Greetings from Xcel Energy Center, where Wild players are wandering around the halls to get their pictures taken, undergo fitness testing and prepare for Friday's first on-ice workouts of training camp. It's a day full of optimism and smiles, one coach Bruce Boudreau has been anticipating for a couple of weeks. Monday, he said he considers players "my boys,'' and the first few days are sort of a family reunion.
A few highlights from Boudreau's morning media session:
When asked if everyone is healthy entering camp, he said he hadn't received a trainer's report yet. The Athletic reported that Zach Parise has "tweaked'' his back. Parise, when asked Thursday morning about his health, said he felt good.
Boudreau said he can't worry about who's hurt; he has to work with the cards he's been dealt, though he noted he would be "way overcautious'' regarding players' health in camp and will not hesitate to sit players out if they need time off.
"We'll see who's here tomorrow,'' Boudreau said. "We just coach the guys who are here. ... I don't know if there's any concern (about Parise's health). Like every player here, we just want everyone to be ready in Game 1 of the regular season. As long as they're ready for Game 1, that's all that matters. If some take a day or two off of preseason skates, then so be it.''
The coach was delighted with what he saw from the youngsters in the prospects tournament in Traverse City, Mich. The Wild prospects finished fourth, including a 2-1 record in round-robin play--compared to an 0-3 mark last year. Forward Luke Kunin, whom Boudreau loves, had two goals. Former Gopher Justin Kloos of Lakeville had a goal and two assists.
In addition to Kunin and forward Joel Eriksson Ek, Boudreau praised forward Ivan Lodnia, the team's first pick in the 2017 NHL draft (third round, 85th overall); Kloos, a free-agent signee; and defenseman Carson Soucy, a 2013 draft pick who had three goals, 12 assists and 55 penalty minutes last season for Minnesota Duluth.
"The team that went to Traverse City played so much better than the team that went there last year,'' Boudreau said. "I know a few (players) were the same, but there was a little bit more maturity. If that's going to be a sign of our depth ... When I look at putting two teams on the table for (Friday's training camp sessions), the fourth lines and third lines are way stronger than the fourth lines and third lines were last year.''
Forward Marcus Foligno, obtained from Buffalo in last summer's trade that sent Marco Scandella and Jason Pominville to the Sabres, still has not signed a contract. Boudreau said he isn't concerned about the situation. "Whoever is there (Friday), I'll coach,'' he said. "I think (Foligno's contract) will work itself out. I'm not worried about it. We have the depth; we can overcome anything.''
The Wild invited forward Daniel Winnik to camp on a professional tryout. Winnik, 32, played 10 NHL seasons with seven teams and had 12 goals and 13 assists last season for the Caps.
"Danny Winnik is a heck of a player," Boudreau said. "I firmly believe the best free agent tryout guy out there is Danny Winnik. He's going to push guys to play better."
Here's a glimpse of what the players are doing today. They're recording radio bumpers and advertisements in the studio inside the Quattro Club, and they're taking glamour shots down the hall. Parise is modeling the new sweater, which is getting good reviews.