Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Posts about Wild training camp

Moves take Wild closer to opening day roster

Posted by: Kent Youngblood Updated: October 3, 2014 - 11:31 AM

Greetings from Xcel Energy Center, where I have the privilege of watching Wild practice while Mr. Russo makes his way back from St. Louis.

The Wild made some moves today, getting down to 27 players, which includes goalies Josh Harding and Ilya Bryzgalov. So that means some more moves need to be made to get the team down to the final roster of 23 plus injured players.

Today’s moves: The Wild put center Brett Sutter and wing Curt Gogol on waivers. Centers Tyler Graovac and Zack Phillips, wings Michael Keranen and Joel Rechlicz and defensemen Jonathon Blum, Justin Falk and Gustav Olofsson were sent to Iowa of the AHL.

Both Sutter and Gogol will be sent to Iowa should they clear waivers.

I’ll get back to you after practice is over.

Wild outmatched in St. Louis, but Yeo learned a lot; Fletcher on the Prosser pickup

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: October 3, 2014 - 7:15 AM

Here's your stream of consciousness blog following tonight's slugfest exhibition game between the St. Louis and the "Minnesota Wild."

I put that in quotes because the game featured minor-leaguers, roster hopefuls and a smattering of regulars like Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle, Kyle Brodziak, Erik Haula and Keith Ballard.

--  Blues won 4-1. Outshot the Wild 37-15. Nik Backstrom, behind a severely overmatched team, was solid with 33 saves. The Blues buzzed for 60 minutes basically, and at a minimum, Backstrom got a workout.

"He was great all night," said coach Mike Yeo.

Not an easy game for Backstrom. The Wild arrived at the rink about 5:30 p.m. after taking a similar re-route into St. Louis that I mentioned I took on my flight. Not easy to skate in Minnesota, fly to a city and arrive that late, especially when you're a goalie with pregame routines as well-documented as Backstrom.

"It’s a pretty good team," Backstrom said. "They played with a great lineup. It was a challenge for us. We battled hard. It was a long, tough day for us. It was tough for us to prepare the right way for this game, so we hung in there."

On his game (the game was 1-1 despite the Wild being outshot 23-10 after 2 and spending almost every second of the second period in the defensive zone: "You want to win, even if it’s preseason. You want to win. You want to get better. It’s still a process for me to try to improve everyday, get heading in the right direction. Tomorrow’s a new day. I’ll try to work on my game a bit better tomorrow."

As I documented on yesterday's blog, the Wild often lose goalies in St. Louis. Athletic therapist Don Fuller had to run onto the ice when Backstrom was crashed into in the second period after making a nice save on Jay Bouwmeester. Backstrom shook it off though.

"Wakeup call, but I’m still here," he said.

-- Gongshow tonight. Ninety-two combined penalty minutes in the game, with Joel Rechlicz, called up for this game, compiling 25 of the Wild's 50 PIM's.

Just a nasty game right from the outset. It started early when Paul Bissonnette nearly ran Matt Dumba into East St. Louis. Luckily, Dumba saw it coming and dodged the charge. Seconds later, Ryan Reaves almost took Joel Rechlicz's head off at center ice.

Rechlicz was slow to get up, finally did, saw Reaves coming and tried to slash him. When Reaves skated in on the forecheck, Rechlicz turned and made a beeline for the Wild end and jumped Reaves, a sign of things to come.

Rechlicz got four minutes, Reaves two.

Soon, BizNasty fought Stu Bickel in a quick bout -- Bickel's third of the preseason. Later, David Backes ran over Christian Folin for a penalty and later punched Charlie Coyle in the back of the head. In the third, the Blues captain, who loves to pick on the Wild, went after Jason Zucker and Coyle jumped in to stand up to Backes.

In the second, after a Blues icing, Mike Yeo threw his fourth line on the ice for an offensive-zone draw. There was a quick stoppage, so when Yeo only changed his D, Ken Hitchcock threw his fourth line on the ice.

