He could have stayed off the ice and let his body heal after the Wild was whisked out of the playoffs by the Jets in five games, but winger Nino Niederreiter still wanted to compete.

So he represented his native Switzerland at the IIHF World Championship back in May.

"You want to play hockey, and you want to prove yourself that you know what you can do," Niederreiter said. "That definitely helped gain some confidence again, just knowing what you have to do to be successful."

Instead of embarking on the summer amid the frustration from a season that included bouts of injury and a pointless performance in that first-round series against Winnipeg, Niederreiter began his offseason with the lift that comes from winning a silver medal. And then he recovered to get back to full strength, a development that has Niederreiter eager to resume action with the Wild.

"I feel very confident, very excited to be here again," he said.

Only three games into 2017-18, Niederreiter suffered a high left ankle sprain. He was injured again Dec.22, sidelined with what he thought was a bone bruise. But after a short return, he learned he was actually dealing with a fractured fibula.

Not until he rested in the summer did Niederreiter feel 100 percent again.

"I'd never really been hurt before, so I didn't know what to expect and how to handle it," he said. "I definitely rushed myself back a couple times."

Despite missing 19 regular-season games, the 26-year-old was only two goals shy of 20 — a clip that encourages Niederreiter that he can score even more when healthy.

And he's happy to get that chance with the Wild.

"There's obviously a management change, a couple new coaches here," he said. "Feels like it's a clean slate."

Ready to roll

The Wild opens its seven-game preseason schedule Monday in Winnipeg.

"I would like to see everyone playing hard and playing with the right structure and competing," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Whether you play preseason [or] you're practicing, we want to see a lot of compete and hopefully we'll get it."

Andrew Hammond is expected to start in goal for the Wild. He signed a one-year, two-way contract in the summer to contend for the backup job with Alex Stalock.

"Just gives me an opportunity to kind of establish myself again and prove that I still have a lot of games left in the tank," said Hammond, who used input from Wild fans to help design his gear.

"That's really what I'm coming here to do is just to prove that I'm still a very capable goaltender."

Nicknamed "The Hamburglar," a nod to the McDonald's mascot, Hammond emerged in the NHL amid a 20-1-2 run with the Senators in 2015 that helped Ottawa climb into a playoff spot. He struggled to duplicate that impact the next season and ended up back in the minors.

Hammond underwent hip surgery before last season and was eventually traded to the Avalanche. When Jonathan Bernier got hurt in the playoffs, Hammond took over in the crease and did an admirable job against the Predators before Colorado was eliminated in six games.

"I've always somehow found a way to get another level in my game," he said.


• Defenseman Ryan Suter, who is working his way back from a severe ankle injury, is scheduled to scrimmage Monday.

"He feels fine other than soreness with your foot in the boot for long periods of time," Boudreau said. "He said he's feeling fine."

• Boudreau said Sunday he expected a round of cuts to hit the camp roster within 48 hours.

• Andrew Brunette's title has changed from assistant general manager to director of player personnel, a position previously filled by Blair Mackasey. The Wild has also tweaked its scouting staff, adding former player Ladislav Benysek, Joe Cucci and P.J. Fenton. Fenton, a former scout with the Oilers, is General Manager Paul Fenton's son.

• Development coach Richard Park has also added the role of pro scout.