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Michael Russo gives you complete coverage of the Minnesota Wild and the NHL

Wild's Dumba might return Tuesday; Boudreau on Graovac's recall

The Wild practiced at Ridder Arena this morning, and here are the updates.

1) The lines and D pairs I guessed on the previous blog came into fruition:

Niederreiter-Staal-Coyle

Zucker-Koivu-Granlund

Parise-Haula-Pominville

Stewart-Graovac-Schroeder

Suter-Spurgeon

Olofsson-Brodin

Scandella-Dumba

Prosser-Folin

The fourth pair indicates the scratches if Matt Dumba can return from injury Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks. Coach Bruce Boudreau said the medical staff will decide if Dumba's injury is such that he can play Tuesday or if another six days off would be smarter (remember, the Wild's five-day bye begins Wednesday).

Boudreau said he was "really pleasantly surprised" by Brodin's game against Nashville. "I didn’t know what to expect after 14 games missed. I didn’t know if it would take time to get going or how apprehensive he felt about shooting the puck and getting involved."

But Boudreau liked the way he played with Olofsson, so as I indicated this morning, it would make sense to keep Olofsson, who played 19 1/2 minutes against the Preds, in the lineup and take Folin out. Folin was minus-2 against Nashville (one goal was hardly his fault) and the Hawks aren't an agitating the team the way Nashville is.

2) Graovac. Definitely seems to be a disconnect here. Graovac said he got little feedback from the team when he was placed on waivers, was left in the dark and he was shocked.

As I've mentioned before, Boudreau seems to be at his wit's end with Graovac and his play, but wanting to play Erik Haula in an elevated role against Chicago, Graovac is the next center on the depth chart if Haula's going to center the third line.

Boudreau said, "We sat out [Jordan] Schroeder two games ago and he's come back and played two really strong games. So getting sent down and being recalled hopefully that will push a button for him to play like he did for the first 10 games when he was up."

Graovac said, "I think with any professional athlete no one is really that good without their confidence. You see anybody on this team, when they have confidence, they do really well. That was a big thing going down to Iowa. To get some confidence back and try and build moving forward."

On being put on waivers, Graovac said, "Yeah, I was shocked. I was shocked. There wasn't much reason for it. There wasn't much feedback to be honest. I was kind of left a little bit in the dark. You go with it. I'm just here to do the best I can and be as professional as I can. I look forward to tomorrow."

On if he feels he has to prove he's deserving of this spot to keep the Wild from acquiring a forward at next Wednesday's trade deadline, Graovac said, "It's trying to create my own personal bubble right now. I think that's the biggest thing for everybody moving forward toward the playoffs. Obviously I want to go out there and prove to him that he can trust me in situations if I'm put in them. I don't know what the plan is. They haven't told me anything. It's just staying in that bubble and being the best Tyler Graovac that I can be. Especially tomorrow.

"I don't know if this is part of the process or not. I know Bruce is very old school in a way. He's told me as a younger guy that they all go through this. My main goal right now is to be the best player I can be. I'm definitely going to be a little more aggressive tomorrow."

A week ago, Boudreau indicated he didn't feel comfortable putting Graovac on the ice in defensive-zone roles against top lines. I asked Boudreau if he has to talk to Graovac about that, and he said, "Quite frankly, ... I will talk to him. But I shouldn't have to talk to him about anything. If I'm a guy getting called up I want to be good in all three zones, I want to be physical, I want to score, I want to do it all. I'm sure he wants to prove a point that he belongs here full time. That's what we're hoping for."

3) On Alex Tuch, sent back to Iowa yesterday, Boudreau said after reviewing his ice time deployment against Nashville, he realized it wasn't fair to Tuch to only play him 7:33 and that if he continued to only feel he could play him that little, it would be putting the kid in a "position to fail rather than a position to succeed" and his confidence would dip in a hurry."

So, get him back to Iowa where he can play in a big role.

That's it for now. Tuesday's article is a more detailed look at what I was talking about on my previous blog.

I'll be on KFAN Tuesday morning at 9:35 a.m. and on Fox Sports North Tuesday night.

