The Minnesota Wild lost 3-1 to the Columbus Blue Jackets in preseason action Tuesday night at the Excel Energy Center. New comer Nino Niederreiter scored the lone goal for the Wild, a power play marker on a nice backhander over Jackets goalie Jeremy Smith midway through the 2nd period. The assists on the goal went to Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund. Overall it was a rather quiet game for both teams. Columbus took a 3-0 lead on Mark Letestu‘s goal at the 7:53 mark of the 2nd with the Wild’s lone goal came soon after and that wrapped up the scoring activity for he game. Neither lineup had any of their stars in action, giving the youngsters and newcomers a chance to show their stuff. For the Wild the best defensive pair on the ice were Mathew Dumba and Keith Ballard. The rookie and the veteran looked strong playing together. Dumba had several plays in which he held off oncoming forecheckers and made a good, clean pass up ice to get the offense moving. He also accumulated 4 shots on goal the most for any Wild player tonight. The remaining 16 shots were divided among 11 other players. Ballard seemed to be comfortable with Dumba as his partner. Dumba, because of his age, has only two options. One is make the Wild roster, the second is return to his junior team. Playing for the Iowa Wild is not an option. So far in camp and scrimmages Dumba has impressed with his play and progress over last year’s lockout shortened preseason. Will it be enough? That’s the question Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo must answer.
On the offensive side of the puck there were several quality scoring chances throughout the game. Twice Wild shooters hit Blue Jackets net minder Jeremy Smith in the mask with shots and other times had pucks slide just wide of their target. Throughout the game Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle, and Mikael Granlund looked strong on the puck and showed more confidence in their play than last season. On a down note, Jason Zucker reportedly tweaked a groin during the 1st period, skated only two shifts in the 2nd and was absent from the bench in the 3rd. We’ll see tomorrow if this is any kind of a significant injury or not. Matt Cooke saw 17:11 of ice time and committed no atrocities. He showed some decent speed and good puck handling but, didn’t stand out for positive or negative reasons. Looking at another veteran trying to play himself into the opening night roster. Jake Dowell skated 9:47 and dropped the gloves with Cody Bass in a pretty good scrap that saw both players throwing some bombs and Dowell getting the better of his opponent.
In the goal tending department, Wild starting goalie Niklas Backstrom got the start and surrendered 3 goals on 10 shots. He wax relieved in net by Darcy Kuemper midway through the 2nd period. Kuemper was perfect in goal the rest of the way making 7 saves on 7 shots. Backstrom looked co0mfortable in his first game action and I’d really only put 1 of the 3 Columbus goals on him. That goal would be Columbus’ third. The Wild got caught in transition as defenseman Cody Goloubef made a nice outlet pass to Mark Letestu, who slipped past Minnesota’s defense and fired a shot beating Backstrom high on the blocker side. The other two Blue Jacket’s goals came on a rebound that landed right on the tape of Cam Atkinson and a long rebound when the Wild “D” got caught on the end of a power play and Marco Scandella couldn’t get back in time. (Haven’t ever seen that happen before, Have We?)
All in all is was a preseason game and it was quite evident that this was Minnesota’s first game of the preseason. I saw nothing to get alarmed about even though a few in the crowd were not pleased with a couple of the Wild’s power play efforts. There were some “Boos” and shouts of “Shoot!” One thing I’d like to point out is that tonight’s power play and penalty kill units are definitely NOT the ones you’ll see on opening night October 3rd. The Wild are off tomorrow before Thursday’s preseason tilt against the Winnipeg Jets in Winnipeg. There will be a much different lineup in place for that game as well as the back end of the home and home preseason series with the Jets that concludes at the “X” on Saturday night September 21st. For now, in the early stages of the 2013 preseason, we’ll take the good, we’ll take the bad and there you have the Wild facts of life after preseason game 1. I’ll be back with a pregame look at Wild vs Jets round #1 on Thursday. Until then this is Scott Drain yelling, “Let’s Go Wild!”