The Minnesota Wild took care of business in Columbus Monday night winning in a shootout by a 2-1 final score. This was the Wild’s second straight shootout win this preseason.. Defenseman Keith Ballard scored in regulation and Jason Zucker found the back of the net in the shootout to seal the road win for the Wild. Minnesota is now 3-1 in preseason with two contests left before the regular season start on October 3rd. The Wild took a squad primarily made up of younger players with few veterans to Columbus. The Blue Jackets countered with a lineup that contained many of the players that will be on this season’s opening night roster.
Minnesota goal tender Josh Harding got the start in net tonight and turned away 20 of 21 Blue Jacket shots through regulation and overtime. Then he went 3 for 3 against Artem Anisimov, Cam Atkinson and Matt Calvert in the shootout. Harding looked strong in goal tonight, making some big saves to keep the score close. One was against Marian Gaborik after Harding himself misplayed the puck behind the goal and had to hurry to get back in front and make the save. The lone Columbus goal came at the 6:19 mark of the second period on a James Wisniewski slapshot off a pass from Marian Gaborik during a power play. That man up situation for Columbus came courtesy of a John Landry roughing penalty. Eric Haula was leveled by a Boone Jenner check and Landry came to his teammates defense and dropped the gloves with Jenner. When the dust settled Landry got the extra two minutes, why it was roughing and not an instigator penalty is beyond me. Last season’s Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky took the loss making 26 saves on the night. Half of those Minnesota shots came in the 1st period alone. The Wild’s lone tally came at the 11:36 mark of the 3rd period when Ballard found a loose puck out in front of the Columbus net and sniped it past the Jackets net minder to even the score a goal each. Jason Zucker had an assist on the goal and didn’t look to be suffering any ill effects from the groin injury he suffered during the first game with the Blue Jackets back on the 17th. The Wild have been rather fortunate on the injury front so far in preseason, having a healthy lineup to start the regular season with would be a luxury many other teams would love to have.
Tonight was the last night for several players to impress Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo. Zucker, Nino Niederreiter and Erik Haula all had a great game tonight and will definitely be in the mix as the final roster takes shape. According to Yeo the Wild are going to cut approximately 20 players Tuesday. Currently they still have some 47 players in camp and with the AHL Iowa Wild training camp opening today many of those players cut will head for Des Moines. Several of the cuts will be contract related, players on two way deals all other things being equal, will be the ones headed to Iowa. I’m glad to see the cut happen now so the players left will basically be the opening night roster plus a few and the detail work can begin. Minnesota went 0 for 5 on the power play tonight and 3 for 4 on the penalty kill. Last season the Wild’s power play was average at best, finishing the regular season at just 17.1% good for 16th in the league. Their penalty kill fared a bit worse at 80.7% good for 18th overall. Time and time again last season Coach Yeo bemoaned the lack practice time the team could devote to special teams. The 11 days left in training camp should allow ample time to address those issues.
Next up on the preseason schedule is the St. Louis Blues at the Xcel Energy Center Wednesday night. The two teams will meet again on Friday in St. Louis for the Wild’s final preseason game. Those last two games will feature the line up that will be in St. Paul to start the regular season on October 3rd. The 2013-14 Minnesota Wild are taking shape and I like what I’m seeing so far. I’ll be back on Wednesday with a preview of the Blues vs Wild, until then this is Scott Drain shouting, “Let’s Go Wild!”.