With minimal roster turnover, the same cast of characters is poised to star on the Wild’s power play this season, but the units could still take on a different look with a new voice running the operation.
Assistant coach Dean Evason, hired in the offseason to replace John Anderson, is overseeing that side of special teams and has already previewed a unique setup for the Wild: winger Mikael Granlund stationed on the point.
“Any place Granlund’s at is a good place because you don’t have to be an expert to know his vision is great,” Evason said before Thursday’s game, won by Dallas 3-1. “He’s going to find people. If he’s on the point, if he’s on the half wall, if he’s down low, he’s going to find people because he just has that ability to make plays. He has the vision to see plays before they’re there.”
Granlund has typically hovered near the net, finishing off passes and rebounds en route to 14 power-play goals over the previous two seasons, but placing the playmaker in a quarterback-style role would undoubtedly give the Wild a fresh dynamic.
Regardless if this idea sticks, Evason does forecast a few tweaks for a unit that ranked in the middle of the pack last season at 20.4 percent. And the overriding theme will be to simplify the attack.
“We want to try to get as many pucks at the net as we can,” Evason said, “and have as many bodies around as we can.”
Back to business
The Wild signed goaltender Andrew Hammond during the summer to challenge Alex Stalock for the backup job, but it sounds like the incumbent is the front-runner for the gig.
“Alex is here. He played great for us last year,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He’d have to be pretty bad and someone would have to be pretty good to replace him, I think. But those things are still to be seen. Alex is going to play more than one game, and there’s a good chance the Hamburglar will play more than one game. So we’ll see how it works out.”
Stalock made his first appearance of the preseason Wednesday in a 3-2 loss to the Blues in Des Moines, making 23 saves, a performance that Boudreau felt was reminiscent of the type of impact he had in 2017-18 when he went 10-10-4 with a .910 save percentage and 2.85 goals-against average.
“He was really competitive,” Boudreau said. “He was what he is. I think he was excited. There wasn’t much he could do on the goals, I think. Maybe the second one he lost his net for a little bit, but he made some great saves to keep us in the parts of the game that weren’t going well. So I thought he was good.”
Rookie Jordan Greenway (soreness) was scratched from Thursday’s lineup and replaced by center Justin Kloos.