After the long, slow grind of training camp, the Wild couldn’t wait to fly to Denver for Thursday’s season opener against Colorado. But thanks to a scheduling quirk, the team faces another break from competition once its opening weekend is over.
The Wild will start its regular-season schedule with two games in three nights, returning to Xcel Energy Center to face St. Louis on Saturday. Then it does not play again for five days, until Oct. 15 at Arizona. A similar scenario happened last season, when the Wild opened at home against the Avalanche, played them again in Denver two days later and then had a six-day break.
Coach Mike Yeo pointed out that the Wild already has gone a full week without a game, having ended its preseason schedule Oct. 1. It held its final practice of training camp Wednesday at Ridder Arena before traveling to Colorado.
“It’s challenging,” Yeo said. “We all get sick of practice. We just want to play games. And especially after coming off a long training camp, you finally get a couple games, and then we’re going to have to wait around a little bit.
“But many of the teams have to deal with the same type of schedule. There are certainly no excuses on our part.”
Last season, the Wild won its first two games, then traveled early to Southern California to spend most of its break there. It dropped a pair of one-goal decisions to Anaheim and Los Angeles but quickly righted itself, notching five victories in its next six games. Yeo said the Wild will follow a more typical routine this time and will not go to Arizona until the day before the game.
Defenseman Ryan Suter viewed the pause in a more positive light. The schedule reminded him of his college days, when teams play only on weekends, and he said it will be helpful to have an early break.
“We’re going to go lay it all on the line for two games, then we know we have five days off,” he said. “We’re going to use it to our advantage.”
Upon getting the news that he had made the Wild’s opening-night roster, Tyler Graovac couldn’t wait to share the news with his family. His parents, Tom and Kelly Graovac, had a surprise for him, too.
While he was at the hotel where he has been living during training camp, a staff member from The Liffey bar and restaurant brought a bottle of champagne to Graovac’s room. His parents, who live in Toronto, arranged the delivery — and they also offered the congratulatory toast via a video chat.
“It was pretty amazing,” Graovac said. “We had one glass and kind of celebrated the moment as a family. It’s a very proud moment for me and the family.”
Graovac will start the season centering Thomas Vanek and Charlie Coyle on the third line. He played three games with the Wild last December and early January, but he expects his first NHL season opener to be as thrilling as his debut.
“It’s going to be an incredible feeling,” he said. “I’m really prepared for this moment, and I can’t wait to get started.”
• The Wild assigned forward Jordan Schroeder to its AHL affiliate in Iowa after he cleared waivers Wednesday.
• Fox Sports North will air one-hour pregame and postgame shows Thursday. The 8 p.m. game will be televised on NBC Sports Network.
• Assistant coach Darryl Sydor has completed substance-abuse treatment and has returned to the Twin Cities, though he remains on leave from the Wild.