That was an indication that we would see the long anticipated Rechlicz-Reaves bout, and it was a nasty smackdown with big bombs thrown. Later, Justin Falk fought BizNasty. After the ensuing faceoff, Rechlicz and Reaves, who running around aimlessly all night, got into it again. Referee Francis Charron gave Rechlicz two for unsportsmanlike conduct and a 10-minute misconduct for inciting.

In the third, more rough stuff. Patrik Berglund got away with cross-checking Nino Niederreiter right in front of the ref. Reaves pushed Jon Blum onto Backstrom. No call. Late, Keith Ballard hauled down Alex Steen. Steen slashed Ballard, and Ballard retaliated with a slash to the gut. Kevin Shattenkirk sprinted in from the blue line and jumped Ballard with 4:07 left.

Ballard got 2 for holding, 2 for slashing and a 5 for fighting. Shattenkirk got two for ROUGHING, five for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct. I put that in caps because the rough is hysterical. If that was a 2-5-10 for instigating (like it should have been), Shatternkirk could have gotten a possible suspension and Hitchcock a fine because it happened with 4:07 left (less than five minutes left in a game). But the refs gave them a break.

Then, in the final moments, Yeo and Hitchcock put their fourth lines on the ice. Rechlicz and Reaves predictably were running around at the buzzer and a huge scrum erupted.

Rechlicz said it was the first time he ever played Reaves and felt the Wild did a great job standing up for each other.

I asked Yeo what he learned tonight:

"I expected a physical game," Yeo said. "We’ve been in this building enough times that we’ve seen a few of these games. You know what, our guys didn’t back down tonight, that’s for sure. We learned who’s ready to come and play in a game like this, and that’s what you need to see. We’re going to play in a lot of tough buildings and we’ve got to be ready to execute when you know that the other team might come and finish a check. We saw guys that were ready and willing to do that and get in there for their teammates.

"I think we got what we needed from this game from an evaluation standpoint."

Yeo said he liked the way Ballard battled for his teammates and thought Charlie Coyle was a "big, strong horse. I think he needed that." I agree Coyle played a gutsy game, but this morning, Yeo said he wanted Coyle to make plays and I didn't see much of that.

I liked Nino Niederreiter's game.

-- Jason Zucker scored a goal (awesome thievery of Patrick Berglund in the first), nearly scored another and set up Erik Haula for a chance.

Of Zucker, Yeo said, "There was good moments. I would say overall I would rate his game as good, definitely better than average."

"We were all coming in here with the mindset to battle," Zucker said. "We know it’s a hard building to play in. On paper, it was a little bit of a mismatch with their lineup and ours, but we just wanted to come in and battle, and I thought we did that."

On his camp: "I think I’ve come in and done what I wanted to do. Tried playing hard. We’ll just see what happens."

I personally don't see how he doesn't deserve to make the team. With the Wild's top-9, he offers more to the fourth line than any other roster hopeful I have seen in camp. He has worked to get better defensively. He has tried to play physical. He brings speed, which can bring momentum. And he has embraced the penalty kill role and done it well.

-- I liked Christian Folin's game a lot. Four shots, solid defensively. He's just smart and keeps things simple, and gives Minnesota a big body.

Yeo said he liked Folin's game and Dumba's tonight, and he liked Bickel's ability to play tough and strong in front of his net.

I admit. With Nate Prosser in the fold now, I have no clue what's going to happen. My gut still is Dumba starts down. This is about development and the need for a 20-year-old to develop the proper way.

But, let's just say six defensemen that stay now are obviously Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella, Ballard and Prosser. Do you keep seven or eight?

If it's eight, and Folin and Dumba both make it, that means Ballard and Prosser are seven and eight. If the Wild wants Ballard to start the season inside the top-6 and Prosser is here, that leaves room for only one of Folin or Dumba.

A lot will depend on whether the Wild feels it needs Dumba to now  play that second PP-unit pointman role. If not, maybe he starts in Iowa.

I really like Folin's game. His game seems more NHL ready. He has a big shot. He's poised, offers a big shot in front of the net and can play the PK.

And then there's Bickel, who as we have said before can be a rover -- blue line or wing, and brings a toughness Yeo loves.

OK, now I'm really confused. I had a better feeling of what was going to happen before Prosser was in the mix. Now, I just don't know.

