Friday marked two weeks on the ice as the Wild prepared for Saturday's preseason finale against the Winnipeg Jets.
After an exhausting practice, coach Bruce Boudreau said the lineup was still "in flux," voiced concern about goalie Devan Dubnyk's play in practice and said he's trying to persuade a team that doesn't have physicality in its DNA that it cannot win without being more physical.
The Wild coach said Friday's practice was just "the start."
"We're going to have an awful lot of practices like that," Boudreau said. "We went over a lot of video [Friday] morning, more than I like to do, but it shows that you can't play the game without making contact with people. You just can't do it."
During an interview Thursday, Boudreau said there's a lot to like about his new team and he believes they'll be "very good." The former Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks coach says he has never coached a team that skates as well and loves the work ethic in practice.
"But," he said, "what is taking time to get used to a little bit is we're nowhere near as physical as the teams I've coached. So I'm trying to find sort of a halfway medium that they become more physical but don't get out of what they're good at. Like, I can't make them into a bunch of Alex Ovechkins hitting everything that moves.
"But at the same time, if we can get into their face a little bit more, it'll go a long way."
Boudreau likes the look of the Zach Parise-Eric Staal-Charlie Coyle line and so far wants to keep Mikael Granlund-Mikko Koivu and Nino Niederreiter-Erik Haula as tandems. But he's trying to find proper fits for right wings Jason Pominville and Chris Stewart and left wing Jason Zucker.
In Friday's practice, Pominville moved to the Koivu line, Stewart to the Haula line and Zucker to the fourth line with rookie Joel Eriksson Ek and rotating wingers Zac Dalpe and Christoph Bertschy. Veteran Ryan Carter once again didn't practice because of what's believed to be a shoulder injury and seems destined to be released from his tryout.
"We'll see how this works," Boudreau said of Friday's lines. "Just an idea that I had for reasons that I won't go into."
But Boudreau later admitted that he's trying to find the right fit for the "new guy" — aka Stewart — and that Zucker has to "beat out one of the top nine" and has that "capability."
Earlier this week, Boudreau echoed what former coach Mike Yeo used to say about Zucker, that "I think we can get him to be a little more complete" so he's a valuable player even if he's not scoring.
As for Dubnyk, the veteran has looked shaky in practice all camp and at times seems to show that frustration on the ice.
Boudreau revealed Friday that Dubnyk has been battling an injury or "soreness" for a couple of weeks, something Boudreau said he only found out about Friday, "so obviously it can't be bad."
He said that injury has "derailed him from stopping as many pucks as I would like to see him stop. I told him today, 'You're our No. 1 goalie, but you have to play every practice like a game. … Let's not revert to bad habits.'"
After Tyler Graovac and Kurtis Gabriel showed they weren't ready, Boudreau voiced concern about the lack of depth. He wants a fourth line that doesn't get scored on and that he feels comfortable playing against anybody.
Asked during Thursday's sit-down if GM Chuck Fletcher needs to look outside the organization, Boudreau said: "I don't know what Chuck has in mind, to be quite honest. The reason I've voiced concern is I've always been a four-line team and try to roll four lines as much as possible.
"Over the course of a year it keeps you consistent. If you end up being a three-line team, my worry is you overuse some of your players and come January or February they're a little tired or beat up and you go into a swoon."