Blog Post by: Michael Russo
- February 7, 2013 - 12:33 PM
Mikael Granlund will be the odd man out for the Wild tonight in its game against Vancouver at the X.
The rookie forward hasn't missed a game yet, but has struggled lately.
Devin Setoguchi will be on the fourth line with tough guys Zenon Konopka and Mike Rupp, who makes his debut after coming from the Rangers in this week's trade. Charlie Coyle plays on the right side of Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu, while Dany Heatley plays on the right side of Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Matt Cullen.
Niklas Backstrom vs. Cory Schneider. Kevin Bieksa missed the morning skate with an illness. He is expected to play, but if he doesn't, hometown boy Andrew Alberts will make his season debut.
Also, according to KFAN's Joe Nelson, Alex Burrows left the morning skate in pain after taking a puck to his right hand. No update on Burrows' status right now.
Jared Spurgeon (foot) skated before the morning skate with strength coach Kirk Olson.
Good day from the X. At 2:20 CT, I’ll be on the Team 1260 in Ottawa. Check it out. Former Wild center Todd White will be interviewing ME for a change.
I’ll also be on NHL Live on NHL Network at 5:40 p.m., on Wild Live on Fox Sports North at 6:30 p.m. and on Fox Sports North during the first intermission tonight.
As far as Granlund, he is the odd man out because of numbers and because Rupp will make his Wild debut, but he met with coach Mike Yeo and was told he needs to be better, too.
This is just part of the development process for Granlund, who for the first time probably in his career is dealing with not being able to do exactly what he wants to do on the ice.
“I just need to be better. This is a tough league. All the best players in the world,” Granlund, 20, said. “[Being scratched is] not a place you want to me. You want to play every game. I think every player wants to play. All I can do now is work hard and try to get better.
“This is my first year here. I know now what kind of game it is. I just have to be better.
“This is a tough league. It’s not easy to play. It wasn’t easy to play in Europe, too. But here it’s more different. – better players, [less] ice. All I can do is work hard.
“That’s the biggest thing here. You don’t have that much space. You have to battle hard. There’s a lot of one-on-one battles. I know what it’s like now here and I just have to work on that on the ice.”
Yeo said they’ll keep an eye on Granlund’s confidence, but “I think it’s good for young players to have to work for everything that they get. Not to say that he hasn’t, but he’s never had to push through something like this. These kind of things make you stronger. And that’s what we want around here.”
Yeo did feel Granlund responded well by being put on the fourth line and playing wing at Phoenix, but by playing a few “less than average games,” he put himself in this position as well.
“It’s a learning process for him and one that we have to make sure we work with him every day and try to help him through.”
As far as Setoguchi on the fourth line, Yeo said he is a proven goal scorer and they want to give him the ability to work his way out of the doghouse.
“We’re not really giving him anything right now,” Yeo said. “We put him on the fourth line and as far as I’m concerned he responded really well [at Phoenix]. He’s in a similar position tonight and if he continues to do that, I’m confident he’ll work his way up.”
Yeo said he liked Mitchell’s game at Phoenix and the way the line played, drawing two penalties. Yeo said this is something the team has to do more of because it has drawn three power plays in the past two games.
On all the changes the last few days, Yeo said, “This is not about panicking. This is about everyday trying to get better. We have to find more balance scoring throughout our lineup and we have to find the right guys to complement each other.”
I saw Yeo have a conversation with Matt Kassian, who will be scratched in his 10th consecutive game tonight. Yeo said it was sort of a “tap on the shin pads” to say, “We haven’t forgotten about you. This guy’s got a phenomenal attitude.”
Asked why when the team needed to get bigger and tougher it opted for a trade rather than playing Kassian, Yeo said, “Rupper has got experience, for one thing. They’re different players, they’re different people. I think a lot of people would say they have similar roles, but it might look like that on the outside, but the reality is we brought Rupper in because of who he is and the way that he plays the game we think fits.
“We still really value [Kassian] and think he’s important. But it’s not one in the same, those two guys.”
I did talk to Kassian and as you’d expect, he said all the right things and that his heart is in Minnesota. Whether his future is in Minnesota remains to be seen though.
I talked to Jonas Brodin, who gets to go up against the Sedin Twins tonight with Ryan Suter. They’re famous in Brodin’s native Sweden, although Brodin says the most famous right now may be Daniel Alfredsson and Henrik Zetterberg.
On the Sedins, Brodin said, “They’re strong on the puck and good to protect the puck, so you can’t go too hard on them. You have to always be ready for them.”
Zenon Konopka then chimed in: “Then you have to figure out which is which. That’ll probably be the hardest part.”