The Minnesota Wild beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-1 Thursday night in preseason action at the MTS Centre. This was the first game of a home and home series concluding Saturday night at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. With a squad of mainly young players with a few vets sprinkled in, the Wild more than held their own against a Jets team featuring many of the players they’ll have in the lineup opening night. My star of the game is 19-year old defenseman Mathew Dumba. He had a team high 24:12 in ice time, scored the Wild’s first goal and ended up a +2 for the game. He was also a standout defensively as the Jets managed just a single goal on the night. Another young stand out was Charlie Coyle who teamed up with veteran Dany Heatley on a pretty passing play that left Jets netminder Montoya watching as the puck sailed into the net. That goal gave Minnesota a lead they would not relinquish. The forward line of Eric Haula, Nino Niederreiter, and Mikael Granlund was strong with the puck throughout the game picking up a pair of assists to go with a cumulative +4 rating.
One area that definitely needs some more work is the power play. The Wild were o for 3 on the man advantage, struggling to keep the puck in the zone and had little success setting up when they did. Granted tonight’s power play units will not be the ones you see when the regular season starts on October 3rd. The penalty kill however, was perfect on the night turning away the Jets on all 7 of their power play chances. Winnipeg had very few quality power pay chances against Josh Harding and then Darcy Kuemper who took over the net in the 3rd period. Surprisingly all of the Wild infractions were minors including a double minor for roughing assessed to Kyle Medvec in the third period. Minnesota sent too many players to the box in the third period but to their credit didn’t take the Jets bait and drop the gloves with a 3-1 lead. The Wild’s third goal of the night went to Kris Foucault who cleaned up a rebound of a Kyle Brodziak shot flipping it past Montoya. The final Minnesota tally came on a short-handed empty net shot by Steven Kampfer with 1:05 to play. We’ll see how things go in round two, Saturday night in St. Paul. Will the Jets try to goon it up? Will the Wild make it two straight wins? We’ll find out in less than 48 hrs.
The Wild goal tenders were both great in net tonight. Josh Harding got the start and played the first two periods before Kuemper took over in the 3rd with a 3-1 lead to protect. Harding made 16 saves on 17 shots including a couple of beauties that are leaving little doubt as to his ability to be a regular starter this season. Darcy Kuemper was perfect on the night stopping all 11 shots he faced. If Backstrom or harding go down with an injury, Kuemper should be able to jump right in without missing a beat.
On the night the Wild out shot the Jets 33 to 28 and at one point led by a wide 25-12 margin. The willingness of the Wild to shoot the puck is encouraging. Let’s hope this trend continues into the regular season. The Wild seemed to be very confident tonight and controlled play throughout the game. The only major stumble came toward the end of the 1st period when Jonathon Blum turned the puck over in the slot in front of Harding. Bryan Little pounced on the errant pass and slammed it past the Wild goalie before he had a chance to react. All in all tonight was an encouraging performance by a rather young lineup. Saturday expect to see most of Minnesota’s stars on the ice including Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville, Ryan Suter and more. While the Wild do have 47 players left in camp I’d expect that number to be cut drastically sooner rather than later as the regular season approaches. The play of the younger players and veterans on the bubble are going to make some of the roaster decisions difficult for Mike Yeo and his staff. It was nice to see the boys get a win tonight and these two games against Winnipeg should help to set the tone for the 3 regular season tilts on the 2013-14 schedule. The Wild are now 1-1 on the preseason and the squad is starting to take shape. GonePuckWild.com will be you each step of the way at the Minnesota Wild approach opening night. I’m Scott Drain, I’ll be back Saurday with a preview of Wild vs Jets round two. Until then, Let’s Go Wild!!