The Wild is hoping that old cliché of third time’s a charm proves to be true.
For just the third game this season, the Wild was at full strength against the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday at Xcel Energy Center. Winger Nino Niederreiter was the final holdout; a left ankle bone bruise has caused him to miss the past eight games. The same injury also kept him out for five games in late December and early January.
“Just kind of recover and get healthy and let it heal,” Niederreiter said of his recovery. “It’s over and over again. Now I’m happy to get back on the ice. Hopefully, it’s going to be all good.”
Niederreiter admitted he felt like he had to play through the pain when he made his first comeback Jan. 4. Those two other games where the Wild had everyone available were a bit of a grab bag. The team beat Buffalo 6-2 at home and then lost 7-2 at Colorado on Jan. 6.
But Niederreiter did score a hat trick against Buffalo. So maybe this comeback will be just as fruitful.
“Hopefully, Nino’s not too rusty,” coach Bruce Boudreau said before the game.
Niederreiter skated on center Eric Staal’s line, opposite left winger Tyler Ennis. Boudreau said Niederreiter and Staal were successful when paired up last season, so he’s looking to reignite that.
“Obviously, playing with Staalsy, I know exactly what I’m going to get with him,” Niederreiter said. “He’s such a great skater. He’s a simple player and takes it to the net. Same with Ennis. He likes to take it to the net. Just have to find a way to get there.”
Defenseman Mike Reilly didn’t downplay the possibility of being traded. The 24-year-old most recently played Jan. 10, sitting six games in favor of 23-year-old defenseman Gustav Olofsson, who played pretty well in the stretch.
The pair have traded off decently long stretches of playing time, and with the Feb. 26 trade deadline on the horizon, something might be giving way.
“It seems like me and Gustav have been switching in and out. It sounds like maybe it’s kind of got to be one or the other a little bit,” Reilly said. “I mean, we’ve sat out a couple games at a time, and I feel like if you’re sitting out more than six, seven games, that probably gets tough and don’t want to be in that situation.
‘‘So, yeah, obviously there’s moving parts. But I mean, me and Gustav, we want to play and we kind of realize we’re competing against each other.
“Anything can happen,” he said. “See where it goes here. It’s my time right now … and then go from there.”
Boudreau said Reilly is more offensively-oriented than Olofsson, so he was looking forward to adding that aspect in against Vegas. He said with seven defensemen on the roster, he tries not to have one player out for too long, even when the chosen two practice hard in the interim.
“It’s not the easiest thing, but mentally I know I can play. I just need a chance, an opportunity,” Reilly said. “I liked my game leading up to when I was getting scratched. It’s just me or Gustav. It’s the reality of the situation. But he played great when he played the last couple games, and we talk a lot every day and help each other out.
“It’s going to be good to get back in,” Reilly said. “It’s been awhile, so I feel fresh.”
Super Bowl festivities
With the Super Bowl taking over the metro area this week, several Wild players have seized the opportunity to explore.
Reilly said he and a few teammates went out to dinner in downtown Minneapolis on Thursday night and walked the setup on Nicollet Mall. They even spotted celebrities Dan Marino, Tim Tebow and Aaron Rodgers.
Defensemen Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin Instagrammed their way through the Super Bowl Experience at the Minneapolis Convention Center on Thursday. Both weren’t too shabby at throwing spirals and kicking field goals.
“An absolute blast. It was a great time,” Dumba said. “So much to do there, and we had a lot of fun. I think if you haven’t been, and especially if you’re anywhere near downtown Minneapolis, you’ve got to go. It’s really cool.”
Dumba said the team probably will congregate at someone’s house to watch the big game. Niederreiter said he’s going to the game, and forward Charlie Coyle, who’s from the Boston area, said he’s still holding out hope of being there in person.
His teammate Zach Parise had some tickets and sold them when the Vikings bowed out, but apparently Coyle’s looking for the cheaper option.
“Those are pretty pricey. I think I’m not that die-hard to pay that much money,” Coyle said. “So if any freebies come up, I’ll gladly take them.”
Goaltender Devan Dubnyk said with a newborn at home, he hasn’t been out much. And the thought of navigating downtown with all the traffic and street closure seems “overwhelming.”
And that might actually win him some bonus points with the coach. Boudreau wasn’t too pleased about how some of his players spent the two days in between games this week.
“It’s something I don’t want to hear,” Boudreau said.