ST. PAUL -- While every member of the Minnesota Wild will be battling for a starting job when training camp opens next month, one of the more intriguing battles will take place in front of the net.
Manny Fernandez, acquired in a trade from the Dallas Stars where he was a backup on a team that reached the Stanley Cup Finals, will be fighting Jamie McLennan, who spent last season as the St. Louis Blues' No. 2 goalie.
Fernandez went 11-8-3 last year with a 2.13 goals-against average while backing up Ed Belfour. McLennan was 9-5-2 with a 1.96 goals-against average while playing behind Roman Turek. Both are ecstatic about the chance to start.
"I think it's a great opportunity for me," Fernandez said. "I'll get to play."
McLennan, whose St. Louis team gave up the fewest shots in the NHL last season, faces a major adjustment. The Wild's inexperienced defensemen won't be nearly as proficient as his Blues teammates were and he may face as many as 35 or 40 shots a game.
McLennan said the hailstorm of pucks might actually help him. His reasoning: He'll stay sharper if the Wild offense doesn't have the puck on the other end of the ice much.
"It's tougher sometimes on a goalie, because you don't see as much work," McLennan said.
One might think Fernandez has an edge over McLennan because of family ties. Coach Jacques Lemaire is Fernandez's uncle. But Fernandez isn't looking for favoritism and doesn't expect to find any from the tough-minded Lemaire, who led the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup championship in 1995.
"It shouldn't feel different than any other coach. We're here to win," Fernandez said. "I know what he can do with a great team and I think he wants to make this team good right away."
McLennan said that in theory, at least, the Wild will start training camp with the goal of being Stanley Cup champs. But no expansion team has ever won a title and the Wild won't either. McLennan said expectations will be lowered appropriately.
"Our goals are smaller, like to have a good training camp, a good first week, a good first month," he said. "We'll take small steps and build on them."
ARENA UPDATE: If you have a ticket to the Wild home opener Oct. 11 vs. the Flyers, team officials want you to know that you won't have to nail down your seat yourself.
About 500 engineers, technicians, plumbers, electricians and other specialists are busy preparing for the Xcel Energy Center's debut. Another 100 or so will be brought in next month to expedite the process, said Allen Troshinsky, who is overseeing construction for Mortenson/Thor, the company hired to build the arena.
Workers started installing seats last week and that task should be done by the end of next week. The ice-making equipment was tested this week -- it worked fine -- and the first full sheet of ice will be made at the end of August.
The five team locker rooms, four individual dressing rooms for performers, coaches' room, officials' locker room, concession stands and the two massive kitchens are getting their finishing touches this month.
Wild officials visited every NHL arena and picked the best features from each and as a result, fans should be impressed when they enter the building for the first time, Troshinsky said.
"(Wild owner) Bob Naegele was very conscious about the feeling of the building," Troshinsky said.
What will really dazzle spectators are some of the amenities, such as the two cigar lounges -- one with a real fireplace -- the wide concourses with a view of the St. Paul Cathedral on one side, the barstools behind the seats where fans can socialize or conduct business and the clear sightlines, even from the nosebleed seats on the ends.
"It's the Wild's view from ownership on down, to make this the most fan-friendly and accommodating building in North America," said Wild vice president Bill Robertson. "We feel that this will be the hockey destination point for the Upper Midwest region."
TV SCHEDULE RELEASED: The Wild released its television schedule on Wednesday, announcing that 25 games will be televised by KMSP-TV, channel 9 in the Twin Cities and Fox Sports Net will show 50 games. ESPN will show one game.
That leaves six games that won't be televised. The Wild isn't concerned that those six games won't be available to TV viewers, Robertson said, because the 76 other televised games creates one of the more comprehensive broadcast packages among NHL expansion teams.
"I would say this is a big moment for our franchise," Robertson said. "We believe we're going to be sold out on a regular basis, so we wanted more fans to view the Wild on television."
KMSP will televise 12 home and 13 road games and Fox Sports Net will show 24 games in St. Paul and 26 on the road. Fox will show the Wild's inaugural game, Oct. 6 in Anaheim. KMSP will televise the inaugural home game, Oct. 11 vs. Philadelphia.
The Wild's March 14 home game against St. Louis will be on ESPN.
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