs haven’t reffed since April, May and June.
Yeo said he read a quote from a coach the other day that described it perfectly: “He said, ‘I feel ready and we’ve had a great week, but at the same time, I’m scared to death.’”
The reason is no coach can honestly say they covered everything they wanted to cover.
Defenseman Tom Gilbert (groin) will play tonight, meaning rookie Matt Dumba is scratched.
Yeo will make a decision after warmups on Matt Kassian. If he sees the Avalanche dresses minor-league tough guy Patrick Bordeleau, a 2004 fourth-round pick by the Wild, for his NHL debut, Kassian may play.
Yeo met with all four forward lines on the ice this morning to tell them what he is expecting, discuss their roles again, etc.
Again, assuming Kassian does not play tonight, here are your Wild lines and D pairs.
Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Dany Heatley
Matt Cullen-Mikael Granlund-Devin Setoguchi
Cal Clutterbuck-Kyle Brodziak-Pierre-Marc Bouchard
Darroll Powe*-Zenon Konopka-Torrey Mitchell
*If Kassian plans, Powe may be the odd man out.
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Clayton Stoner-Tom Gilbert
Justin Falk-Nate Prosser
Referees tonight are Wes McCauley and Rob Martell. Linesmen are Brad Lazarowich and Brian Murphy.
More from Star Tribune
More From Russo's Rants
It's uncertain as of now if the 19-year-old rookie is making his NHL debut tonight against the New Jersey Devils.
The Wild, winners of three in a row, practiced in Newark, N.J., today in preparation for the start of its four-game trip.
If jARED Spurgeon isn't ready to play the Devils on Saturday, the Wild has Nate Prosser patiently waiting or could go with the five defensemen who played tonight and Marco Scandella.
"Maybe he has to do a little less," coach Bruce Boudreau said of Matt Dumba. "Sometimes players try so hard and they do too much rather than just do their job and make plays."
Jason Zucker didn't practice Wednesday. Coach Bruce Boudreau called it a maintenance day and hopes he can play against the Maple Leafs.