If you have tickets to the Wild’s home opener tonight against Columbus, and you expected to see players like Zach Parise, Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund, you’re out of luck. You’re going to get a look at the future instead.
Friday’s roster moves added four forwards to the Wild roster, plugging some of the holes created during a Thursday victory in Chicago that turned the locker room into a triage ward. The newcomer causing the most excitement is Luke Kunin, called up from the AHL affiliate in Iowa when defenseman Mike Reilly was sent down. Kunin, signed last spring after his sophomore season at Wisconsin, had a great camp and was among the final cuts. He admitted Saturday he was disappointed not to start the season with the Wild, and despite the circumstances, he’s thrilled to be playing in the first game of the season at Xcel Energy Center.
“It’s something you think about since you were little,’’ said Kunin, 19, picked by the Wild in the first round of the 2016 NHL draft. “All the times your parents took you to the rink early in the morning, all the things you did to get to this point, it’s all pretty cool and special. I’m looking forward to it.’’
The injuries to Coyle, NIederreiter and Marcus Foligno in Thursday’s victory at Chicago created more chaos in a lineup already missing Parise and Granlund. The lines in Saturday’s morning skate were:
Joel Eriksson Ek-Eric Staal-Chris Stewart
Tyler Ennis-Mikko Koivu-Jason Zucker
Daniel Winnik-Matt Cullen-Kunin
Landon Ferraro-Zack Mitchell-Christoph Bertschy
Bertschy, Ferraro and Mitchell were called up Friday after Coyle (broken fibula) was put on long-term injured reserve. He’s expected to miss six to eight weeks after having surgery on his right leg. Niederreiter (high left ankle sprain) was put on injured reserve and is expected to be out at least three weeks. Foligno, who sustained a fracture on the left side of his face when Chicago’s John Hayden landed a hard right during a fight, is projected to miss at least one week and will undergo a medical procedure Sunday.
Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said Saturday morning that he’s sure Parise (undisclosed) will be ready to play in next week’s back-to-back games Friday and Saturday at Winnipeg and Calgary. He added that Foligno could “potentially’’ return next weekend, and Granlund (groin) skated Saturday morning.
Boudreau said he wants to keep the pressure low on Kunin, who had a goal and an assist in two games with Iowa. “It’s his first (NHL) game,’’ the coach said. “He’s going to be a real good hockey player for many years. His effort will be there, and he competes.’’
Kunin plans to give the Wild the same thing he showed in camp: energy, versatility and perhaps some scoring.
“It’s just another hockey game at the end of the day,’’ he said. “I’ll just go out and do my thing and enjoy the moment.’’
FYI, the Wild has cancelled its outdoor pregame party because of the rain predicted for later this afternoon and evening.