WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise was hoping to carry on his success against the Winnipeg Jets and help spoil in their home opener at Bell MTS Place on Thursday night, Oct. 10.
Parise scored seven points to lead the Wild to a 5-0-0 record over their cross-border rivals last season. He believes that the Wild forwards can take advantage of Winnipeg’s relatively inexperienced defensive corps this year.
The Jets lost veterans Jacob Trouba (trade), Ben Chiarot and Tyler Myers (both free agency) and Dustin Byfuglien (contemplating retirement) from last year’s blue line.
“They are a little inexperienced back there,” Parise said before Thursday night’s game. “They lost some physicality, but I think they’ve got some guys back there that can still move, they can skate, so it’s a different type of D corps.
“You want to keep the puck low in their zone — below the circles — and hold on to it, not force plays into the middle and not give them any easy exits. Make them work. Make them make mistakes. They’re still good players. You’ve got to be a pretty good player to get here.”
For example, the Jets also played without veteran defensemen Josh Morrissey (concussion protocol) and Dmitry Kulikov (paternity leave) and still defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 on Tuesday.
“Any time you lose a few players, the rest of the team picks it up,” said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, who was not about to underestimate the Wild’s rivals. “I mean, you look at the last game. Who would have thought that, with their young defense, that they’re going to go into Pittsburgh on the fourth game of a road trip and win there? And they did. And they played together and everybody picks up their game … Eventually, the young players become really good players.”
Morrissey and Kulikov returned to the Jets lineup Thursday night, replacing Carl Dahlstrom and Sami Niku.
Wild goalie Devin Dubnyk, who recorded four of the five wins over Winnipeg last season, relishes the atmosphere at the local barn.
“It’s great,” said Dubnyk, who hails from Regina, Sask. “I enjoy playing in Canada in general, but this is obviously a unique atmosphere with the smaller building. The fans feel like they’re right on top of you and obviously, some of the most passionate fans out there and a good rivalry with us.
“So, it’s always exciting to come in here, and they’re always exciting games, as well.”
Like Jets coach Paul Maurice, Boudreau will limit game-day skates this season.
“Every one of ours is an optional. I mean, unless we haven’t played the night before,” he said. “As the season goes on, you’ll see less and less players taking the pre-game skates. I’m not a huge believer in it, but if a player feels that he has to go out there and make some shots because it will make him play better that night, then a lot of it’s mental and who am I to stop him from doing that?”
Winnipeg G Connor Hellebuyck, who started Thursday night, was the losing goalie in four of the five games to the Wild last season … Jets D Anthony Bitetto played 18 games for Minnesota last year.