Up front, again, I think Zucker makes it. With Justin Fontaine hurt, there's two spots if Zucker makes it. Michael Keranen, Cody Almond (one-way, can go back to Europe if he clears waivers), Brett Sutter, Stephane Veilleux and again maybe they look at Bickel as the extra.

-- OK, onto Prosser. I chatted with Chuck Fletcher before the game and his reasoning for taking Prosser off waivers was pretty much what I spelled out earlier. The coaches know and trust his game, he's a good character guy who fits well in the Wild room and he provides veteran depth. Last year, he proved valuable when the Wild lost Keith Ballard, Clayton Stoner, Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella to injuries at different times.

Ballard is oft-injured and already experienced abdominal soreness in camp, so Fletcher thought he would get some insurance, saying that Prosser is the type of player who wouldn't have been available a month from now. Blues writers say Prosser outplayed Petteri Lindbohm in camp, but Lindbohm has the hammer to return to Finland if he doesn't make the team. It's kinda like Almond, who can return to Switzerland, or Keranen, who can return to Finland.

If Keranen doesn't make the team, by the way, the Wild seen to think he'll try Iowa initially. I just don't think he's ready. He's skilled and smart, but his strength is a real issue, and if there's no room on the power play, can he play a momentum-turning fourth-line role?

Back to Prosser. Fletcher said the coaches will determine the team. But he also said he didn't envision the Wild claiming Prosser off waivers only to throw him back on in two days.

So sounds like he's here, which either hurts Bickel or means Dumba or Folin will initially start in Iowa. Again, they're only both playing if they're both inside the top-6. The Wild's not keeping one if they're going to be an oft-healthy scratch.

The Wild may make some cuts Friday, so perhaps we'll get a better indication. Yeo also said a couple of these guys the Wild may want to make another evaluation on could play in Saturday's exhibition finale.

Fletcher also said the Prosser move wasn't a precursor to another move. In other words, some have speculated Ballard's about to be moved and that's why he got Prosser. Fletcher said this isn't the precursor to anything, that it was honestly just an insurance move and you can never have too many NHL defensemen. 

He said it's no secret that back in July he said at some point he wanted to add another NHL defenseman and that it's much easier to do that now than a month from now.

He also reminded that whatever the opening-night roster ends up being, "Whatever we start with first game is going to change repeatedly. It'll be very fluid all season long due to poor performance, injuries or adjustments the coaches want to make. We’re going to need a lot of defensemen."

In other words, the Wild opens with two games against Colorado. Patrick Bordeleau is hurt, so maybe the Wild goes with a speedier, lighter lineup in those games but makes adjustments in Games 3 and 4 when it travels to Anaheim and L.A. to get a heavier lineup.

So Fletcher basically is saying don't freak out if the opening night lineup is not exactly what you envision because in his eyes, he's coming up with lineups from game to game.

Anyway, that's it for me. Hopefully I didn't confuse you more than you already were. I have to get back to the hotel now because I'm planning a little 3-4 a.m. WAKEUP!!! (yikes) so I can try to bang out my Sunday piece before my a.m. flight.

I'll be at practice Friday working ahead of some stuff for next week's preview section, but I'll tweet and blog when there are some cuts. Kent Youngblood is technically doing the daily coverage though Friday.

Night.

Yeo on Charlie Coyle, Keith Ballard, Jason Zucker and more

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: October 2, 2014 - 1:55 PM

Afternoon from high above the ground, where we're bouncing around the sky like a ping-pong ball.

Pretty sickening flight to be honest. No cabin service, seatbelt sign on since we left the ground 40 minutes ago.

Apparently, there's so much weather out there, we're taking a very, very long re-routing to St. Louis, like by way of Cali or something.

In non-Nate Prosser news, at the end of Thursday’s morning skate at Xcel Energy Center, coach Mike Yeo pulled Charlie Coyle aside to give him a little pep talk.

Yeo reiterated to me afterward, "I'm not unhappy with Charlie's camp," but he rose the bar so to speak the last 12 games of last season and the playoffs and he wants him to start making plays.

