VANCOUVER - With Greg Zanon and Guillaume Latendresse hampered by sore groins, the Wild called upon two reinforcements Saturday who filled in impressively.
Justin Falk made his season debut on the blue line, while Nick Johnson played for the first time in five games and was a constant threat during a 3-2 overtime loss to the Canucks.
Falk, 23, who had played 25 games the past two seasons, was paired with Marek Zidlicky and started against Daniel and Henrik Sedin, something that even caused coach Mike Yeo to laugh afterward.
"I've been really taking practice pretty serious the last few weeks here," said Falk, who played 22 minutes, 11 seconds and blocked four shots. "Practices are my games. I'm trying to stay sharp, so when I get a chance ... I'm able to step in and give some quality minutes to the team and contribute."
The last time Johnson played was Oct. 11 in Ottawa. He scored a big third-period goal. But with Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Brad Staubitz returning from suspensions, Johnson fell victim to a numbers game and was removed from the lineup.
Saturday, he showed no signs of rust. He had four shots, two hits, was a puck hound offensively and strong defensively, and he assisted on Kyle Brodziak's goal.
"I want to play," said Johnson. "I know I can help the team. It's obviously very frustrating when you're not playing, but I think we have a really good setup. I'm having a blast when I'm in, and I'm having a blast when I'm out.
"I just do what I can, and hopefully they like that."Delicious delivery
Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner received a flavorful care package from his father on Friday. Ken Stoner arrived in Vancouver with a huge Styrofoam cooler of halibut and smoked salmon for his son to take home to Minnesota.
Clayton Stoner and his dad caught the fish this summer near their hometown of Port McNeill, British Columbia -- the tippy top of Vancouver Island.
"There's more wildlife than people where we're from. It's pretty secluded," Stoner said. "Every year, the seafood is plentiful up our way, so he'll usually fly down and bring me a big cooler of stuff we caught, froze, freezer-packed and smoked ourselves."
Usually, the Wild's in and out of town and the fish will stay frozen until Stoner returns to Minnesota. This time, the Wild extended its trip because after Saturday's matinee, the team remained in Vancouver for the annual rookie dinner -- where the rookies buy the vets dinner.
With the Wild not departing until Sunday morning, "I've got [media relations coordinator Ryan] Stanzel tracking down a freezer at the hotel."Etc.
• Youngster Brett Bulmer, who grew up eight hours north of Vancouver in Prince George, was excited to play his first game against the Canucks. His parents, aunt and uncle and a couple of cousins and buddies made the trek south to watch him at Rogers Arena on Saturday. His father, Lance, and brother, Kyle, grew up Canucks fans, while Brett was an Oilers fan. "It's pretty cool, because it's in B.C., and that's where I grew up my whole life and spent all my years," said Bulmer, 19. With Latendresse out, Bulmer played the power play, created his usual smack-talking havoc and assisted on Brodziak's goal.
• Zidlicky had an assist, ending a six-game pointless streak.
• Zanon had played 252 of his previous 253 games.