Minnesota Wild: Final Preseason Test Against Colorado

ST. PAUL, MN - MARCH 13: Joel Eriksson Ek #14 of the Minnesota Wild and Gabriel Bourque #57 of the Colorado Avalanche skates to the puck during the game at the Xcel Energy Center on March 13, 2018 in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)
ST. PAUL, MN - MARCH 13: Joel Eriksson Ek #14 of the Minnesota Wild and Gabriel Bourque #57 of the Colorado Avalanche skates to the puck during the game at the Xcel Energy Center on March 13, 2018 in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The preseason is almost done, and we are 6 days from meaningful hockey. The Minnesota Wild will close the preseason schedule today with a very unique line-up.

It’s a late game tonight coming from the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. Puck Drop will be at 8pm central time, as the Colorado Avalanche will host the Minnesota Wild in a final preseason warm-up before these two will renew acquaintances for the start of the regular season on Oct 4.


The Minnesota Wild are bringing a lineup consisting primarily of its younger players, as the older veterans will be given the night off. Zach Parise, Eric Staal, and Mikko Koivu will not be making the trip to Denver for this one, which should mean some unusual line combinations.

Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund are still in the lineup, but without Staal the question will be who is the center on that top line? There seems to be 2 likely options to spend time on this line, Joel Eriksson Ek or Jordan Greenway.

Eriksson Ek offers the speed and finesse to that pairing, perhaps allowing he and Mikael Granlund an opportunity to develop some familiarity and chemistry between them as a potential top line option if Staal regresses or decides not to stay with the Minnesota Wild beyond this season.

More from Gone Puck Wild

Jordan Greenway, on the other hand, offers size and power to go alongside the two extremely skilled wingers. Where Eriksson Ek provides a similar style to Granlund and Zucker, Greenway is the contrast. I think this should be the top trio, but I feel like Boudreau may start out with Eriksson Ek and possibly stick to that all game.

Whichever center is not on the top line will be on the second line with Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle. It’s a large responsibility as Coyle will be looking to follow-up on the hat-trick he posted against Colorado on Saturday night.

Putting Greenway on that line is a very large and very powerful trio of power forwards. I would think Eriksson Ek’s speed and passing would be a benefit to get these two going, though. Perhaps we see Ek and Greenway rotate to test line chemistry through the game.

Marcus Foligno and Eric Fehr appear to be locked in to the 4th line positions, and we’ve already looked closely at the Matt Read and J.T. Brown battle this week. Expect to see them alternating with each other through the game to see who plays best with that trio.

Bruce Boudreau has also stated this week that we may see Fehr slide over to the RW for this game. With Justin Kloos being sent down to Iowa, expect Matt Hendricks to possibly get in some shifts at center with Foligno and Fehr on the wings.

Kyle Rau fills out the last spot on Friday’s roster, but he will be the odd man out as he plays with whichever pair of Brown, Read and Hendricks that isn’t on the third line. If anything, Rau will be auditioning to potentially be claimed off waivers.


Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon are getting the night off with the rest of the older veterans. Nick Seeler is a surprising scratch, as it seems he has earned himself the night off after a fantastic preseason for the Minnesota Wild.

Last season’s pairing of Jonas Brodin and Mathew Dumba will be back together for this game, leaving me wondering if the coach changed his mind and is keeping Suter/Spurgeon as his top pairing to start the season. We’ll see how these 2 play together, after both have looked solid while split apart.

With Seeler out, his D partner Greg Pateryn will be seeing time with a new linemate. I would expect that the Bottom 4 D could be getting shuffled like the bottom of the forward lineup, as Boudreau still has to make his decision on Nate Prosser or Ryan Murphy as the 7th D.

Neither has looked spectacular through camp, as Prosser has been a minus a lot due to time spent with Carson Soucy, but Murphy has had some timely giveaways resulting in scoring opportunities and/or goals against as well.

Matt Bartkowski fills the same role as Kyle Rau, a body to fill the lineup who is expected to start his year in the AHL. He will get to play with Prosser and Murphy as well, as they fight for their spot in the Minnesota Wild roster.


Devan Dubnyk gets the night off after securing his first preseason win. It was not a fancy win, and Dubnyk is starting to leave a lot of doubt in the minds of Wild fans with his poor preseason, but it was enough that Boudreau will rest him before the regular season starts.

Bruce Boudreau has stated that we should finally expect to see a goalie split in this game, for the first time after 6 preseason games. Alex Stalock and Andrew Hammond will each get one last opportunity to secure the backup goalie position before one of them heads down to Iowa.

Stalock has 2 preseason starts, including a shutout in the dismantling of Colorado last Saturday. He has looked strong in both games and appears to hold an edge over Hammond for retaining his backup spot from last season.

Hammond looked good in his first preseason game, the first game of the preseason, almost 2 weeks ago in a 2-1 loss to Winnipeg. He has not been in game action since then, so it will be interesting to see how he performs after nearly 2 weeks of practice without any games.

I expect Stalock will keep his hold on the backup spot for now, but Hammond could put in a strong effort. At this point, I think Hammond is just trying to earn himself more starts in the AHL where he will be put in a goaltending battle with Kaapo Kahkonen for starts down there.

Colorado Avalanche

Playing in their own building on Friday, the Colorado Avalanche will bring a much more potent offensive team than they produced in St.Paul last week. A lot of the players we should expect to see next Thursday will be dressed for this game.

Colorado’s top line, and one of the most potent offensive lines in hockey last year, of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen will all be in the game, as will their top D pairing of Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie.

That line could pose a ton of problems for a Minnesota Wild team that will be missing most of it’s top defensive shutdown players. Could lead to some interesting “run-n-gun” hockey to end the preseason.

Beyond that top line, the Avalanche don’t have a ton of weapons despite lining up a roster of most of their expected opening night starters. Matt Nieto, Matt Calvert, Tyson Jost, and Gabriel Bourque can all score but none are very intimidating to see in a matchup.

So if Minnesota can keep them relatively in check it should be a close game. Alternatively, if Minnesota can find a match-up to score at the same pace as MacKinnon’s line, we could see a high-scoring game. Last game’s top Avs player, Sheldon Dries, will be in the lineup again and looking to continue his work as a shutdown forward.

Philipp Grubauer will get the start again for Colorado after allowing 7 goals against Minnesota on Saturday. He will hope to have a better result in this one.

Next. Know Your Rivals - Colorado Avalanche. dark


Colorado has one more preseason game on Sunday, but this is the dress rehearsal game for them. With most of their starters in the lineup, it’s on the Minnesota Wild to play spoiler and get the follow-up victory despite scratching a large number of Wild starters. I’m going to say this one goes high scoring, but Colorado only has one line of top scoring options. So 5-3 for the Wild, with an empty netter sealing the close game late.