As I walked over to Zach Parise’s stall after tonight’s game in Columbus, Parise removed the knee brace off his right leg and spiked it in his equipment bag.
I said, “It didn’t seem to restrict you tonight.” Parise made an exasperated face and said, “Throw it in the garbage.”
Oh, just an fyi: Parise just had a hat trick (his second of the season, fourth of his career and 20th in Wild history) and was plus-4 in the Wild’s 4-2 victory.
Imagine how many goals he would have scored if he didn’t have that knee brace on, I suppose.
But this morning, Parise told me, “It’s tough to get used to them. They slide down a lot. But it’s at the point: Wear the brace and deal with it or keep reinjuring it. That’s the dilemma. I don’t want to make the excuse that it’s slowing me down or I can’t crossover, but I don’t like wearing it.”
Evening from Nationwide Arena, where a Zamboni is currently circling an ice surface that seemed to make pucks bounce, hop over sticks or plainly stick to the ice all night long.
But the Wild came away victorious in a game that had a wild finish – three goals in the last 57 seconds, a Parise empty-netter and an NHL record-tying two goals in two seconds by Boone Jenner and Mikael Granlund.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the goals tied the league record of :02 set by the Bruins and Blues on Dec. 19, 1987. But because there are no fractions in the NHL record book, these goals 1.7 seconds apart will go down as 2 seconds. On the center-ice faceoff after the Jenner goal, Ryan Johansen, who tried hard but still seems to be fighting it right now, whiffed. Granlund didn’t.
Granlund, who assisted on Parise’s first two goals, sliced the loose puck right at the faceoff dot all the way to the open net and turned an under 5.5 into an over 5.5 (sorry, I just had to look up the over-under to see if the gamblers out there may have gotten killed because it went from a 2-1 game with a minute left to a 4-2 game at the conclusion).
Of course, the big news of the night is Mikko Koivu. The Wild’s captain, leading scorer and first-line center was hurt on his second shift of the game just 1:13 in. He was checked hard by defenseman David Savard at the goal line, fell awkwardly and slid toward the end boards before crashing hard. It looked to me like the upper back, base of the neck and the back of his right shoulder took the brunt of the impact.
He got up under his own power, skated slowly to the bench while slumped over, had a couple words for a couple heckling Blue Jackets and sat on the bench. But soon after, Koivu left the bench with no obvious sign of what the injury was.
He was taken to a local-area hospital for “precautionary reasons,” released and he flew home with the team. The Wild didn’t disclose the injury and coach Mike Yeo said he’s “very hopeful” this won’t be long-term.
If Koivu’s sidelined, Charlie Coyle would likely move back to center full-time along with fellow pivots Granlund, Erik Haula and Jarret Stoll. Coyle, Granlund and Haula all stepped up with 58 ½ minutes of no Koivu Tuesday. This could also open the door to Tyler Graovac, back playing in Iowa after an early-season sports hernia, eventually returning to the team.
Coyle had three shots and three hits tonight. Stoll had three of the Wild’s 23 blocked shots, Haula won 10 of 15 faceoffs and Granlund had a goal, two assists and was plus-3.
Ryan Suter was just awesome again. He had two assists, was plus-4 (same with Parise and Jared Spurgeon and blocked five shots. Jonas Brodin blocked six. Devan Dubnyk made 29 saves. Since Dec. 1, Dubnyk has posted a 1.83 goals-against average and .940 save percentage, ranking fourth & tied for third respectively amongst NHL goalies with at least five starts in that span.
Couple other news items:
Nate Prosser has a hand injury that isn’t supposed to be serious, but former Buckeye and current Columbus resident Tyson Strachan made his Wild debut and played 14 solid shifts.
Also, goalie Darcy Kuemper, who missed the 2-1-1 road trip with a concussion, skated with Andy Ness and may take part in the Wild’s practice if it practices Wednesday. Yeo is worried about fatigue with his team right now after having so many games recently and with so many coming up, so at a maximum, I’d expect a very limited practice Wednesday unless he totally scraps it.
On the game, here are some quotes:
“Given the circumstances, pretty gutsy win by our guys.”
On what it was like without Koivu: “Everybody played with everybody. It was mass confusion on the bench. Amazing we didn’t take any too many men on the ice penalties … or not enough men on the ice penalties (laughed). It was a character win. I was concerned about this game just as far as fatigue coming into the game if we had a full lineup. Strachan did a good job. We were expecting Pross to play. He couldn’t go. Losing Mikko second shift into the game made it a greater challenge.”
On Parise’s hat trick after Parise hadn’t scored in six games since Dec. 19: “I knew that this was going to break for him.”
Suter’s great game: “For anybody to be tired, he certainly had an opportunity to use that excuse tonight, but he didn’t. Both ends of the ice, leading rushes, carrying pucks, the poise in D zone, his execution and his defensive play, rock solid.”
On what if Koivu’s out long-term: “Very hopeful that he won’t be. We’ve got guys that can play for us. Chuckie’s proven that, we know Haulzy can jump in there, very satisfied with Stolly and what he’s brought to the group. Granny last three, four games been real solid for him. Tonight, great game for him. Things happen and you have to be able to adjust and get through it.”
“Gutsy team win. We needed everybody tonight for sure. Feels good going home. Feels like a month on the road now.”
On the line changes without Koivu: “You don’t know who you’re going out with. We juggled lines all game. I think everyone played a little bit with everyone. Mikko plays a lot of important minutes for us, everyone played. The guys that played down the middle did a really good job.”
On the high cycle and then 4-on-4 goal to give Minnesota a 2-1 lead: “Awesome pass by Granlund. 7-foot high saucer pass. Really nice.”
On his first goal being reviewed on an offside coach’s challenge: “I had a bad feeling about that. You can’t disallow three in a week, you know what I mean? I had a bad feeling about it. I was relieved when they announced good goal. I’m thinking, ‘Here we go again, another one.’ Luckily it went our way.”
“Pretty gutsy by everyone around. Guys going down that early, lines are changing, kind of a cluster. Never know who’s going out, everyone’s playing with everyone, but we stuck with it, we played our game, we played hard and Dubs played big again.”
On the road trip: “We lose this game, it feels like a bad road trip. We win, we feel good heading back home. Gutsy performance by everyone.”
On if Koivu is out long-term: “Everyone’s got to pick up some slack. We’ve done that in the past when key players go out. We have guys that can do it.”
That’s it for me. Rachel Blount is supposed to cover practice Wednesday as long as the Wild doesn’t scrap it. The NHL is also announcing the All-Star teams Wednesday. It’ll likely be Suter or Dubnyk representing the Wild.
Do me a favor, if you’re religious, keep a woman named Regina in your thoughts and prayers. I sat next to her on a plane yesterday and I haven’t been able to get her health (terminal cancer) and life situation out of my head all day.
Just a tough, tough woman.