ST. PAUL - With the regular season just six days away, the Minnesota Wild have gotten down to the nitty gritty with roster cuts, the latest casualties being up-and-coming defenseman Carson Soucy and veteran wing Ryan Malone.
Soucy, a former standout at Minnesota Duluth, was assigned to the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League on Friday despite a stellar effort on the backline throughout training camp. His fate probably was sealed a couple weeks ago when coach Bruce Boudreau alluded to the fact that he needed some seasoning in the minor leagues.
"He's a young guy that needs to play," Boudreau said. "He's going to go down there and play. He's going to gain experience. When we do see him again ... hopefully he's a lot better."
Soucy, 23, is a big-bodied defenseman who brings a different dynamic to the blue line, so it might not be too long before he's back up with the big team.
Malone was released from his NHL tryout. The feel-good story of camp, Malone was attempting an NHL comeback after more than two years away from the game.
He turned some heads during the preseason, but it wasn't enough for him to earn a roster spot. He will continue his comeback on an AHL tryout at Iowa.
"You know, his infectious personality, like, he was always positive," Boudreau said. "And if we gave him the puck around the front of the net, he can score. As the players got more ramped up, I think speed became a little bit of a hindrance for him. At the same time, he did great. He's going to go down to Iowa, and he's going to be a great leader for that team."
That sets Malone up to be eligible to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, which was part of his plan all along.
With the roster down to 24 players, the Wild need to make at least one more cut before the Oct. 5 season opener at Detroit.
Players still fighting for roster spots are forwards Joel Eriksson Ek, Luke Kunin and Daniel Winnik, and defensemen Gustav Olofsson, Mike Reilly and Ryan Murphy.
It's become a daily question at training camp: Will Zach Parise be on the ice?
Well, on Friday afternoon, he was not.
Parise is still dealing with lingering back issues, and while the team is hopeful he will be ready for the season opener, it's starting to seem unlikely considering he still hasn't be cleared for full contact.
"There's no real update except for he keeps getting better and better," Boudreau said. "Hopefully by practice Monday we'd like to see him go full-bore on the ice."
As for the other players with bumps and bruises, both Matt Cullen and Matt Dumba are expected to return to the lineup for today's preseason finale at home against the Dallas Stars.
Cullen has been limited with an undisclosed injury, while Dumba has been dealing with what general manager Chuck Fletcher referred to as a "tweaked" ankle.
With the NHL cracking down on slashing calls and face-off violations in the preseason, there has been an uptick in penalty minutes league wide.
"I hate it," Boudreau said. "We all do. It's the new standard, so we have to abide by the new standards."
Perhaps the biggest criticism from players and coaches is the disruption of the flow of the game.
Mikko Koivu, for example, was kicked out of the faceoff circle 10 times during Thursday's 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues.
"We looked at the clips," Boudreau said. "We actually sent them into the league to find out what he's doing wrong so we can correct it because it didn't look like he was doing anything wrong to me."