Before the Wild played at Winnipeg on Monday, Bruce Boudreau said he wanted to see players “stand out.” They seemed to hear him loud and clear, leaving the coach with plenty of compliments to hand out Tuesday following a 3-2 shootout victory in the preseason opener.
At the top of the list were goalies Niklas Svedberg, who stopped 22 of 24 shots over two periods, and Steve Michalek, who was perfect on 19 shots in the third period and overtime as well as all three in the shootout. Boudreau also liked the fourth line of Justin Kloos, Kyle Rau and Zack Mitchell, who gave the Wild a 2-1 lead with a second-period goal, and praised the penalty killing of veteran winger Daniel Winnik.
Others singled out by the coach included forward Ryan Malone, who scored the shootout winner in his first NHL game in two years, and defensemen Mike Reilly, Gustav Olofsson, Carson Soucy and Kyle Quincey. After the game, Boudreau said “the character was really good,” fulfilling one of his main objectives.
“The goalies were tremendous,’’ Boudreau said. “And when that fourth line went out in the third period, they just poured on the energy.”
Boudreau lamented the lack of 5-on-5 time in a game that included 19 penalties. Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher said the NHL is cracking down on slashing on the hands, in the same way it has highlighted hooking and obstruction infractions in past seasons. The league also is strictly enforcing faceoff rules.
All that time on the power play and penalty kill made it hard for Fletcher to evaluate young players during 5-on-5 play, but he expects things will settle down.
“We’ll see a lot of penalties through the preseason and the early part of the year, I’m sure,’’ Fletcher said. “Then the players will adjust, and the officials will adjust, and we’ll probably get back to a more normal type of experience.”
• Mikko Koivu returned to the ice Tuesday for a long and lively practice. The captain did not practice Monday because of lace bite, which causes pain in the lower leg and foot.
• Forward Zach Parise (sore back) missed practice for the fifth consecutive day. Since camp began Friday, he has been limited to skating before or after the rest of the team.
• Fletcher said the roster, currently at 54 players, will be trimmed Friday. More cuts could come after this weekend. The preseason schedule continues with home games against Winnipeg on Thursday and Colorado on Saturday, plus a game at Colorado on Sunday.