DULUTH – After starting his season at the prospects camp three weeks ago, Mike Reilly hasn’t had a chance to slow down, unwind and relax with a bunch of players he hopes will be his teammates for many years in Minnesota.
The 22-year-old defenseman finally is getting a chance to do that during the Wild’s almost-annual training camp “guys’ trip” to the shores of Duluth.
He enjoyed a pig roast, hung out at a bonfire and got to twice navigate the fast greens of Northland Country Club, which has breathtaking views of Lake Superior.
Monday, he was in a foursome with Zach Parise, Jason Zucker and video coordinator Jonas Plumb. Tuesday, his team consisted of Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin and assistant equipment manager Rick Bronwell.
“We were great Monday, and [Tuesday], I think we have a good mix of driving, putting and short game, so I think we’ll be OK,” Reilly said before teeing off. “It’s just nice to get away, get some down time, take my mind off the game and get to know these guys for the first time.”
Reilly knows he still might not make the opening-night roster. In fact, he might not play in Thursday’s exhibition finale against Buffalo because coach Mike Yeo is expected to go with his projected top six blue line of Suter-Jared Spurgeon, Brodin-Matt Dumba and Marco Scandella-Christian Folin. The only way Reilly likely gets in is if Scandella doesn’t feel up to playing. He is set to rejoin the Wild on Wednesday after being away for personal reasons, and he hasn’t been on the ice since playing in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, on Saturday.
But Reilly played his best preseason game Sunday against Winnipeg and showed Yeo and the organization many of the tools in his arsenal.
“He’s trying to learn our system, he’s trying to learn the way we want to play and show us that he can be responsible defensively and all these things, but my conversation with him the other day was just make sure you don’t make the mistake of being too safe,” Yeo said. “You have to prove you can go out there and not hurt the team, but at the same time you have to find a way to play to your strengths and create.
“You don’t make the team by being safe.”
Reilly took his coach’s advice, was a two-way threat and especially demonstrated his speed by beating out an icing before Dumba’s first of two goals.
“I still have a lot of things to work on, but I’m happy with we’re I’m at,” Reilly said. “The older guys and the vets have been great to me and try to help me out a lot.”
It has been hard for Reilly to balance being responsible and showing the coaches he is learning the system with strutting his stuff. But he’s working hard with assistant coach Rick Wilson and is feeling more comfortable.
He’s also showing he’s a respectful rookie, such as when he actually showed for a 9 a.m. optional pregame skate Sunday.
“Me being a first-year pro, I didn’t know if a lot of guys would be here,” Reilly, smiling, said. “I was one of the few guys who showed up.”
Part of Tuesday’s practice was 3-on-3 to get ready for the new NHL overtime format. The Wild has played three this preseason and scored in each: Parise, Dumba and Erik Haula.
Some of the sets Tuesday: Parise-Mikael Granlund-Suter; Zucker-Koivu-Dumba; Nino Niederreiter-Charlie Coyle-Brodin; Thomas Vanek-Jason Pominville-Spurgeon. Obviously, Scandella and others will be in the mix, too.
“I don’t think we’re quick enough yet,” Yeo said. “The transition from offense to defense and defense to offense is very important.”
Fontaine to miss opener
Former Minnesota Duluth national champion Justin Fontaine is disappointed to miss the Wild’s opener for the second year in a row. Last year, it was a gluteus injury. This year, it’s an oblique.
“Muscles you need to play hockey, so it’s been tough,” Fontaine said. “It’s definitely not the way you want to start the season. Coming into camp, you feel ready, you feel healthy, but I’m trying to stay positive.”
• Banged-up Jordan Schroeder (upper-body injury) practiced Tuesday, but he was having difficulty shooting the puck.
• Wild assistant General Manager Brent Flahr will add Iowa GM to his title on Wednesday. Flahr picks up the AHL team management duties of Jim Mill, who was informed last spring his contract wasn’t being renewed.
• The Wild will hold a practice at Amsoil Arena at 10 a.m. Wednesday that is free and open to the public.