Good afternoon on what is a spectacular fall day in the Twin Cities. Feels like springtime.
Proving that he will indeed go a different route than his first training camp, coach Todd Richards released Wednesday's preseason lineup for Minnesota's exhibition opener against St. Louis, and it doesn't look a whole lot different than we can expect in the regular season.
Last year, because of injuries and because Richards and fellow new GM Chuck Fletcher wanted to see what the Wild had in terms of players for the first time, Richards auditioned a bunch of players in exhibition games that in all reality had no chance whatsoever at making the final roster.
This camp will be different. If you're playing, you're likely on the team or a roster hopeful. Sure, with three games in three nights this weekend, Richards may have no other choice but to sprinkle in some kids, but right now Richards wants to see his team and allow his players -- and actual potential lines -- the chance to gain cohesion.
So the only guys that are shoo-ins to make the team that aren't playing vs. the Blues are Eric Nystrom, Kyle Brodziak, Marek Zidlicky and Greg Zanon.
Andrew Brunette-Mikko Koivu-Antti Miettinen
Guillaume Latendresse-Matt Cullen-Martin Havlat
Chuck Kobasew-John Madden-Cal Clutterbuck
Robbie Earl-Cody Almond-Brad Staubitz
Nick Schultz-Brent Burns
Clayton Stoner-Cam Barker
Marco Scandella-Justin Falk
Niklas Backstrom for 2 periods
Anton Khudobin for 1 period
I just got off the horn with St. Louis Dispatch's Jeremy Rutherford, who tells me that some guys heading here from the Blues for Wednesday's game include beloved Minnesotan David Backes, Brad Boyes, David Perron, Eric Brewer, Alex Steen, Ty Conklin, Ben Bishop, whom I'm pretty sure I watched once beat the Gophers at the X when he played at Maine, and Philip McRae, the son of former North Star Basil McRae.
So, a lot of good players will be on the ice Wednesday at the X, which will be a treat for the fans because sometimes that's the biggest problem with preseason games. You pay major-league prices to watch minor-league players.
Not Wednesday, at least.
As for today, the Wild didn't scrimmage. Richards conducted two long split practices where he worked on systematic stuff, breakouts, entries, battles in the zone, etc., etc. Real good practices.
Robbie Earl continues to look real good, and as I wrote in tomorrow's paper inside a feature I wrote on Casey Wellman, unless Wellman proves he can play a top-6 role (which is unlikely if the Wild's healthy), the Wild's making it sound as if they'd like him to start off developing in the minors. And if the Wild doesn't want any of their top prospects to ride the pine or play a few minutes a night, the door has swung open for Robbie Earl to make this team.
He definitely proved last year he can play at this level, and what more does he have to prove in the minors? So I'd suspect he's got a real good chance to sticking, especially if two forward spots are open (if Bouchard isn't ready by opening night) and not one.
Currently, the Wild has players out delivering season tickets to some lucky season-ticket holders. I believe Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Greg Zanon and Cam Barker were doing that today.
I also saw that it was tweeted that Marty Havlat donated his suite for a game to kids from the Minnesota Children's Tumor Foundation today.
Also, there's a real nice event going on this weekend at Lake Harriet. On Saturday starting at 9 a.m., there will be a 3-mile Walk to Defeat ALS. Here is the web site to check out to see if you want to take part.