That begins tonight at St. Louis when Coyle mans the right wing on a young top line against the big, bad Blues.

"The biggest thing for me is I want to get all of our guys that I know are going to be with us feeling good about their game," Yeo said. "My only message to him was systemwise he looks good, battle level, conditioning all that stuff looks good. I do know there’s another level to his execution, his playmaking out on the ice. He hasn’t 100 percent been feeling it, so tonight I just want him making plays. And if it doesn’t work, try it again."

Tonight, the Blues will dress a terrific lineup that includes David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Vladimir Terasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Paul Stastny, Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Steen and Kevin Shattenkirk.

Jake Allen is expected to start. Niklas Backstrom for the Wild. The game is not televised. It can be heard on 107.9-FM and I'll be tweeting away at www.twitter.com/russostrib.

The Wild's only regulars playing include Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Kyle Brodziak, Erik Haula, Keith Ballard and Marco Scandella. As I reported on yesterday's blog, the Wild's lineup includes eight roster hopefuls (Jason Zucker, Michael Keranen, Cody Almond, Stephane Veilleux and Brett Sutter up front and Matt Dumba, Christian Folin and Stu Bickel on the back end) and five callups from Iowa.

"It’s good," Yeo said. "This is what we were hoping for. I was expecting them to ice a good lineup, so this is just what we want. We want a good challenge for these guys to go in there."

They'll also play a tough lineup that includes Paul Bissonnette, Ryan Reaves and motormouth Max Lapierre.

"I’m not concerned about our toughness," Yeo said. "We definitely have some in the lineup as well."

Joel Rechlicz and Bickel will play.

As I mentioned on the previous blog, I'll catch up with GM Chuck Fletcher when he gets to the rink (I'll actually beat the team by an hour) regarding today's Prosser pickup.

I provided what I think the rationale is on the previous blog, but we will see if Fletcher can explain how or if this affects Folin and Dumba. I don't believe the Wild has made a final decision on either yet making the team out of camp, and Prosser just gives the Wild another NHL body if either needs to start in Iowa right away or the Wild's not fully confident that Bickel can be an extra.

Ballard, who has been laboring with abdominal soreness, will get back in the lineup tonight. Again, barring injury, for Folin AND Dumba to make the team, they both need to be inside the top-6. By process of elimination, that affects Ballard.

Yeo though said, "We haven’t put any of that kind of pressure, so if that is something that he’s feeling, then that’s coming from him. We haven’t given him any indication to feel that kind of pressuire. We just want to make sure that his game’s feeling really good and we’re counting on him to have a great season for us."

All eyes will be on Zucker tonight. Up front at wing, the Wild has Parise-Pominville; Vanek-Coyle; Cooke-Niederreiter in the top-9 currently.

So, Yeo compared Zucker today to Justin Fontaine last season in camp. Fontaine made the team, but Yeo said, "We weren’t really sure what kind of role he was going to have with us. Sometimes he was out of the lineup, sometimes he was on the fourth line, sometimes he was on the third line, sometimes as high as the first. Same thing with Nino. We’re giving [Zucker] the opportunity to show at the very worst break in possibly with our fourth line and then from there earn more opportunity. That's all we can do right at this moment. You look at our top 9 forwards, and we’re pretty set there right now. ... If there's going to be an opportunity, that’s the way it'll come about. So far he’s shown he’s capable of filling that kind of role."

The question is whether Keranen can. He's a power-play guy. There may be no room for him on the power play, so there's a real question as to whether Keranen can play a fourth-line role (i.e. be physical, a momentum turner, etc).

Talk to ya after tonight's game.

Wild brings back Nate Prosser, claiming him off waivers from St. Louis

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: October 2, 2014 - 12:14 PM

At some point yesterday somebody asked me on Twitter if the Wild may claim Nate Prosser off waivers.

I immediately dismissed it. Wrong!

In a move that caught me by surprise, the Wild reacquired defenseman Nate Prosser this morning by snagging him off waivers from the St. Louis Blues (coincidentally tonight's Minnesota opponent in a preseason game).

