Three games in, Matt Dumba hasn't played a game yet. But that doesn't mean sticking around the Wild, as opposed to immediately going back to his junior team, is a bad thing for a wide-eyed 18-year-old defenseman.
"He's participating in practices, he's participating in warmup," coach Mike Yeo said. "For a guy like that to be around NHL players and not only have the chance to skate and practice with them, but to also see how they prepare and how they conduct themselves, it's been very valuable to him."
Dumba, who plays for Red Deer of the Western Hockey League, is ineligible to play in the American Hockey League because he is too young. But he outperformed Houston defensemen during the Wild's short training camp.
So with only six healthy defensemen, the Wild opted to keep Dumba as it waits for Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella to return to Houston's lineup. Brodin, who underwent surgery for a broken clavicle in November, might play Wednesday. Scandella, who has a groin injury, might play Friday.
So while Dumba might be an injury away from making his NHL debut (Jared Spurgeon did miss part of Tuesday's game because of a foot injury, but X-rays were negative), the likelihood is he will eventually end up back in Red Deer once Brodin or Scandella is ready for Minnesota.
"If there comes a time where we don't feel we need him around or if we feel it's not helping his development, then we'll make that decision," Yeo said.
If Dumba, the Wild's 2012 first-round draft pick, plays fewer than six games, the first year of his contract rolls and he will remain on a three-year deal.
"With his ability to skate, to shoot, to jump in the offense, to play physical, he's got all the physical tools to be a dynamic player," assistant GM Brent Flahr said. "We've got to be patient in our expectations though."
In the meantime, the Wild believes Dumba's stay in Minnesota, no matter how long or short it might end up being, can only build his confidence.
"You go from being cut from [Canada's] world junior team -- whether that was right or wrong -- and maybe second-guessing certain things to coming here and playing with NHL players, all of a sudden you realize you're not far away," Flahr said. "This is a great experience for him."
Facing -- or not -- old friends
Because the West is only playing the West in this 48-game season, Ryan Suter joked that it's a little unfair that Zach Parise doesn't have to play New Jersey this season.
Suter played Nashville on Tuesday for the first time since signing with the Wild last summer.
During a large news conference Tuesday morning, Wild teammate Zenon Konopka brought some comic relief by yelling, "They didn't want ya, Suts. Didn't want ya."
The Predators also come to Minnesota on Feb. 9. The Wild doesn't play in Nashville until March 9 -- a game Suter knows will be a "challenge."
"Very passionate fans there," Suter said.
Palmieri finally reports
Nick Palmieri reported with the Aeros on Tuesday in Milwaukee after initially refusing to report after he didn't make the Wild last week.
"Do you think Stephane Veilleux and Jake Dowell were excited to be put on waivers and be sent to Houston?" GM Chuck Fletcher said. "Things change quickly. That's what I said to all those guys. Best thing to do is get down, get playing and make sure your game is where you want it to be so when something happens, you give yourself the best chance to come back here."
Still, after last summer's contract dispute with the Wild, there's a very good chance Palmieri is on the trading block.