Wild rookie called up in time for free-for-all

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 9, 2011 - 1:51 AM

The 122 combined penalty minutes in the victory over the Oilers was a Wild record.

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EDMONTON, ALBERTA - One cool part of being the minor league general manager are the calls you get to make.

Jim Mill hands over some of that fun to Houston Aeros coach Mike Yeo sometimes, but this time, "I told Yeosie, 'This one's mine.'"

After four years at St. Lawrence University and five years in the minors, defenseman Drew Bagnall finally got the call he's long been waiting for.

"I asked, 'Are you ready to play in the show?'" Mill said, laughing. "He said, 'Darn right.'"

During the Wild's 3-1 victory to complete a six-game season-series sweep of the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night, Bagnall made his NHL debut at age 27.

"You always wish it happened sooner rather than later, but I'd rather it be later than never," Bagnall said before logging 16 minutes and 53 seconds during a gritty, hard-nosed performance.

The truth is the Wild wanted to reward Bagnall for being a good soldier in Houston, but rookie Justin Falk made it easier Thursday night. The 6-5 defenseman didn't react when Vancouver's Kevin Bieksa fell over Niklas Backstrom and Jannik Hansen popped Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who came back Dec. 1 after playing one game in 20 months because of postconcussion syndrome.

The message of sticking up for teammates was delivered to Falk when he was demoted for the tough Bagnall.

"When a team challenges you, sometimes you have to stand up for yourself ... and each other," coach Todd Richards said.

Bagnall, who impressed so much in training camp that he accompanied the team to its season-opening games in Finland as insurance, was glad the debut happened in Edmonton.

He trains in here, working out with Oilers conditioning coach Simon Bennett and attending Perry Pearn's development camp. He also met his fiancée, Kristyn, here.

"He's a warrior," Mill said. "He's the ultimate hard-to-play-against defenseman."

122 penalty minutes

The Wild may have had Edmonton's number, but the team was tired of the Oilers pushing it around in Edmonton. It had been that way in the previous two meetings, which included fighter Zack Stortini, who's now in the minors, jumping non-pugilist Brent Burns.

So before Friday's first period was 10 minutes old, the teams combined for 96 penalty minutes, including six majors, two game misconducts and four 10-minute misconducts. The 122 penalty minutes in the game by both teams is a Wild record.

"We kind of got that out of the way, let them know we were there to compete and not get bullied out of this barn," Wild forward Brad Staubitz said. "You don't forget what happened in the past."

The fighting began seven seconds in after Theo Peckham chirped before the opening faceoff. After Clayton Stoner was whipped in a one-sided bout, he also was given a game misconduct for not having his jersey tied down.

That left the Wild with five defensemen (three rookies) for the next 59:53. "That's not what you want," Richards said.

Staubitz fought J-F Jacques, then later was jumped by Steve MacIntyre after the Oiler went after Staubitz for his big hit on Magnus Paajarvi. The Wild wound up with a seven-minute power play and MacIntyre was ejected, yet MacIntyre felt, "Message had to be sent."

Cal Clutterbuck, back after a bout with food poisoning, was assessed a questionable five-minute boarding major on Peckham. That scrum led to 47 of the 100 first-period penalty minutes.

Good chemistry

The Wild might have unearthed a bona fide right winger to play with Mikko Koivu next season: Bouchard.

For the first time in a full 60 minutes this season, Richards tried to kickstart the offense by replacing Antti Miettinen with the playmaking Bouchard.

The result was instant chemistry, with Bouchard and Koivu each recording three assists.

Asked if Koivu and Bouchard could be a possible tandem next season, Richards said, "It could be. It's something to look at."

Brent Burns also ended a 17-game goal drought with his 17th goal, and Edmonton native Jared Spurgeon scored. His first NHL goal also came against his hometown Oilers.

Contract for Sheppard?

The Wild might not cut 2006 first-round draft pick James Sheppard loose this summer. For the first time in Sheppard's career, there's a way for him to play next season in the minors.

Sheppard, a restricted free agent who missed all season because of a broken kneecap, can be tendered a two-way contract in June because he played fewer than 180 games in the past three seasons and fewer than 60 this season.

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