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Wild demote top prospect Marco Rossi, Matt Boldy to miss 4-to-6 weeks as roster is set

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Minnesota Wild right wing Brandon Duhaime (65) drives past Colorado Avalanche defenseman Jack Johnson In the second period of an NHL hockey preseason game Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

One of the more difficult decisions for Wild general manager Bill Guerin and coach Dean Evason as they considered final roster cuts was expected to be whether winger Matthew Boldy would stick with the big club or begin the season at Iowa of the AHL.

In the end, it was taken out of their hands late in the Wild’s preseason game against Chicago on Thursday when Boldy suffered what turned out to be a fractured left ankle that will keep him out four-to-six weeks. The Wild made the announcement about Boldy’s injury on Saturday morning.

Hours later, the team assigned center Marco Rossi, left winger Adam Beckman and defenseman Calen Addison to Iowa and recalled goaltender Andrew Hammond. Right winger Brandon Duhaime was able to win the final forward spot — at least for now. The Wild roster is now at 23 players, but it’s really 22 because Hammond will be demoted again. Hammond was recalled for the Wild’s preseason finale on Saturday in Chicago because Cam Talbot will miss the game as he deals with a personal matter.

While Rossi is one of the Wild’s top prospects and Beckman had an outstanding training camp (four goals in four games), Duhaime mixes speed with toughness and is the type of player the Wild will feel comfortable playing in the bottom six.

Guerin made it clear entering training camp that he had no interest in keeping Boldy or Rossi around if they weren’t going to get top six minutes. His feeling was both would benefit more from seeing extensive action at Iowa, rather than being limited time in Minnesota.

Rossi centered the fourth line in Thursday’s game — a 3-2 Wild overtime victory — and showed an impressive display of skill and a willingness to go to the front of the net and make plays along the boards. He will one day be the Wild’s top center, at least if things go as expected, but for now he will get more experience in the minors and also a chance to get significant ice time after missing almost all of last season because of a heart condition caused by COVID-19.

One thing to keep an eye on is center-turned-winger Victor Rask’s role. He was used on a fifth line that included Rossi and Beckman during Friday’s practice and Duhaime skated with the fourth line alongside Nico Sturm and right winger Nick Bjugstad. Rask could open the season sitting in the press box, if Duhaime is seen as a more valuable presence on the fourth line.

Former Gopher Rem Pitlick, recently picked up off waivers from Nashville, was the Wild’s third-line left winger with center Frederick Gaudreau and Kevin Fiala in practice. Rask and Boldy both had turns at that spot during the Wild’s preseason games at Xcel Energy Center.

The Wild’s decision to demote the 21-year-old Addison falls into the same line of thinking that was used with Rossi. Guerin and Evason likely would prefer to see Addison playing on the top defensive pairing in Iowa instead of being the sixth defenseman, or a healthy scratch, with the Wild. The sixth defensemen will be either Jon Merrill or Jordie Benn. Both are veterans who were signed as free agents this offseason.

The Wild will open the regular season on Friday night in Anaheim.