The race in the NHL’s Central Division is definitely a sprint from the start.
The Wild won its first two games and is already playing a bit of catch-up. None of the division’s seven teams has a losing record, Nashville and Winnipeg already have three victories, and the Central is 15-5 as a group.
Hey, it’s Chris Miller here at Wild practice. In a shocking happenstance, Russo flew to Arizona early and is already sprinkling a specially made SPF 27.5 into his second cappuccino of the day. So I picked up daily practice duties … and determined the story line – this just in – is that the Central is gonna be brutal.
“I went in with that expectation, so you don’t have too many disappointments,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “We are always watching the scores and seeing what goes on around the league, but it leads to too much frustration if you just get hung up on that stuff. We know we play in a great division, we know what the competition is, and we know that we’re going to have to win a lot of hockey games, so the main thing is just to concentrate on ourselves.”
The Wild skated at the X this morning (nothing eventful to report, lines the same) and flies to Phoenix this afternoon. The team had four off-days before Thursday night’s game in Arizona (9 p.m., FSN). It plays at Los Angeles on Friday night and in Anaheim on Sunday.
“We’d rather be playing early in the season, so we’re just trying to replicate as much battle and as much pace as we can so that we don’t have to try to gear up for our next game,” Yeo said. “Early in the year, it’s not like fatigue is a problem, so you’d rather play a few more games and get into rhythm.”
The Wild will have a 22-man roster (one fewer than the limit) with center Tyler Graovac (groin) sidelined for at least two weeks. Justin Fontaine (oblique) hops into the lineup in Arizona at wing with Charlie Coyle moving to center on the third line. No plans yet to call up a spare forward from AHL Iowa.
“I don’t think it’ll be too tough to get someone in if we need someone, and we do have a seventh defenseman [Nate Prosser],” Yeo said. “If the situation arises, we’d be able to get someone in.”
The Wild is likely to have its first overtime game soon, and it’ll be interesting to see Yeo’s lineup in the 3-on-3 format. He’s watched NHL games that have gone to OT in the regular season after teams experimented in the preseason.
“It may get scaled back in terms of the back-and-forth play,” he said. “I don’t want to use the term recklessness, but in preseason there is no fear of losing, whereas you get into the regular season and obviously you want to make sure that you are trying to win -- but certainly there is a fear of losing as well, which makes you a little more defensive, a little more cautious. But that said, 3-on-3 there is so much ice out there, and the counterattacks happen so quickly, so there’s definitely a lot of scoring chances going both directions.”
That's in from the X. All our stories and updates are here.