Prosser, 28, a native of Elk River and product of Colorado College, played 126 games for the Wild over parts of five seasons. Here's that big personality profile I wrote on Prosser last season.

"I'm excited to get back to the locker room I'm so familiar with," Prosser said via text. "Pretty whirlwind of a day, but I'm excited to get back home and get that Wild jersey on."

The irony is the Wild had an internal debate this past summer about whether or not to re-sign Prosser. See this blog to refresh your memory. But Prosser wanted a one-way contract. The Wild wanted to sign him to a two-way contract. Now the Wild gets him back on that two-way.

I'm at the airport on my way to St. Louis, so I'll grab GM Chuck Fletcher prior to the game on the move.

But the old adage is you can never have too many NHL defensemen in your organization, so this was a move to add veteran depth. The coaches trust his game and he's a character kid, Fletcher said via text. If he doesn't make the team, Prosser would have to be placed on waivers again. He is on a two-way contract.

Basically, it sounds like right-shot depth if the organization decides there's not room for BOTH Christian Folin and Matt Dumba inside the top-6. As I have written a lot the past week, the only way BOTH make the team is if the Wild feels there's room for BOTH inside the top-6.

If there's a chance one would be the seventh or eighth defenseman, he'll go to the minors to develop.

Here's more from Prosser courtesy of my St. Louis Dispatch buddy Jeremy Rutherford:

Apparently, he had his house in Minny on the market. Hurried this morning and told agent not to sell.

Here's some quotes from his scrum:

Prosser

"What a day here. I was just on the ice, expecting to go through a morning skate, got pulled off at like 10:50. Doug (Armstrong) said he doesn't know which team has claimed me yet, but he'll come back and talk to me at 11 and let me know. He came back at 11 and told me it was Minnesota. It's a pretty funny business, you know. You don't know what's going on. It's the nature of the business right now."

Going back to Wild?
"I know the coaches, I know the players. It's not like it's going to be unfamiliar to me. I'm going to go back to a place where I'm from obviously. I'm excited for this new journey."

Talk to Minnesota in summer, surprised their interested?
"We talked. There was a little bit of communication there from the beginning of July to mid-July. But then it just kind of broke off there. That's when I kind of looked elsewhere. I knew there was some interest but we couldn't keep waiting and waiting. That's when we moved on."

Get on their plane tonight?
"Yeah. They're here ... I'll probably just get on the plane with them tonight. I'm like literally at a loss for words. This whole situation, the way the summer went down, coming into camp here, a whole new organization, a whole new team ... put on waivers. I've never been put on waivers, so I didn't really know the situation at all. Get pulled off the ice and tell me the team that I've been playing for the last few years claims me ... what am I supposed to think. That's bizarre and exiting and funny business all wrapped up in one."  

--------------------

The Wild is playing a very young lineup tonight. The Blues are playing their big guns and toughies. It should be interesting. I'll update the blog with stuff from today's skate either right before my flight or from the air.

Fontaine injury opens door for another forward; Wild's goalie conundrum

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: October 1, 2014 - 4:39 PM

The Wild, 2-1-1 in the preseason, plays its second-to-last exhibition game Thursday night in St. Louis.

There is NO bigger game going on involving ANY local team Thursday night, so make sure you keep your eyes ONLY on the @russostrib Twitter network and listen to 107.9-FM. The Wild game has been moved from KFAN to KOOL 108 for NO reason WHATSOEVER.

The big piece of news that came out of today’s practice is right wing Justin Fontaine will miss a couple weeks and definitely the Oct. 9 opener with a lower-body injury. It explains why the poor guy, who was walking a bit gingerly off the ice today, looked so glum. Coach Mike Yeo said “hopefully it’ll be less than that, but that’s what we’re preparing for right now.”

“Nothing serious that we wouldn’t expect him to be completely fine afterward. It’s just going to take a little time,” Yeo said.

Fontaine’s injury opens another roster spot out of camp up front. Barring injury, here’s the lines as of now:

Parise-Granlund-Pominville

Vanek-Koivu-Coyle

Cooke-Haula-Niederreiter

XXXXXX-Brodziak-XXXXXX

XXXXXX

As you can see by my three XXXXXX’s, there’s potentially three forward spots available and five guys now vying for them: Jason Zucker, Cody Almond, Brett Sutter, Michael Keranen and Stephane Veilleux.

