Dane Mizutani / St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL — After playing well in a 5-2 victory over the rival Chicago Blackhawks last week, Wild defenseman Mike Reilly was rewarded with a demotion to the minors. Such is life for the only waiver-exempt blue liner on a team ravaged by injuries up front. "I was definitely very disappointed," said Reilly, a former star at Holy Angels in Richfield and with the Gophers. "I'd say most of it is out of my control. ... It's not so much to do with me. It's just a unique situation." Indeed.
ST. PAUL — Darby Hendrickson hasn't played in the NHL in more than a decade, yet there he was skating with the Wild during practice at St. Thomas Ice Arena on Monday, Oct. 15. This is what it's come to for the cap-strapped Wild so early in the season. Already without Mikael Granlund (groin), Charlie Coyle (broken right fibula), Nino Niederreiter (sprained left ankle), and Marcus Foligno (broken facial bone), the Wild needed a 45-year-old assistant coach to suit up to run a full practice.
ST. PAUL — It looks like Zach Parise's return to the Wild lineup might have to be put on hold. Parise left practice Monday, Oct. 16, at St. Thomas Ice Arena after only about 20 minutes following a session in which players went through intense one-on-one drills. "I talked briefly with (general manager) Chuck (Fletcher) and he said it was setback," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I don't know how much of a setback or anything."
CHICAGO — It didn't take long for big-bodied Marcus Foligno to realize there was something different about the culture of his new team. Whether it was the motivational quotes coach Bruce Boudreau has plastered on the walls of the Wild locker room, or the Stanley Cup expectations heading into the season, it was very clear to the 26-year-old that he wasn't in Buffalo anymore.
ST. PAUL — No Zach Parise. No Mikael Granlund. No problem? Not exactly. With both players injured and out for the Thursday, Oct. 12, measuring-stick game against the rival Blackhawks in Chicago, the Wild are down to 11 healthy forwards on the roster, leaving them short-handed up front for the second consecutive game. They were forced to fill the hole in the lineup with extra defensemen in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. The reason for that is money. Or lack thereof.
ST. PAUL — Mikael Granlund's groin injury will keep him on the shelf a little longer than expected. "I think Granny is going to miss the next four games," coach Bruce Boudreau said Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 10, less than 24 hours after saying he hoped it was a short-term injury. "It's a day at a time with him." That means Granlund will miss Thursday's road game against the Chicago Blackhawks, the home opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night, plus the two-game road trip against the Winnipeg Jets and the Calgary Flames next weekend.
RALEIGH, N.C. — Matt Cullen breathed a sign of relief when Jaromir Jagr signed a one-year deal with the Calgary Flames on Oct. 4. That meant the seemingly immortal Jagr, 45, remains the NHL's oldest player. Otherwise, it's Cullen, 40. "I was pretty happy about that," Cullen said with a smile. Make no mistake, though, Cullen is the old man of the Wild locker room. He's six years older than Mikko Koivu, the team's second-oldest player, and rookie Joel Eriksson Ek, 20, was 10 months old when Cullen made his NHL debut with the Anaheim Ducks.
ST. PAUL — Since aggravating his back before the start of training camp, Zach Parise has been more or less a recluse. A perfect example of that came Wednesday morning, Oct. 4, as the Wild finalized preparations before the season opener against the Red Wings on Thursday night in Detroit. Parise skated alone in an empty Xcel Energy Center about an hour before the rest of his teammates hit the ice. He retreated to the locker room shortly after he was finished, presumably to get more treatment, before heading home for the day.
ST. PAUL — There's a moment that sticks out when former Minnesota Wild fan favorite Wes Walz thinks about the magical 2002-03 season. And, no, it's not Andrew Brunette's overtime game-winner in Game 7 of the first-round series against the Colorado Avalanche. Walz remembers something else because, as he puts it, if he and his teammates had their way back then, they wouldn't have played the Avalanche at all.
ST. PAUL—Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau admittedly isn't a master of the salary cap. Asked after the final preseason game—a 5-1 win over the Dallas Stars—whether the team can afford to keep both Joel Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin, the coach quipped, "Listen, I failed math in Grade 2, so I don't know what we can do or what we can't do." "I'm sure (general manager) Chuck (Fletcher) does," Boudreau added. "I'm sure he'll figure it all out."