Coach says Granlund's progress is obvious

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 26, 2013 - 11:14 PM

Even though he hasn't made the immediate impact Wild fans and even Wild brass expected, coach Mike Yeo is seeing improvement from the highly touted 2010 first-rounder.

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Even though Mikael Granlund (64) hasn't made the immediate impact Wild fans and even Wild brass expected, coach Mike Yeo is seeing improvement from the highly touted 2010 first-rounder.

Photo: Jason Franson, Associated Press

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Mikael Granlund turned 21 on Tuesday, and even though he hasn't made the immediate impact Wild fans and even Wild brass expected, coach Mike Yeo is seeing improvement from the highly touted 2010 first-rounder.

Granlund, back in the lineup Tuesday against Calgary after being a healthy scratch for the second time, has been mostly getting fourth-line duty after an eight-game try as second-line center to open the season. He did see No. 1 power-play unit time Tuesday.

"I just want to see him keep improving," Yeo said. "We just have to keep trying to help him get better. Maybe he works his way up [in lines], maybe he doesn't, I don't know. What I've seen is improvement though.

"He's an incredibly humble and motivated kid. For a guy who's had as much success as he's had, he's not coming here pointing fingers or making excuses or anything. He's just trying to get better. I've seen him make changes already in his own game that will lead to more success here."

One area is physically. Granlund, getting used to playing against bigger, faster players on a smaller ice surface, has made clear adjustments. He had one goal and five assists in 15 games before Tuesday.

Still, Granlund was not expected to play on the fourth line. Asked if the Wild would ever consider sending him to Houston to regain confidence and a bigger role, Yeo said, "If we feel we get to a point where his game is not progressing or even regressing, then for sure.

"But even though his role hasn't been as important as people thought maybe it would be at the start of the year, he's helped us win. He's finding ways to be effective, and I've seen progress in his game."

Falk returns

Defenseman Justin Falk, who missed the past three games, returned Tuesday. Nate Prosser was scratched for a ninth time because the right-shot defenseman isn't used to playing the left side.

"It's just the situation a couple of us are in [with one extra defenseman]," Falk said. "That's the reality. You accept it and try not to let it affect you and just try to stay sharp and be ready."

Asked if it can affect his play knowing his room for error is so slim, Falk said, "No. That used to be me two years ago where one mistake would drag you down for a week. But I've grown and matured past that."

Yeo said he wants the 6-5 Falk to use his "big body" and be "tough to play against [physically]."

Yeo also broke up the Clayton Stoner-Tom Gilbert pairing because "I can't say they've been completely on top of their game. Some of it is getting [Jared Spurgeon] going, and Stony and Spurg have played some really good hockey together [in past seasons]."

Forward Zenon Konopka was scratched for the third time in four games.

Clutterbuck on IR

Winger Cal Clutterbuck (thigh contusion) was placed on injured reserve Tuesday and will miss the road trip to Phoenix and Anaheim. With no practice Saturday, it's unlikely Clutterbuck would play in Sunday's rematch against Taylor Hall and the Edmonton Oilers.

Hall was suspended two games for kneeing Clutterbuck last Thursday. Placing Clutterbuck on IR freed up a roster spot, but Yeo said the Wild had no plans to call up another player.

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