Dane Mizutani / St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL — Wild coach Bruce Boudreau had a simple message for his team after Thursday's 3-1 loss to the Dallas Stars: It's time to get serious. "You'll see tomorrow," Boudreau said. "There's going to be two practices, and one group is going to be definitively more NHL-loaded than the other group." That was the case during the Friday, Sept. 21, practice as the Wild finally skated the crop of players that most resembled the lineup expected to open the regular season Oct. 4 at Colorado.
No doubt coach Bruce Boudreau wants the Wild to win every single time they take the ice. That said, during the preseason, the 63-year-old coach admitted he isn't necessarily focused on wins and losses. "I think every game the pace picks up a little bit," Boudreau said before Thursday night's game against the Dallas Stars at the Xcel Energy Center. "That's the one thing that's noticeable. I assume that even though (the Stars) aren't bringing their full lineup, that the pace is going to be higher."
DES MOINES — Yes, the backup goaltender spot with the Wild is probably Alex Stalock's to lose. But he's not counting his chickens before the hatch. Stalock, 31, has been around the NHL too long to get overconfident. "Nothing has ever been handed to me in this league," Stalock said Wednesday, Sept. 19, before preseason game against the St. Louis Blues in Des Moines. "I've always had to work of what I've gotten." Indeed.
DES MOINES — Matt Hendricks knows he can still play hockey at a high level. He proved that much during Monday, Sept. 17's preseason opener against the Winnipeg Jets, potting the Wild's only goal in a 2-1 loss. Still, the 37-year-old forward is well aware that if all goes as planned, he's more likely going to be watching from the press box than playing. He understood that much when he signed a one-year, $700,000 contract this offseason.
In this world, they say, there nothing is certain except death and taxes. Add the fact that when the leaves start to change, Nate Prosser will be battling for a roster spot. With the Wild scheduled to start their regular season Oct. 4 against the Colorado Avalanche, Prosser has entered training camp needing to prove himself once again.
ST. PAUL — Looking back on it now, coach Bruce Boudreau learned pretty much everything he needed to know about top prospect Jordan Greenway during a relatively meaningless workout this offseason. A smattering of Wild players had gathered at the new TRIA Rink last month for a light-hearted scrimmage. More than anything else, it was a chance to get the blood flowing before training camp rolled around, though for Greenway it quickly turned into a teaching moment.
EAGAN, Minn. — Aaron Rodgers took a shotgun snap during Week 6 of last season, shuffled to his right and skirted out of the pocket before flicking a pass downfield. Simultaneously, Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr diagnosed the play as best he could: He stepped up and ran full speed ahead toward the Green Bay Packers quarterback. What resulted was a head-on collision. Rodgers took a clean hit from Barr just as he released the ball, and at first glace it seemed like a harmless NFL play. But the narrative quickly changed when Rodgers stayed on the turf, writhing in pain.
ST. PAUL — Wild prospect Luke Kunin still hasn't been cleared for contact more than six months after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a March 4 game against the Detroit Red Wings. Kunin, 20, was on the ice for the first day of training camp on Friday afternoon but limited in what he was actually allowed to do. He participated in a handful of drills at the start but was withheld from drills that featured more contact.
EAGAN, Minn. — Clearly, the Vikings feel a certain way about second-year receiver Stacy Coley. Need proof? They reserved a spot for the 24-year-old speedster on the active roster, even though he struggled with a nagging groin injury throughout the preseason, which caused him to miss significant time. "It means a lot," said Coley, a seventh-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft who turned heads in limited action during his rookie season. "I feel like the organization trusts me and knows what I can do. It's just a matter of going in there and showcasing my talent."
EAGAN, Minn. — Third-year safety Jayron Kearse has followed the typical trajectory of a seventh-round draft pick since joining the Vikings in 2016. After scraping his way onto the active roster, the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder has gotten most of his NFL playing time on special teams. But Kearse wants a bigger role this season, and he got a start on that during Sunday's 24-16 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. He played 22 snaps on defense, mostly in the slot after an injury to starting cornerback Trae Waynes forced starting nickelback Mike Hughes outside.