I’m expecting all five to play in Thursday’s game. On the trip: Those five, Niederreiter, Haula, Coyle, Brodziak, Ballard, Dumba, Bickel, Folin and Scandella.

I’ll toss the full lineup on here after 4 p.m. The Wild is delaying the announcement because as previously reported, it plans to recall some players previously sent down for the Blues game. From that list, the Wild is three forwards and one defenseman short for the game.

The Wild recalled forwards Tyler Graovac, Zack Phillips and Joel Rechlicz and defensemen Jon Blum and Justin Falk. One defenseman of the seven coming will likely be scratched unless Yeo chooses to play Bickel at forward again. Then, another forward would be scratched.

By the way, Jordan Schroeder cleared waivers and was assigned to Iowa.

I think Zucker has had a good camp, or at least much better than last year. Keranen is interesting. He is very, very skilled, but do you want him playing on the fourth line if he’s not on the power play? And right now, I don’t see how there’s room for him on the power play.

We all know what Veilleux brings by now, and Yeo made it sound today like it’s Almond vs. Sutter (Darryl’s kid) for the other spot.

“Both guys [are] pretty similar to be honest with you,” Yeo said. “That’s been a good competition there, both guys showing that they’re willing to play the body, both guys have factored in on the penalty kill, both guys have made some plays with the puck in the offensive zone when they’ve gotten it. So I think for them, the better the understanding that they have of what we’re looking for – we’re looking for somebody to come in and not be a top guy on the power play. Our top two lines are pretty set, our power play is pretty set, but we need penalty killers, we need physical guys, we need momentum players and we need guys that are very responsible defensively. That, in the end, is probably what it’s going to come down to.”
 

I talked to Zucker, Almond and Sutter today, and you can read their quotes in Thursday’s paper.

Thursday’s game will be a final chance for those five listed above and maybe defensemen Matt Dumba, Christian Folin and Stu Bickel to make final impressions. As I have written before, technically, the Wild could keep all three and will only keep BOTH Dumba and Folin if BOTH are inside the top-6 (meaning Ballard as the seventh, barring injury).

That’s because Yeo, and earlier this week GM Chuck Fletcher, said that Saturday’s final exhibition game against St. Louis at home will feature “very close to if not” the lineup the Wild plans to play opening night.

“Not to say that game [Thursday in St. Louis] is going to be the deciding factor, but if you want to compare it to school, that’s going to be the final exam and probably the grades in that one are going to count a little bit more than the ones from the start of the year,” Yeo said. “We will evaluate everything as a whole, but what we’re looking for is the progress.”

I love that quote.

Niklas Backstrom, by the way, will play in St. Louis with Ilya Bryzgalov backing him up. Darcy Kuemper will play in Saturday’s preseason finale.

Yeo said the Wild planned to meet after practice to discuss the three-goalie situation. However, I’m not sure that happened because GM Chuck Fletcher only recently got back from the Board of Governors meeting in New York.

Also, I’m not positive Fletcher wants to have that conversation yet because so much can happen in these final two games.

I mean, I don't mean to be the reminder of bad news, but the Wild seems to always get goalies hurt in St. Louis.

Heck, Backstrom, the all-time leader in Wild victories, became an NHL goalie because Josh Harding strained his groin in a preseason game at St. Louis. Heck, Backstrom because the Wild’s everyday goalie because Manny Fernandez injured his knee at St. Louis. Heck, the Wild signed Jose Theodore in 2010 because Harding tore his ACL and MCL in his preseason debut … at St. Louis. HECK, Ilya Bryzgalov got his opportunity to become the Wild’s No. 1 because David Backes ran Darcy Kuemper and gave him a concussion last year AT ST. LOUIS!!!!

Get what I’m saying? It’s kind of why I decided not to ask Bryzgalov today if he would ever consider a two-way contract with the Wild and maybe start off in Iowa. Heck, it’s why Fletcher has also not yet asked him that question.

