Wild coach Mike Yeo didn't try to sugarcoat things Wednesday. "Training camp is long,'' he said, after his team wrapped up camp with a workout at Ridder Arena. "You put a lot of work in. You get sick of practice. You just want to get going.''

The Wild got going to Colorado on Wednesday afternoon, flying to Denver for Thursday's season opener against the Avalanche. It will start the season on the road for only the fifth time in franchise history. A victory would be its first in a season opener on the road; it is 0-3-1 when starting away from Xcel Energy Center. But it is 3-0-0 against the Avs in season openers and 3-0-1 in its opening games over the past four seasons.

Much of the talk Wednesday centered on the importance of a strong start. The Wild got one last year--going 7-3 in its first 10 games, with each of the losses by a single goal--before a streaky November started digging the hole they would have to climb out of to make the playoffs. Whatever happens this year, Yeo said, his team must take the long view.

"A quick start is always nice,'' he said. "But at the same time, you have to make sure you keep your head in it. We have nothing else in mind than to get out there and try to win as many games as possible. But if you lose one or two, you also can't let that unravel you. It's an 82-game schedule. You want to get off to a quick start, but you have to make sure you just focus on the small picture day to day and what you have to do to either be better than the last game or get focused for the next one.''

As expected, Jordan Schroeder was assigned to Iowa after clearing waivers Wednesday. All 23 players on the roster--including Justin Fontaine, who is on injured reserve with an oblique injury--skated in a high-energy practice.

Other notes:

--Interesting answer from defenseman Ryan Suter when asked if he feels more urgency this season, given that he will turn 31 in January. "This summer, I really felt it a lot,'' he said. "Time's running out. I have 10 years on my contract, but the group we have right now is a group that is capable of winning, and we need to take that next step in the near future.''

--After Thursday's game at Colorado, the Wild comes home to play St. Louis on Saturday and then has a five-day break before the next game at Arizona. It already has had a significant layoff; its last preseason game was seven days ago.

"That's something that's challenging,'' Yeo said. "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. Certainly there are no excuses on our part.''

Suter had a slightly different take. "It's just like college,'' he said.

--Yeo said the Wild's familiarity with each other, and with the team's systems, allowed him to be more detailed in training camp. Because he didn't have to spend much time teaching the basics, the players could work on timing, conditioning and other facets of the game. 

--Fox Sports North will have a one-hour pregame show Thursday beginning at 7 p.m. NBC Sports Network will televise the game, and FSN will also do a postgame show.

--Assistant coach Darryl Sydor has completed his substance-abuse treatment and is back in the Twin CIties, though he still is on leave from the team.

RACHEL BLOUNT

 
 

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