ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Wild will have five players make their team debuts in the season opener Friday against the Ducks at Honda Center, but the significance of the evening isn't the same for everyone.
This will be winger Brandon Duhaime's first NHL game.
"Trying not to think about it too much," Duhaime said. "Just another hockey game. But obviously this is my first one and definitely a little anxious to get out there and get that puck drop going. I'm definitely excited."
Fellow forward Frederick Gaudreau and defensemen Alex Goligoski, Dmitry Kulikov and Jon Merrill are the other newcomers to the lineup, a group that highlights just how much roster turnover the Wild had in the offseason.
Gone are former faces of the franchise Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, but other regulars from last season like Nick Bonino, Marcus Johansson, Ian Cole and Carson Soucy have also moved on to different teams.
Most of these changes are on the blue line where Merrill will get first crack at being the sixth defenseman next to Kulikov on the Wild's third pairing. Jordie Benn is out for now, while Rem Pitlick is the extra forward.
"We're excited about having the depth of our defense," coach Dean Evason said. "All seven guys have conducted themselves extremely well, not only through preseason games but practice and off the ice [they've] fit in wonderfully with our group.
"It's too bad everybody can't play, but we had to make a decision."
Although the Wild is among the last NHL teams to begin its season, the team has a busy schedule this weekend. The road trip wraps up Saturday at Los Angeles.
"We're raring to get going," captain Jared Spurgeon said, "and it's a good thing to come on the road I think, too, for the first two games. There's no distractions, just get away and focus on the game."
Kirill Kaprizov-Joel Eriksson Ek-Mats Zuccarello
Jordan Greenway-Ryan Hartman-Marcus Foligno
Victor Rask-Frederick Gaudreau-Kevin Fiala
Brandon Duhaime-Nico Sturm-Nick Bjugstad
Alex Goligoski-Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba
Jon Merrill-Dmitry Kulikov
2-7-1: Record for the Wild in season openers on the road.
7: Consecutive wins by the Wild vs. the Ducks.
3: Wins for the Wild during four trips to Honda Center last season.
8: Points for Kirill Kaprizov in eight games last season against Anaheim.
198: Career points for Kevin Fiala.
About the Ducks:
Anaheim opened the season on Wednesday with a 4-1 win against Winnipeg. Forward Mason McTavish scored his first NHL goal, becoming the youngest scorer in team history at 18 years, 256 days. The Ducks are also relying on youngsters like Jamie Drysdale and Trevor Zegras, and their opening-night roster tied for the most players age 22 or younger in the NHL. McTavish also had an assist vs. the Jets, while Kevin Shattenkirk, Adam Henrique and Rickard Rakell were the other Anaheim goal scorers. The Ducks' No.1 goalie John Gibson is out with injury, so Anthony Stolarz will start in net.