This is the Wild, the organization that epitomizes goaltending instability. In four days, a lot can change. The most important thing is right now, Kuemper is playing great, Backstrom looks healthy and good. And, frankly, so does Bryzgalov.

But, as Yeo said today about whether the Wild could keep three goalies, “It’s not a perfect situation by any means. I don’t know that’s where we would be steering toward, but I’m not going to say that it won’t happen.”

I honestly think he’ll have to be released from his tryout If Kuemper and Backstrom are healthy after these exhibition games. I don’t think the Wild wants to use three of its 23 roster spots on goalies, and remember, three goalies could eventually become four because Harding is expected back after a minimum of two months.

Remember, the Wild could always release Bryzgalov from his tryout and sign him back eventually if something were to happen (if he isn’t signed elsewhere).

Bryzgalov’s attitude continues to be refreshing. He said again today that he’s just enjoying being around the team and helping them get through camp. And I have said many times: At least these teammates genuinely like the guy: “He puts a smile on everyone’s face. He’s a funny guy,” said Jason Pominville.

By the way, Bryzgalov on taking those selfies with the fans the other night during play while sitting on the bench: “You know, I’ve got to do that. Fans came to have some fun. I’ve got to respect it. There were lots of kids out there, and I must do it for the kids. When you see lots of kids, they excited, and they want to take the picture, it’s nice. They came here to support us and cheering for us, and we have to give them back something.”

On tossing his toque on the ice for Pominville’s hat trick, Bryzgalov said, “You know, I was excited for Pommer. It’s not everyday you score a hat trick, and I celebrated.”

Back to Thursday’s game, the Wild has designed this game as a final test of sorts because it’s at St. Louis, the big, bad Blues.

“That’s an important game for a lot of guys tomorrow,” Yeo said. “We want to see who can go in and who can play in a tough building and who can play against a very good hockey team and show that they’re able to perform in those conditions.

“Also we’ve got some guys who maybe wouldn’t get the same opportunity on the power play and who wouldn’t get the same amount of ice time as they would normally if all of our vets were in the lineup, and we’ll give them some opportunity to feel good about their game and to be leaders for our group.”

Yeo on Dumba: “I’ve been impressed with both guys and I’m referring to Folin and Dumba. Both guys have shown that they bring intangibles, they bring qualities that are unique and that’s what we’re looking for. If we’re looking for a big, solid, heavy defender, then we’ve got one and if we’re looking for more of a puck-moving, skating, offensive-minded guy then we have another option. For those guys, the more that you can do in addition to those things, the better chance they have.”

Yeo on Folin, who got a game last year and practiced with the Wild for a few weeks: “I think from a comfort level, being here, being around teammates and getting used to our teammates I think so. … I do think that he’s benefited from that. Both guys have had that opportunity. Dumba started at the beginning of the year with us last year. I don’t think these guys are coming in and feeling completely overwhelmed with the newness of the systems and the teammates and certainly that helps.”

Charlie Coyle has had a good camp, but the Wild wants more offensively. It’ll be interesting if he doesn’t show it down the stretch of camp here because Yeo is very happy with Niederreiter and maybe is thinking of moving him up to that second line.

“I’ve seen all the things you would expect from him as far as the work ethic,” Yeo said of Coyle. “He’s playing the game hard, he’s playing the game as a big body. I do know that there’s a little more that he can get to as far as the offensive part of his game is not clicking quite at the level we know
it can get to. Part of it is working into a line with Tomas and Mikko there’s a bit of a feeling out process there. But overall I’m not disappointed by any means with his camp. He’s come in in phenomenal shape, and he’s working. But you can just tell with timing and execution that there’s another level he can get to.”
 

Conversely, Yeo on Niederreiter: “I’ve been very pleased with his camp. He looks very motivated, he
looks great on the ice. We still treat Nino like a young player so we keep pushing him every day. It’s got to be about the next day. But up to this point, I’ve been very pleased.”
 

Interestante. Talk to you Thursday. I am covering the morning skate here Thursday, then hustling to the airport for my flight to St. Louis. So, I’ll try to blog either before my flight or from the air prior to the game.

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