Its getting closer to opening night (October 3rd), and the team is trimming its roster. Yesterday the team trimmed down to 28 players sending down Erik Haula, Colten Jobke, Raphael Bussieres, Tyler Graovac, Kris Foucault, Zack Phillips, Josh Caron, Kyle Medvec, Corbin Baldwin, Darcy Kuemper and Johan Gustafsson to Iowa. Meanwhile it also placed younger professional vets; Carson McMillan, Chad Rau, Jonathan Blum, Jon Landry, Stephane Veilleux, Brian Connelly and Steven Kampfer on waivers and if they pass through as most expect they too will make their way to Des Moines. Kurtis Gabriel was sent back to his junior team in Owen Sound. While I have no doubt that news was met with disappointment by most of this group, if there is any consolation whatsoever was that this was not an easy decision for the Wild as it had been in previous seasons. The young talent pushed the veterans and many performed well in pre-season games as the Wild are 3-1 in exhibition action after a 2-1 shootout victory over Columbus Blue Jackets' 'A' squad on Tuesday night. The Wild had their 'B' team of mostly youngsters and 3rd and 4th liners and outshot and outworked the Blue Jackets for most of the game before Jason Zucker's shootout goal sealed the victory. However, there are plenty of tough decisions for the Wild brass to consider over the next few days. With 28 players still at camp, that means 5 more names must be called to get down to the official 23-man roster. Who will it be?
That means a lot of hope and a lot of nerves for those players still on the 'bubble' so to speak. The next two pre-season games (including tonight's tilt versus St. Louis) will determine who goes and who stays. Camp tryout Dave Steckel is very much in this group as are young defenseman Mathew Dumba who has recieved nothing from praise from the Wild coaches as well as forwards Jason Zucker, Nino Niederreiter, Jake Dowell, Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund. The problem is of course, not all of them can stay. So who will be in the Wild's lineup tonight?
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After yesterday's cuts, tonight's roster as posted by Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune will pretty much be the roster for the season:
Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Jason Pominville
Jason Zucker-Charlie Coyle-Dany Heatley
Matt Cooke-Kyle Brodziak-Nino Niederreiter
Justin Fontaine-Zenon Konopka-Torrey Mitchell
(Extras are David Steckel, Jake Dowell and Mikael Granlund)
Ryan Suter-Jonas Brodin
Marco Scandella-Jared Spurgeon
Keith Ballard-Matt Dumba
(Extras are Clayton Stoner and Nate Prosser)
Even with yesterday's roster cuts, there is a trio of "invisible" players still listed. Those three would be the injured group of Mike Rupp, Tyler Cuma and Brett Bulmer. With that in mind, the roster is technically at 25 players, however the front office is going to want to get the roster down to where it needs to be, so that when Rupp comes off of injured reserve, there is room for him. Of course he may get played out of roster spot by a young player who plays Rupp's game better.
Personally, I know I'm curious as to how this version of the Wild will handle the Blues tonight. In the past couple of seasons, St. Louis has not been the opponent to look forward to playing. Of course in previous seasons, we haven't had to deal with them on a divisional level. Welcome to the new Central Division. We will see them far more often than we may wish, but who knows they could be the evil rival that Minnesota has needed.