On Tuesday evening, the NHL announced that 12 exhibition games will take place before the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, notably, the Minnesota Wild will match up against the divisional rival Colorado Avalanche.
We’re just over two weeks away from the beginning of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers slated to begin in Edmonton and Toronto on August 1st. The NHL has recently released a schedule of Exhibition games that will take place just before the qualifying round begins.
The Wild facing the Avalanche in this exhibition game is good for Minnesota for a few reasons. It’ll be a great test and exercise for the Wild to play the Avs in this game due to the high explosive offense that the Avalanche have, and will prepare the Wild well to face another explosive offense in the Vancouver Canucks in the qualifying round.
During the regular season, the Wild split the season series with the Avalanche 2-2.
This game will also bear to be incredibly important to newly introduced Wild head coach Dean Evason who will coach his first game in over 4 months, and first game since having the Interim tag scratched from his title.
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One thing remains to be seen with the Wild: how they will trim their camp roster down to bring the league-mandated 31 players to the Edmonton hub in 2 weeks.
On Monday, the Wild had announced they signed long-awaited prospect Kirill Kaprizov who is expected to join the team for practice during phases 3 & 4 but remains ineligible to play in the qualifying round.
One thing that can be expected when the Wild face off against the Avalanche on July 29th is that the playoff intensity will be real between the two teams, two teams that have faced off in the playoffs several times in the past.
After the exhibition game, the Avalanche are slated to face the 2019 Stanley Cup Champion St Louis Blues in the round-robin games to determine seedings 1 through 4.
The Wild’s defense will be tested in the matchup versus Colorado, an offense that at first glance consists of what could be a most lethal line in the NHL of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen will certainly put the defense through its paces to prepare for Vancouver’s Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, JT Miller, and more who emerged as a top 6 threat in Vancouver this season.
The Wild’s offense will also be tested by Colorado’s defense which consists of Calder Memorial Trophy candidate Cale Makar and young shut down defenseman Ryan Graves which should bear well as a test to Zach Parise, Eric Staal, and Kevin Fiala to prepare them for Vancouver’s elusive young defenseman Quinn Hughes and veteran defenseman Tyler Myers.
The last thing to focus on in this exhibition preview is the goaltending. It is well known that the Wild will ride whomever which has the hot hand in camp into the Vancouver series. It has been highly favored that AHL goaltender of the year Kaapo Kahkonen should be the goaltender to ride into the series with veteran Alex Stalock riding in the back-up chair. Starting Kahkonen vs the Avalanche would prepare the young goaltender for what would be expected to come his way against the Canucks which by definition is- a high paced, skilled, and explosive offense to say the least.
Hopefully, with all this insight into the exhibition game vs Colorado, the Wild will be ready for a playoff intense match up and be more than ready to face the Vancouver Canucks when the Stanley Cup Qualifiers begin.