Greetings from Xcel Energy Center's press room.
Wild and Winnipeg Jets tonight in Minnesota's home preseason opener. The game can be seen on the NHL Network, can be heard on KFAN and viewed through the @russostrib Twitter Network.
Tonight will be the fans' first chance to see the snazzy new video board.
In Sunday's Star Tribune, I wrote a pretty gripping story on Zach and J.P. Parise. Please give it a read.
Tonight's anticipated Wild lines:
Zach Parise-Mikael Granlund-Charlie Coyle
Nino Niederreiter-Mikko Koivu-Jason Pominville
Matt Cooke-Erik Haula-Justin Fontaine
Michael Keranen-Kyle Brodziak (preseason debut)-Joel Rechlicz
D: Ryan Suter's preseason debut, Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon, Gustav Olofsson, Matt Dumba.
Niklas Backstrom is expected to play the full 60. Darcy Kuemper is backing him up.
Power-play units: Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville-Ryan Suter; Nino Niederreiter-Charlie Coyle-Michael Keranen-Matt Dumba-Jared Spurgeon
Thomas Vanek (upper body) and Keith Ballard (mid body) both skated on their own this morning. Both say they're feeling better.
Coach Mike Yeo wants to see the Wild start to display its game better and he wants to see his players, the majority of who are playing their second games, take another step.
"I wouldn't read too much into [the line combinations]," Yeo said. "We talked at the start that we would do a lot of mixing and matching and with Thomas not playing tonight, that's going to throw a bit of a wrench into things here. So what you see in the first shift might differ from what you see in the second period. I'm looking more right now into how we're playing as a group, as far as our system and structure."
I'm planning to write about Brodziak for Monday's paper. I had a pretty good interview with him this morning and he's excited for this season and tonight's debut.
He hurt his back training this past summer and it flared up the first day of camp.
His linemates are interesting tonight.
Keranen, the Finnish star who was in the Army with Granlund, will get work on the No. 2 power play. As I wrote after the game in Winnipeg on Monday, he is very skilled, especially working the half wall on the PP. He made a great touch pass for a Niederreiter goal in today's skate.
He looks like he needs to get stronger and is still adjusting to the smaller NHL-sized rink, but Yeo likes his vision and creativity and if he has a chance to make the team, Yeo wants to give him a good chance to strut his stuff on the PP.
Rechlicz, 27, a Milwaukee native, is a bruiser. They called him the "Wrecker" or "Wrecking Ball." He has played 26 NHL games for the Islanders and Capitals and in 2011-12 had 267 penalty minutes for AHL Hershey.
"I play a physical role," he said. "I’ll bring lots of energy tonight. Play phsyical, get in hard on the forecheck and just keep my game simple. Chip pucks in, chip pucks out. I'm not going to try to toe-drag anybody out there. Defensively sound. Can't be a minus player. Coach has to trust me."
At age 16, Rechlicz lived in White Bear Lake and played Junior B hockey in the Minnesota Junior Hockey League for the St. Paul Lakers, so "it was cool signing with Minnesota. But I'm a Cheesehead. Sorry."
Yeo said, "I want to see him play the game and show that he’s capable of playing. We’re in exhibition, we’ve got a veteran lineup, you’ve got a lot of guys that are excited on the other side (Jets) and we want to make sure that they're not trying to make a statement by going out and taking liberties on any of our top guys, we’re making sure that we’re protected from that sense. But I want to see if he’s capable of playing our system and keeping up with the play."
Pretty cool scene on the ice after today's morning skate.
Kuemper was part of a proposal.
As the skate ended, goalie coach Bob Mason slipped an engagement ring into Kuemper's glove.
As he was leaving the ice, a man named Jack Baker -- a family friend of Mason -- asked for Kuemper's autograph. Kuemper said he actually had something for Baker's girlfriend, Alaina Olson. Kuemper handed over the ring and Baker popped the question.
"She was shocked," Kuemper said, laughing. "It was pretty cool to be a part of it."