Center Erik Haula, who has a team-high 21 points in 27 games since John Torchetti took over as Wild coach, is expected to return to the lineup Saturday in Game 2 against the Dallas Stars.
Haula missed Thursday’s 4-0 loss to the Dallas Stars with a lower-body injury. That was the Wild's sixth straight loss with six total goals scored in that span.
While it was clear watching Friday’s practice that Haula isn’t 100 percent, the Wild’s hoping Haula’s speed and offensive ability between Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville creates a threat that was missing Thursday.
“It’s frustrating to watch up top,” Haula said. “You want to be out there and helping your teammates and you can’t. I’m ready to go. I’m excited.”
What did Haula learn from watching?
“I feel like we lost opportunities to hold onto pucks and create in the neutral zone,” he said. “If we can just get in their zone and have the puck, be in there more than five seconds and create shots off that, that’s a key thing. They’re going to get their chances, they’re going to get offense, but we’ve just got to stick with it for 60 minutes and play the same way and make it really hard on them to get pucks into open ice.”
Haula indicated that the Wild planned to get together as a team later Friday.
“It’s a challenge. We came here for a split and I think everyone should just be positive and create a positive environment just overall everywhere of being able to accomplish the goal,” he said.
Since Round 2 of the 2003 playoffs, the Wild has dropped Game 1 nine of 10 times. Of the previous eight, the Wild evened the series twice. Since 2003-04, the Wild’s 4-16-6 in Dallas, its worst record in any road arena.
The Wild was without Devan Dubnyk in Friday’s practice. A 39-year-old former minor-league goalie named Kenny Carroll manned one of the cages. Carroll told me he actually was in the Wild’s first training camp on a tryout 16 years ago. He now runs one of the Stars’ Dr Pepper rinks here in Texas.
Torchetti said Dubnyk was just off the ice for maintenance reasons. Of course, he used the same word for Zach Parise and Haula. Parise hasn’t been seen since and Haula missed Game 1.
So I suppose there’s a chance Darcy Kuemper is called into duty Saturday. I saw Torchetti and Kuemper having a chat after today’s availability.
Torchetti shook up the lines today. Mikael Granlund moved from center to left wing on a new line with Mikko Koivu and David Jones. Charlie Coyle, who has no goals in the last 19 games, moved from right wing to center on a new line with struggling Jason Zucker and Justin Fontaine.
Jarret Stoll centered Ryan Carter and Chris Porter, the Wild’s most physical player Thursday with six hits.
Torchetti did a lot of film work before Friday’s practice. He specifically highlighted 18 neutral-zone turnovers he found from Thursday’s game.
“I think they understood the message. We beat ourselves,” Torchetti said.
From Dallas’ side, Tyler Seguin practiced again today and it certainly sounds like he’ll return Saturday. We’ll see if they rest him another few days though.
Talk to you Saturday. I'll also be on KFAN at 11:35 a.m. Saturday.
The next two Russo-Souhan Shows are 4 p.m. at Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub on Monday and Wednesday before Games 3 and 4.