UPDATED: Here is the roster for Thursday's game at Pittsburgh.
Goalies: Darcy Kuemper (2 periods), Ilya Bryzgalov (1 period)
Defensemen: Keith Ballard, Stu Bickel, Christian Folin, Marco Scandella, Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon and Matt Dumba (one will be scratched)
Forwards: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Cody Almond, Justin Fontaine, Jason Zucker, Matt Cooke, Thomas Vanek, Brett Sutter, Joel Rechlicz, Jason Pominville, Michael Keranen, Erik Haula, Mikael Granlund (one will be scratched).
There have already been some significant injuries to significant players in the NHL. Pavel Datsyuk sustained a shoulder injury and Derek Stepan and Jordan Staal sustained broken bones in their legs.
However, this doesn't mean the Wild -- or any team -- will hold their players out in the exhibition season. Most players need to get up to speed and condition and they want to play.
Parise, in fact, today me yesterday, "Some guys are different. I just think that’s the best way to get up to game speed, get your timing down, get your reactions back. For us, I think we can work on some things as a line and as a power play. That’s the time to do it."
Said coach Mike Yeo, after knocking wood when asked about the injuries around the league, "You don't think about it. If you're playing not to get hurt, that's when you get hurt. You have to go into the game the right way, you have to have your battle level up, you have to make sure your mind's in it. You can get hurt in practice. You can get hurt off the ice in a gym. You just have to make sure that you're ready to go out and compete hard."
In other news, the Wild has signed Ryan Walters to an AHL contract.
The Wild had a long practice at Xcel Energy Center this morning. The second half of practice was a power play vs. penalty kill scrimmage.
The Wild was largely a quality 5-on-5 team last season, but when it came to power play and penalty kill, it wasn't up to snuff. Coach Mike Yeo wants improvement in both areas this season.
The Wild's power play ranked 16th last season at 17.9 percent and 27th on the penalty kill at 78.8 percent.
"I liked the way we did it [with the special teams scrimmage] and tried to create a little competition between the two groups and not necessarily 100 percent that those are the groups that you’ll be seeing going forward, but a good way of splitting them up and giving them a chance to go head to head," Yeo said. "What I like about it is it just brings out the intensity level, and that’s what you want. If you’re going to work power play, you want to go against a penalty kill that’s really trying to shut you down and vice versa with the penalty kill as well, so I thought it went well."
On it being critical to improve the special teams this season, Yeo said, "It’s huge. It’s absolutely huge. We have to have a goal every game coming in of being plus-1 on the power play or better obviously. Because if you do that – again, I think we’re a very strong 5-on-5 team, so now if we can we can do that, we’re giving ourselves a great chance to win a hockey game."
No. 1 unit will be Parise-Granlund-Vanek-Pominville-Suter. No. 2 unit may have a number of players, but: Nino-Koivu-Coyle-Brodin/Scandella-Spurgeon.
Obviously, there are other forwards like Erik Haula, Jason Zucker and Justin Fontaine that can slide in at times. Also, it'll be interesting to see how Matt Dumba plays the rest of camp. He'll get a good look Thursday in Pittsburgh, but if there's a chance there's no room for him right now on the power play, I'm of the opinion it would be smarter for a 20-year-old defenseman to play 25 minutes a night and get No. 1 power play time in the minors.
This is the first year Dumba is allowed to be sent to the AHL, so if there's no reason to force-feed him on the big club, I believe Iowa will be the proper way to develop him. This is provided the Wild is comfortable with a guy like Christian Folin or Stu Bickel playing fulltime in the NHL.
Yeo said he wants improvement from the second unit this year and more scoring.
"Right now, the way we had it at the very least today, we would be more of a 1A and 1B team," Yeo said.
On whether he goes with a forward at the point or two defensemen (I don't see how the No. 1 unit won't have Vanek and Pominville on it, which means the No. 1 unit at least likely would have four forwards), Yeo said, "We have guys that are capable of playing back there. We have some defensemen at this point in camp where we definitely want to try them out and see what they can do. It’s kind of based on what we’re looking for at a certain positon. Obviously the one guy is going to be more of a quarterback and he’s going to need to distribute and walk the line a little bit more (i.e. Suter). That other player, whoever it is, whether it’s a forward or defenseman, we need somebody who’s ready to shoot the puck, we need somebody who’s a threat on that weak side and that’s one thing that’s sort of been lacking. That’s what we’re looking for."
Scandella looked awesome today in the power-play scrimmage and Yeo said, "That’s why we kind of elevated him up. He’s got a heavy shot, he’s been having a great camp, so he definitely deserves an opportunity to show what he can do there."
Brodziak (back) and Fontaine (groin) practiced today. Fontaine is on the trip to Pittsburgh. Brodziak stayed behind. He said he's feeling a lot better, but Yeo said, "I don't think it's right to throw him into a game after just one practice, so yeah, give it a couple more days."
I'll talk to you after Thursday's morning skate in Pittsburgh. Lots of cuts on the horizon as Iowa starts its camp Friday.