The Wild, which got off to a strong start last night in Winnipeg, ended up losing 4-1 and fell to 1-2 this preseason.
Only two roster locks played -- Matt Dumba, who scored a goal, and Erik Haula. Bruce Boudreau liked the compete, the first 30 minutes and the fact that the players started to do a lot of the things they've worked on in practice rather than "skating aimlessly" like the Colorado preseason game Tuesday.
Still, Boudreau has been pretty underwhelmed with the roster hopefuls vying for spots on the fourth line and told players before the game that there are spots completely wide open.
Alex Tuch played his best game, but still, nobody has grabbed hold of a job.
Kurtis Gabriel had a good first game, but he hasn't been as good the last two. Joel Eriksson Ek has shown flashes. Zac Dalpe really hasn't stood out. Tyler Graovac was OK in Game 2, but he really struggled in Winnipeg. And Boudreau doesn't seem all that impressed with Ryan Carter's camp so far.
"He works hard," Boudreau said in an underwhelmed tone. "I’m not going to build him up when I don’t think he deserves to be built up. I’m not going to put him down because you know what you get from him. He’s a 10-year vet."
Asked if he'd rather have the veteran you know what you're getting with or the youngster where it's uncertain, Boudreau said, "I just want the best player. We know what he can do. As the preseason goes on, we want to see more of it and more of it."
Graovac, who requires waivers to get to Iowa, really needs to pick up his game. It looks like he's putting so much pressure on himself to play.
"[Assistant coach John Anderson] had a really good talk with Tuch and showed him all his own video from the previous games and I think Tuch came out and had his best game," Boudreau said. "[Anderson's] doing the same thing with Grao today."
Defenseman Mike Reilly, who also hasn't had the greatest of camps yet, Tuch, Carter, Gabriel and Graovac are the only roster hopefuls who have played all three games.
Boudreau said he really wants to see these roster hopefuls have success in the preseason to build their confidence. There are three games left before the Oct. 13 opener.
"Let’s see who else takes a jump in the right direction," Boudreau said.
Boudreau is also looking for better goaltending.
Both Devan Dubnyk and Darcy Kuemper looked rusty in their exhibition debuts, Dubnyk with his rebound controls, Kuemper with his ability to challenge shooters and sliding side to side.
Dubnyk gave up three goals on 29 shots against Colorado, Kuemper four goals on 28 shots against Winnipeg.
“It could be rustiness. I hope it is rustiness. I hope that’s all it is,” Boudreau said. “They’re going to get chances to go back in and we’ll see how it works.”
Alex Stalock, slated to start in Iowa, stopped 39 shots in a win against Buffalo earlier this week.
The Wild trimmed its roster by four more this morning. It now stands at 38, but that includes injured players Gustav Olofsson, Zach Mitchell, Sam Anas, Max Fortunus, Dylan Labbe and Chase Lang.
The Wild has to be down to 23 by Oct. 11.
Mario Lucia was assigned to AHL Iowa, Zach Palmquist and Marc Hagel will be assigned to Iowa on Saturday provided they clear waivers at 11 a.m. Saturday and Colton Beck was released from his tryout and is heading to Iowa, which opens training camp Friday.
Speaking of which, I wrote a feature on new coach Derek Lalonde and his desire to turn the Iowa Wild around. That feature can be read here.
Defenseman Marco Scandella ended up not playing last night. He was down at the rink Thursday morning getting treatment, so he's clearly battling a tweak of some kind. During the skate test last week, Scandella finished, but he looked to pull something on the final lap. So maybe it's related.
Regardless, he practiced Friday, so that's a good sign.
The Wild hosts the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday at 5 p.m. Boudreau has indicated the lineup will much closer resemble the opening night lineup, so we'll probably see the preseason debuts of Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund.
Nino Niederreiter returned from Toronto today after Team Europe lost to Canada in the World Cup Final last night. He'll be given a few days off before he has to report. Boudreau didn't yet know when Niederreiter would practice for the first time.