DENVER – With the Wild expected to play close to its opening night lineup during Saturday’s exhibition finale against the Winnipeg Jets, coach Bruce Boudreau called Tuesday’s preseason game against the Colorado Avalanche the “final tuneup” for a bunch of players vying for roster spots.
He joked to assistant general manager Brent Flahr that he felt like “Missouri,” which is known as the “Show Me State.”
“Show me. Just show me what you’ve got,” Boudreau said before the game. “Put your best foot forward, and then we’ll make decisions on it.”
Twenty minutes after the Wild lost 2-0, Boudreau hardly seemed satisfied.
“We keep waiting, and we keep looking for signs,” Boudreau said. “We see little signs here and there, but no consistent sign of anything. Like, you can like one guy one period or one game and not the next, and the one thing about the NHL is that you’ve got to be consistent.”
Youngsters Joel Eriksson Ek (four shots) and Alex Tuch (two shots) were involved in most the scoring chances, but Eriksson Ek’s line with Jason Zucker and Chris Stewart and defensemen Matt Dumba and Marco Scandella were on the ice for two goals 73 seconds apart in the second period.
Eriksson Ek made a mistake off a faceoff play on the first goal, but Boudreau said of the 19-year-old, “For the most part he’s a pretty reliable guy.”
Eriksson Ek, who likely would return to Sweden if he doesn’t make the team, admits he has a lot to learn, but “I feel better and better and hopefully I can get even better. I feel more and more comfortable, but it’s not my decision.”
Tuch said he “personally felt strong” and will try not to think about looming roster cuts.
The AHL’s Iowa Wild will practice in Minnesota on Thursday and Friday, so there’s a chance the Wild makes significant cuts in the next few days.
One player who didn’t help himself Tuesday was Tyler Graovac. The Wild all but saved the fourth-line center job for him, but he has had an underwhelming training camp and against the Avalanche was soft on the wall, lost seven of nine faceoffs and had no shots.
Graovac is competing with Eriksson Ek and Zac Dalpe, who had three shots and won six of 11 faceoffs.
Graovac had a video session with assistant coach John Anderson over the weekend and said seeing a different perspective was helpful.
“I’m almost trying to do too much,” Graovac said before the game.
Other players vying for spots who played against Colorado were forward Christoph Bertschy and defensemen Mike Reilly, Christian Folin and Nate Prosser.
Boudreau hardly played his ‘‘A” group. Forwards Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Eric Staal and Mikael Granlund, No. 1 defense pair Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon and No. 1 goalie Devan Dubnyk remained in Minnesota. Forwards Charlie Coyle and Ryan Carter were supposed to play but didn’t because of lower-body and upper-body injuries, respectively.
With final cuts on the horizon, Carter, on a tryout and hoping for a contract, has missed two consecutive games because of illness and injury.
Boudreau called the injuries “little bumps” and not serious, but the Wild didn’t want to take chances.
So, it recalled Kurtis Gabriel, who was cut from training camp the day before, from Iowa and played Jordan Schroeder, who cleared waivers Tuesday and is expected to eventually be assigned to Iowa.
“They were more than happy to come back and play,” Boudreau said.
• Center Pat Cannone cleared waivers and was assigned to Iowa.