Next Russo-Souhan Show is at Hell's Kitchen at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Last show before the trade deadline, so please join us.

Graovac recalled from Iowa; Wild's lineup experimenting worked

GM Chuck Fletcher always asserts that recalls and reassignments often occur after he asks the coaches what lineup they want to ice against a particular team.

That could explain this morning's recall of center Tyler Graovac, whose play was so not up to snuff a week ago, the Wild risked losing him on waivers simply to come up with a new recipe (Fletcher's word) for a fourth line coach Bruce Boudreau admitted he didn't trust against opposing top lines in the defensive zone.

But with one game before the five-day bye and the Wild hosting the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night, the Wild recalled Graovac from AHL Iowa this morning after reassigning Alex Tuch yesterday.

Why?

Practice isn't until 11, but my guess: Despite the Erik Haula-centered fourth line being one of the Wild's best lines since Haula moved into that role with Graovac's departure, Boudreau likely wants two trusted defensive lines going up against the lines of Artem Anisimov and Jonathan Toews on Tuesday.

Upgrading Haula, who usually plays well against the Blackhawks, and giving the speedy center a regular shift would give Boudreau that along with the "shutdown line" of Mikko Koivu's trio (a shutdown line that shuts down by lighting other teams up, typically, as Kent Youngblood wrote today here).

Also, the Zach Parise-Charlie Coyle-Alex Tuch line was, analytically, the Wild's worst in its win vs. Nashville.

So, I'd guess Coyle moves back to wing against the Blackhawks.

Most interesting: Remember when Boudreau told me in Winnipeg earlier this month that he planned to use this month with lineup experimentation to see what the Wild most needs going into the March 1 trade deadline?

The Wild's 5-1-1 since, meaning Boudreau and Fletcher were able to accomplish this task for the most part without losing any ground in its hope of winning the West.

What has the Wild learned, in my opinion?

-- Gustav Olofsson, albeit a small sample size, is pretty doggone poised and could likely be trusted in the postseason. That could give Fletcher options going into the trade deadline if it wants to trade one of his defensemen.

-- Jonas Brodin can be trusted playing the right side if needed.

-- Tuch is not NHL ready, meaning the Wild probably needs to acquire another forward at the deadline. Fletcher has options there, too.

-- Get a winger, Coyle can be moved to center. Get a center, and Coyle can be moved back to right wing and Haula can play third- or fourth-line center depending on the type of center acquired.

Like I said, practice is at 11.

I'd think we'll see a very motivated Graovac tomorrow night. I do think the Wild will send Graovac (won't need waivers again until 10 games and 30 days) and maybe even Olofsson down after tomorrow's game just for the five-day bye to save cap space.

We'll also find out at practice if Matt Dumba may return tomorrow vs. the Hawks.

The big question if he comes back: Does the Wild take Olofsson out and move Brodin back to the left side or does the Wild keep Olofsson-Brodin intact, play a Marco Scandella-Dumba third pair and take Christian Folin out?

Against the Hawks, it may be the latter. In the playoffs and against heavy teams, Folin comes in handy. He was one of the first defensemen in to protect Devan Dubnyk consistently the other night against Nashville, and the Wild will need that size and courage down the stretch and maybe at times in the postseason.

But Wild-Hawks games always have a different makeup. Not a lot of hate there.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Chicago at Wild

    7 pm on NBCSN, 100.3-FM

  • Minnesota United FC at Toronto FC (preseason)

    2 pm

  • Gophers men's basketball at Maryland

    7:30 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Purdue at Gophers women's basketball

    8 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Tampa Bay at Twins (spring training)

    6:05 pm on 96.3-FM

  • Dallas at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, ESPN, 830-AM

  • Wisconsin at Gophers men's hockey

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, 1500-AM

  • Twins at Boston (spring training)

    12:05 pm on 96.3-FM

  • Penn State at Gophers men's basketball

    2 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Wisconsin at Gophers men's hockey

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, 1500-AM

  • Timberwolves at Houston

    8 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Gophers women's basketball at Maryland

    11 am on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Minnesota United FC vs. San Antonio

    11:30 am

  • Washington at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm on 96.3-FM

  • Miami at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm

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