Ryan Suter and Zach Parise had been urging for the Wild’s power-play setup to come from the left circle. Monday night, it did.
Mikael Granlund, who quarterbacked things from the left wall during Monday’s 3-2 exhibition-opening loss to the Buffalo Sabres, scored on the Wild’s first power play of the night. He potted Parise’s rebound off a one-timer from the right circle following a Suter tee-up.
Coach Mike Yeo said Monday morning the new power-play wrinkle didn’t just come from the vets.
“Just to be clear, this is what we wanted, too,” Yeo said. “We spent a lot of time in the summer going through video, and obviously we knew the status quo was not going to work.
“We’ve got a few different plans that we’re going to be looking at, and we felt this was a good opportunity to get to that one.”
Thomas Vanek and Matt Dumba didn’t play Monday, but Monday’s No. 1 unit featured Granlund at the left wall, Suter up top, Parise in the right circle, Mikko Koivu in the slot and Jason Pominville in front of the net.
“I like being around the net, but at the same time, I think this spot allows me to come in on that second wave and get rebounds,” said Parise, who had two assists Monday. “It’s about having options. Ryan alone, I think, up top getting one-timers and Granny sitting on the wall, he’s looking at three one-timers 9Koivu, Parise and Suter). It will be a lot tougher to defend. I think we all trust Granny to make good plays from that side. He’s going to have a lot of options from there.”
Koivu has traditionally set up on the right half wall, so it’ll be an adjustment if he assumes this spot during the regular season. He made a nice play to Suter before Granlund’s goal.
“It’s going to take a little time I’m sure with timing and reading off where the puck’s going to go and whether you move toward the net or away from it,” Koivu said. “We just have to work on it and be patient.”
Added Granlund, “I feel like on that side it’s easier to find those passing lanes because you’re on your forehand all the time. Obviously I can’t shoot a one-timer from there, but even a wrister might be a little easier.”
Granlund had a solid game. He stole a puck leading to a Jared Spurgeon goal and drew the penalty that led to his power-play goal. He also won eight of 10 faceoffs.
But in the third period, the Sabres rallied on the back of Jack Eichel, the No. 2 overall pick in June. The teenager set up former Wild Matt Moulson for a layup, then scored a shorthanded breakaway goal after a puck bounced past Spurgeon.
“He’s everything that you hear,” Suter said of Eichel. “Steady, big, big, long reach, upright skater. He slows the game down.”
The Wild, which had three shots in the third, got a late power play with a chance to tie and didn’t register a shot.
Goalie Niklas Backstrom will make his first start since Jan. 13 on Tuesday in Winnipeg.
“I don’t mind hanging out with the guys, but the fun part is playing games and competing against other teams,” said Backstrom, who had offseason elbow surgery. “If you would have asked me two, three months if I would have felt this good, I’d be really happy.”
Other notables in Tuesday’s lineup: Vanek, Dumba, Charlie Coyle, Marco Scandella and Erik Haula.
• The Wild trimmed its training camp roster to 52 by returning Gustav Bouramman, Reid Duke, Tanner Faith, Chase Lang, Hunter Warner and Jack Walker (released from his tryout) to their junior teams. A massive amount of cuts will come by week’s end as the Wild tries to get close to setting its team by Sunday night’s three-day trip to Duluth.