With the Wild already short blue-line depth and injured Marco Scandella and Jonas Brodin still a few weeks from playing, veteran defenseman Tom Gilbert tweaked his groin during Wednesday's intrasquad game.
Coach Mike Yeo said it's not serious and the hope is he will be ready for Saturday's opener against Colorado.
If Gilbert, who routinely logged 30 minutes a night late last season, is unable to play, that leaves Steven Kampfer, who has played 61 NHL games and scored in the scrimmage, or 18-year-old Matt Dumba as likely replacements.
Dumba, a 2012 first-round pick who plays for Red Deer of the Western Hockey League, was at his best in Wednesday's scrimmage.
He skated well, wowed fans with a few blistering one-timers and assisted on Nick Palmieri's first-period power-play goal. He even played for both teams, trading his red jersey for a white in the second period to replace Gilbert on the other team.
Of course, he has an advantage because he has been playing all year.
"It is a big jump from junior," Dumba said. "The guys just move the puck so quick here and they're so smart when doing it, so you've got to be sharp. I think I've adjusted to it fairly well. And I think my skating just helps me do that."
The Wild is at a maximum 50 contracts, so GM Chuck Fletcher can't simply sign a defenseman if he needs one without getting rid of a contract. If the Wild needs a defenseman, Fletcher's choices are in Houston, making a trade or keeping Dumba. Fletcher said the Wild has been informed that Dumba's contract would not count toward the 50 until he plays six games.Shootouts stressed
In a 48-game, all-conference schedule, the shootout will be valuable this season.
"Every extra point you get in a shortened season is immense," Yeo said.
Last year, the Wild went 11-9 in shootouts. Yeo wants a better win percentage and has a full arsenal of weapons to choose from.
Zach Parise ranks third among active NHL shooters with 29 goals, Mikko Koivu ranks sixth with 27 and Matt Cullen ranks 23rd with 19. Devin Setoguchi and Pierre-Marc Bouchard have scored seven each, while rookie Mikael Granlund is dynamic in the shootout.
Cullen led the team with seven last year. Setoguchi scored five.
"You need to score goals," Yeo said. "Our goalies [Niklas Backstrom] really continued to grow and get better at shootouts last year. Much attributed to the injuries that we had, we didn't score enough goals a lot of the time. We've got guys that can do it. We've got a good group of guys to pull from."
Backstrom is 17-30 all-time in shootouts with the 59th-ranked save percentage (.571). Josh Harding is 10-7 with the 15th-ranked save percentage (.727).More about the game
With Palmieri, Matt Kassian, Jake Dowell and Stephane Veilleux going for the 13th and maybe 14th forward spots, Palmieri and Dowell each scored in a 4-1 red victory in the scrimmage.
Opening night rosters must be submitted Friday at 2 p.m. That means the Wild must make waiver decisions on those four players by 11 a.m. Thursday.
Harding was victorious with 18 saves. Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter's new defense partner, scored two goals, an assist and a dazzling goal in a practice shootout.
Bouchard, coming off a season-ending concussion, should be cleared for the opener. He was terrific Wednesday and scored in the practice overtime.
"He was in fine form again," Yeo said. "He looks great. And it's great news for us."
Fletcher's last piece of advice to Yeo before the intrasquad game: "Make sure we win tonight."Etc.
Fletcher said Brodin, a 2011 first-rounder who underwent surgery for a broken clavicle in November, is probably a week from playing in Houston.
Sean O'Donnell, the first-ever Wild captain, has retired after 17 years in the NHL.
|Utah Valley U||64|
|(5) South Carolina||67|
|(14) NC State||79|
|(11) Penn State||82|
|(2) Notre Dame||83|
|(19) Michigan State||61|
|(13) North Carolina||73||FINAL|
|(15) Texas A&M||86|
|San Diego State||46||FINAL|
|San Jose St||80||FINAL|