Mike Yeo said he believes Marco Scandella will be a top defenseman in the NHL for a long time. The Wild coach said since the start of training camp that Scandella is good enough to be a top-four defenseman.
That's why the Wild coach indicated a month ago that unless Scandella could get top-four minutes immediately, it might be beneficial for the 21-year-old to get more ice time with Houston of the AHL.
A back injury to Mike Lundin will give Scandella those minutes in Minnesota.
"It's funny how guys get their opportunity," Yeo said. "Some guys, they wait and they wait and they wait, but the opportunity never really comes. But here's an opportunity for him right off the bat."
Scandella is part of the team's 23-man opening night roster, along with three other contenders -- forwards Brett Bulmer and Nick Johnson, and defenseman Justin Falk.
Scandella receives the biggest role immediately, after playing 20 games with the Wild last season and helping the Aeros to the Calder Cup Finals.
"Every day is a mental battle," he said. "I've got to perform. As a young guy, you have to be on your toes every day."
Scandella showed some signs during an injury hindered season of being a skilled, smart defenseman. He demonstrated it in his third game, Nov. 17 when he skated end-to-end to set up Antti Miettinen's overtime winner.
"I remember talking to an NHL executive that night that said, 'Wow, is that a good hockey player,'" GM Chuck Fletcher said. "Last year he showed signs of playing very well and then he would get injured, and you'd almost have to build his game back up again. But he gained a lot of great experience."
Walz on board with FSN
Wes Walz, one of the Wild's original players, will do pre- and post-game shows on Fox Sports North.
"I'm really excited to be involved with the Wild family again," said Walz, 41. "My kids all grew up here, so we have deep, strong roots in this area having played here eight years. I'm looking forward to being around the rink all the time again and pulling for the guys."
Walz was a go-to quote for Minnesota media, "but I'm under no illusion, broadcasting is different and the good ones make it look really easy."
Goalie Josh Harding skated in a track suit Wednesday to test his twisted left ankle. Two hours later, goalie Matt Hackett was reassigned to Houston and Harding was added to the Wild's opening night roster.
Three players will start on injured reserve.
Center Cody Almond is not improving from a back injury that's kept him off the ice all of training camp. "It's not a short-term thing," Fletcher said. "It's frustrating for him because he came to camp in great shape and this was the year he thought he could challenge for a roster spot."
Left winger Matt Kassian (broken finger) is practicing, but the Wild will be cautious to give him the green light -- either here on in Houston -- because he's a fighter. Lundin is starting to feel better, Fletcher said.