While the Wild loves Mikael Granlund’s competitive spirit, the team also wants the undersized forward to have a long career
CHICAGO – With Mikael Granlund out with what’s believed to be another head injury, the Wild has had internal conversations about how Granlund can be better protected on the ice, coach Mike Yeo said Thursday.
This is the second time this season Granlund got the worst of a check he tried to render.
The first time, he missed 11 games.
While the Wild loves Granlund’s competitive spirit, the team also wants the undersized forward to have a long career, so there may come a point where the Wild must talk to Granlund about adjusting the way he plays.
“He’s been successful because of his competitiveness. He’s fearless and that’s part of what makes him such a good hockey player,” GM Chuck Fletcher said.
“But I think everybody in various times in their career has to make adjustments. But we’ll see. We’ll see what comes out of this.”
The Wild has discussed whether Granlund would be better suited as a center or winger, but “I don’t think it’s a positional thing,” Yeo said. “Now, is it something tactically that maybe we can look at a little bit differently or is it just a matter of his game and some of the habits that he has? I’m not sure. Part of what makes him successful is that he defends quickly.
“If you don’t have any kind of physical element to your game, then you’re going to be playing a lot of time in your own zone. But at the same time we want to make sure he’s healthy too.”
Still, some of the best smaller players in the NHL (Martin St. Louis, Ray Whitney, to name two) have functioned for so long because they try not to put themselves in harm’s way.
“He’s a warrior the way he plays the game,” Yeo said of Granlund. “As he continues to grow, he’ll learn about those situations.”
Fletcher doesn’t know how long Granlund will be sidelined.
“We’ll take it day by day,” Fletcher said. “We’ll hope for the best and see how things go the next few days.”
New D-man fearless
Yeo has been impressed that defenseman Christian Folin has shown no signs of being intimidated. But the coach also admitted it’ll be hard to experiment with Folin, fresh off signing out of UMass-Lowell, the final five games if the Wild’s still trying to make the playoffs or clinch the first wild-card spot.
“If there were, I don’t want to say meaningless games, but if there were games that weren’t relevant standings wise, then maybe that’s a possibility,” Yeo said of playing Folin.
“But our priority has to be, No. 1. to get into the playoffs and, No. 2, to make sure that all of our players and our team game are on top of things heading into the playoffs.”
After being hit in the head by Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin on Monday, Nino Niederreiter didn’t play Thursday against the Blackhawks.
“It’d be silly on our part to rush him back,” Yeo said. “We don’t want him to come back for one period and then lose him for three weeks here.
“Let’s just make sure we approach this with a bit of caution toward making sure we have him back and healthy for good.”
That meant Dany Heatley, scratched the previous two games, returned to the lineup and played on a fourth line with Stephane Veilleux and Jake Dowell, who made his season debut.
• With Darcy Kuemper now hurt, Ilya Bryzgalov became the fourth Wild goalie to start against Chicago in five meetings this season. The Wild has started four goalies in four games against St. Louis.
“Trying to keep them guessing,” said Yeo, jokingly.
• Defenseman Keith Ballard missed his ninth game because of a groin injury.
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