DULUTH – With opening night at Colorado a week away, the Wild's biggest objective in Thursday's exhibition-closing contest against Buffalo might be getting out of it injury-free.
Already, right winger Justin Fontaine is expected to miss the start of the season because of an oblique injury and right winger Jordan Schroeder is not expected to play against the Sabres because of an upper-body injury, and now center Erik Haula left Wednesday's practice because of a groin injury.
Coach Mike Yeo didn't think it was serious, but Haula was limping visibly afterward.
With the injuries, center Tyler Graovac looks as if he's a roster lock at this point, and so too could be right winger Brett Bulmer, who requires waivers to be sent to Iowa of American Hockey League.
With Fontaine, Schroeder and Haula sidelined against the Sabres, the Wild either will have to dress seven defensemen or recall a forward from Iowa.
The likely candidates would be center Zac Dalpe or left winger Ruslan Fedotenko. If it's Fedotenko, Ryan Carter could move to center.
The Wild also could scan waivers if it thinks any of the injuries are serious. One intriguing name available Thursday is former St. Louis Blues energy forward Chris Porter, who was placed on waivers by the Philadelphia Flyers.
Scandella to play; Reilly bound for Iowa?
Defenseman Marco Scandella, who has been back in Montreal due to a family matter, is expected to rejoin the Wild and play against the Sabres alongside Christian Folin.
With training camp coming to an end, rookie defenseman Mike Reilly hasn't penetrated a top-six blue-line role or either power-play unit. That would seem to indicate the Wild would want the first-year pro to start the season in Iowa so he could play games.
"We'll see what we decide lineup-wise for [Thursday]," Yeo said. "If he's out of the lineup, it doesn't mean that he won't be here. If he is in the lineup, it doesn't mean that he is going to be here. We're not making that decision [yet]."
The Wild's three days in Duluth ended in comical fashion Wednesday when the entire team huddled tightly around center ice and listened as forward Nino Niederreiter talked for a minute. By the end, every player was howling.
It seems as if Niederreiter might have lost a bet because Zach Parise called it "joke time with Nino."
Teammate Charlie Coyle called it, "A little extra team bonding."
On the Duluth trip, Yeo said, "We got a lot of work done. As much as anything else, the time spent with the guys, we have a real close group and this is an important step as far as getting the team ready and getting our head in the right place. We have a long grind ahead of us now, and we're excited to get her going."