The Wild opens its six-game exhibition slate tonight at Xcel Energy Center at 7 p.m.
I cannot say this enough: The preseason is NOT televised. The only game you'll be able to see without attending is Tuesday's game at Winnipeg. It will be replayed on NHL Network at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. Wednesday.
All games can be heard on KFAN and on the Russo Twitter Network at www.twitter.com/russostrib
Follow me there.
Otherwise, I'll have postgame blogs and notebooks in the paper where I gloss over the games. But I typically don't write full gamers on exhibition games.
For instance, in Tuesday's paper will be a big feature on Thomas Vanek, a story you'll be interested in because he's pretty forthright about why he thinks his transition to the Wild has been harder than envisioned.
If you missed my articles the past few days during your busy weekend:
Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are ready to turn the page from a heartbreaking season a year ago
Mike Reilly's no longer being wooed. He's just a normal Wild rookie now and roster hopeful
If you didn't see tonight's lineup against Buffalo, see the previous blog.
This morning, the Wild unveiled a bit of a look at what the setup may be for this season. Obviously, the units that will be in tonight aren't exact because guys like Vanek and Matt Dumba aren't playing, but if you read the power play story above, the veterans wanted to set up from the left side and that's the way it was worked today.
Jason Pominville tonight will be the net-front guy, Mikko Koivu is in the slot, Mikael Granlund will set things up from the left wall, Ryan Suter is up top looking to take one-timers or set up Zach Parise from the right circle.
The second unit tonight will be Jason Zucker-Zack Mitchell-Nino Niederreiter-Jared Spurgeon-Mike Reilly.
Mike Yeo grimaced when a questioner (me) insinuated the veterans got the setup they desired.
"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 obviously we felt this was a good opportunity to get to that one tonight just as far as threats and trying to get some guys that when they receive the puck, they're more of a threat. I think that we've got that there."
It is interesting. As below average as the Wild power play was last season, there's going to be some guys where there just won't be room for on the power play initially.
"We're going to have good players that are not on the power play," Yeo said. "It's pretty clear what the message is here. Everything will be fair. If we're going to have success, then we're going to need to have both groups and both units contributing, and good teams have that."
If Granlund and Koivu play the same power play unit, the second unit needs a center. If Yeo does want to have Niederreiter and Zucker on that unit, there's a chance there won't be a natural center on that unit. Yeo indicated there's wingers on the team that could take faceoffs there.
That being the case (if Granlund and Koivu are on the same unit), maybe Pominville actually goes to "center" the second unit and Vanek goes to the No. 1 unit as a net-front guy. Pominville is a shooter and seems kind of miscast taking cross-checks and slashes in front of the net.
The other question is where does Matt Dumba go. First unit or second. The Wild wants Granlund on that left wall on the first unit because it feels he's a half wall guy.
Lots of moving parts here.
"We've got a few different plans and we have to see how it all unfolds," Yeo said.
Parise said on the vets wanting to set up on the left side and getting that in at least preseason Game 1, "That's the way it looks like right now."
As for where he sets up, Parise said, "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. We'll see. It's the first game. It's about having the options. Ryan alone, I think, up top getting one-timers and Granny sitting on the wall, he's looking at three one-timers (Koivu, 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."
Granlund said, "I like it. I feel like on that side it's easier to find those passing lanes because you're on your forehand all the time. You can get a little bit more movement on that side. Obviously I can't shoot a one-timer from there, but even a wrister might be a little easier. The angle might not be that good, but it's a little easier."
Koivu on being in the slot, he said, "It changes a lot. I've been there in the past on and off. I did like it a lot. It changes a little bit. You get to mix more, you get more in front of the net and get into those battles, which gets you into the game a lot more than sometimes when you're on the half wall. It's going to take a little time I'm sure with timing and reading off where the pucks going to go and whether you move toward the net or away from it. But I've got good experience from the past and we just have to work on it and be patient with it. Games are the best way to work on it."
Koivu said it's going to change throughout the year and on a nightly basis because you have to read off what the opponent's penalty kill does.
On him maybe getting one-timers from Granlund, he said that's an option, but he noticed today it's very tight for him to get that shot off with a penalty killer right in his face.
"It's just trying to more than anything, if it's not there, it's about leaving something else open," Koivu said. "It's a good thing when you have one-timers all around on that side and Pommer in front of the net for tips and his forehand there. There's a lot of good options."
If we get the full lineup for tomorrow's game in Winnipeg, I'll update the blog.