One week from today, the Wild will open the home portion of its regular season against the Winnipeg Jets, who just so happens to be tonight's opponent in the final preseason game for both teams.
Tonight isn't only a final dress rehearsal for the Wild, it'll give coach Bruce Boudreau an early indication as to how the Wild matches up against a Jets team that had Minnesota's number last season. The Jets won four of five last year, outscored the Wild 17-11, and in my opinion, the size discrepancy was the big reason.
The Jets are also, in my opinion, loaded up front and should threaten more this season with No. 2 overall pick Patrick Laine in the lineup and if Kyle Connor makes the team.
If one figures Dallas, Chicago, St. Louis and Nashville aren't going anywhere in the Central, the last playoff spot in the Central (assuming five teams make it again as opposed to four in the Pacific) could be between Winnipeg and Minnesota.
And frankly, Colorado, which was battling the Wild for a playoff spot until about two weeks left in last season, should be better, too.
So, as Boudreau told me the other day, "It'll be tough, but I still think we have the chance to be very good."
Tonight's Wild lineup, I believe:
The extras tonight are Matt Dumba, Nate Prosser and Zac Dalpe.
Here are snippets of Boudreau today:
On if this is a big game for Reilly and Folin with cutdown day potentially Sunday: "I wouldn't say it's a big game for them, but I certainly would like to see what they can do against a big team like Winnipeg. In Folin's part, he's only played two games, and Dumba's played three. So that's one of the reasons just to equal stuff out, so don't read anything into [Dumba not playing]."
On Bertschy: "Just keep getting better and understanding the NHL game more. He's got enough speed to play, but with two [rookies, including Eriksson Ek] going, it's just to see how they go together, give them some responsibilities and see how they do on some penalty killing stuff, and then we'll be able to make some decisions after the game."
Big test physically tonight: "Our next three games, Winnipeg, St. Louis, Winnipeg. ... To see how we play against a physical team, but we're not going to match teams hit for hit, but we want to be able to get into their face a little bit more and ... take some time and space away from their good players."
On Winnipeg: "They've add some pretty good scoring parts to their game. At the end of the year, Ehlers, Scheifele and Wheeler were as good a line, as dominant of a line as you were going to find. You add Patrick Laine and Connor, you've got two more offensive guys to maybe play with Little. And then you've got [former Duck Mathieu] Perreault -- I know him very well, and pretty good offensive guy, so they're offense is going to come at you. And then they always have the Byfugliens and Enstroms and guys that can move the puck. So they're a real challenge. ... They're a big, physical team that come at you."
According to the Winnipeg Sun's Ted Wyman, Michael Hutchinson starts in goal.
The lines will be, according to Ted, Ehlers-Scheifele-Wheeler, Connor-Little-Burmistrov, Laine-Perreault-Armia, Dano-Lowry-Thorburn.
The D will be: Enstrom-Byfuglien, Morrissey-Myers, Chiarot-Postma.
Drew Stafford and Shawn Matthias are banged up and not playing.