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Cautious Falk finds eye shield valuable

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO
  • Star Tribune
  • November 20, 2011 - 12:21 AM

After seeing so many close calls lately to himself and teammates, Justin Falk figured it's better to be safe than sorry.

So the Wild defenseman made the decision to put on a visor before Thursday's game against the Colorado Avalanche. If he had not, Falk "would have taken a forearm shiver to the grill."

Midway through the third period, Avalanche forward David Jones nailed Falk with a leaping blow to the face as Falk tried to catch a puck inside the Wild blue line.

The evidence left was a fiery red bruise underneath Falk's left eye from the visor he had coincidentally just put on.

"I'm lucky because I got my bell rung pretty good," said Falk.

Falk put on the visor because he took a high stick above the right eye in the third period the game before against Columbus. In that same game, teammate Nick Schultz was hit by a slapshot up high, and that came one game after Devin Setoguchi took a slapshot to the face in Anaheim.

"As D-men, we're down on one knee blocking shots and pucks are whizzing by everywhere, guys are shooting upstairs," Falk said. "It's just not worth the risk. I had laser eye surgery two summers ago so I can see and I'm supposed to keep the visor on.

"I played last year [in Houston] with her on and I was fine. I figure they're going to grandfather in visors in a year or two anyways, so I might as well put it on now and get back used to it. I don't want to be that guy who loses his sight."

Kyle Brodziak, Brad Staubitz, Warren Peters and Clayton Stoner are the only Wild players who don't wear visors.

Falk is disappointed the NHL didn't discipline Jones or, for that matter, teammate Erik Johnson for his attempted elbow to Matt Cullen's face in the final seconds.

"Maybe if I came out of it in worse shape it wouldn't have been passed over," Falk said. "Like Cully's incident, I mean, you can't get that reckless. You've got to have respect for your opponents in the league you're playing against. It's serious stuff."

Scandella skates

Defenseman Marco Scandella missed his fourth game because of a concussion Saturday against St. Louis. But he participated fully in the morning skate and is close to a return -- maybe Wednesday against Nashville.

"He's hungry and anxious to get back in the lineup," coach Mike Yeo said.

Concussed Wild players Guillaume Latendresse and Marek Zidlicky continue to be shut down.

"Every day ... hopefully you hear some good news, but I haven't heard a whole lot yet," Yeo said.

Breather for Backstrom

Yeo decided to start Josh Harding against the Blues -- surprising only because Niklas Backstrom was 4-0-1 in his past six appearances (five starts) with a .960 save percentage.

"Backs has played a lot of hockey, he's played great," Yeo said. "It's a good opportunity for him to get a little rest. Hards has done a great job for us. There's one game in L.A. I'm sure he'd love to have back [four goals in 32 minutes].

"But that was not just one guy's fault. That was a teamwide effort. So let's give him a chance to respond."

Before losing against the Kings last Saturday, Harding's fourth consecutive victory was Nov. 5, a 30-save effort against St. Louis.

Etc.

• Cullen was delighted his alma mater, St. Cloud State, beat the Gophers 4-3 in the front end of a home-and-home Friday. "That probably won't ever change," Cullen said of rooting for the Huskies to beat the Gophers. "I try to follow St. Cloud as much as possible. It's a loud barn, eh? They don't get much louder."

• The Wild reassigned defenseman Kris Fredheim after Saturday's game.

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