By Brian Stensaas
We've known for some time that the Wild had been selected to open next season in Finland. But today it became official and some details were released. Minnesota will play Carolina on Oct. 7 & 8 in Helsinki. Four other teams will also open their seasons overseas. Columbus and San Jose will play Oct. 8-9 in Stockholm; Boston and Phoenix will play Oct. 9-10 in Prague.
It's the fourth year in a row the NHL has played regular season games overseas, and the six teams are the most to participate.
Like I said, most knew this was coming. But James Sheppard probably had the best reaction. When a Wild PR staffer told him the news, he simply replied, "Oh, that's sick."
(By the way, folks, "sick" is the new "awesome" or "cool" in young people parlance)
A brief survey among players found most everyone is pretty excited for this. But for Finland natives Niklas Backstrom, Antti Miettinen and Mikko Koivu it's especially neat.
All three are Olympians, and now after representing their country for the next couple of weeks, they get to open next season on their home turf.
A lot of the details about this trip are still being ironed out. The team will spend some time in Mikko Koivu's home town while it is over there. Prior to leaving, the Wild will hold a training camp here and play home and road exhibition games. That means that a few players who spend their summers in Europe will be making a couple of long flights in a short time.
But I am sure it will be worth it.
As for practice today, Andrew Brunette sat out again with some knee and ankle soreness and Shane Hnidy was kept away because he is ill. Brunette is expected to be OK for tomorrow's game; coach Todd Richards did not know how ill Hnidy is, so his status for tomorrow is up in the air.
Josh Harding was the first player out on the ice today (even before the Zamboni guy had finished is job) but he took himself off the ice 30 minutes after practice started. Richards said that was the right move. Harding knows his body better than anyone. So he's the best judge on how that hip is feeling.
About the only other news is that Robbie Earl seems fine after taking a puck to his right leg during practice (he limped pretty hard but didn't even miss a drill) and Backstrom said he'd tell the coaching staff he is ready if he's asked to start tomorrow against the Coyotes.
Richards said no decision on that will be made until tomorrow.
I have a ton of Finland-related interviews to transcribe and my lunch is officially cold. So I'm off.
Russo lands in his new home - Vancouver - in about an hour. He will be settled into his Olympic-ness in time to do Russo Radio tonight at 6 p.m. Minnesota time on AM-1500. So tune in for that.
I'll be back with you tomorrow after the morning skates. Remember to follow me on Twitter (@stensation) for any Wild news this week.