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The Wild Beat

Granlund hopes to be back Tuesday; Parise still sidelined

With the Wild’s injury problems continuing to drag on, coach Bruce Boudreau resorted to a little black humor. Asked if he was tired of using assistant coach Darby Hendrickson as a practice player—as Boudreau did again on Monday—he laughed. “He’s looking pretty good,’’ the coach said. “I might have to talk about a contract for that man.’’

Mikael Granlund did practice Monday, though his status for Tuesday’s game against Vancouver remains uncertain. Zach Parise was absent from practice again, and Boudreau expects to know more about his condition and availability on Tuesday. “So far as I know, it’s the same as it’s been,’’ he said of Parise’s recovery from an injury that might or might not be to his back.

With Luke Kunin, Zack Mitchell and Cal O’Reilly sent back to Iowa on Sunday, the Wild practiced with 10 healthy forwards—and Hendrickson—on Monday. Defenseman Mike Reilly was recalled from Iowa on Monday and also was on the ice. Additional forwards will be called up to fill out the lineup against the Canucks, a game that begins a six-game home stand.

Granlund said he “felt pretty good’’ after practice and is itching to get back in the lineup after missing five games. “You really want to play, and it’s not easy to watch it,’’ said the winger, who hasn’t played since opening night at Detroit on Oct. 5. “Obviously, you’ve got to be smart. But I don’t want to lie. You want to be out there.’’

Boudreau didn’t complain about being shorthanded at practice again, and he even found a benefit. Defenseman Gustav Olofsson wore a white jersey as part of the fourth line with Matt Cullen and Hendrickson, learning how to fill in at wing.

“Sometimes, we’re going to need a defenseman to play up front,’’ Boudreau said. “(Olofsson) is starting to get better at that, plus he’s getting better at defense. So I think it’s great to have a guy who can do both jobs.’’

Other bits from today’s practice:

--While lots of people are patting the Wild on the back for coming out of its opening six games 2-2-2, Boudreau isn’t among them. He acknowledged the Wild had five of six games on the road and has been decimated by injuries, but that record still isn’t good enough for his taste.

“It’s only positive if we do what we’re supposed to do when we’re at home,’’ he said. “I want the players to understand that it was OK, but it’s not perfect. And if we want to be the best, then we can’t be satisfied with mediocrity.’’

--Boudreau remains surprised by Chris Stewart’s offensive output. The winger has scored a team-high six goals and has a point in every game.  “To have the success that he’s had, I wouldn’t have thought that,’’ the coach said. “We’ll keep playing him, and hopefully, it will continue.’’

Count Stewart among those who respectfully disagree with his scoring being a surprise.

“I’ve been an offensive guy in this league, and I know how to score goals,’’ he said. “When I was drafted, this is the player I was drafted to be. You ask anyone in my family or my teammates, they know what I can do out there. I don’t think it’s surprising any more.’’

Stalock, Suter and Spurgeon help Wild end third-period curse

It would have been OK, Bruce Boudreau figured, if the Wild hadn’t managed to pull out a 4-2 victory at Calgary on Saturday. “We needed it,’’ he said. “But if it hadn’t happened, we would have gone back to the drawing board and worked. Because we weren’t going to give up.’’

Yet there was no time like the present. Boudreau looked and sounded a little relieved after the Wild finally broke its pattern of being in position to win in the third period, only to lose its grip. It was all the more impressive that it happened in the second game of a back-to-back set in Winnipeg and Calgary, a night after a disappointing loss to the Jets.

The Wild looked tired in the first period, but a marvelous performance by goalie Alex Stalock allowed them to stay even until they got the offense going. Earlier on Saturday, Boudreau was lamenting how every mistake the Wild made seemed to cost it dearly; against the Flames, they made some significant blunders, but they managed to win anyway.

Some postgame thoughts and quotes:

--Boudreau readily admitted his own error in challenging Calgary’s tying goal late in the second period, scored by Sean Monahan with 27.5 seconds left. It wasn’t a good choice, and it put the Wild in a tough position when the challenge was lost. Teams now are assessed a minor penalty when they lose an offside challenge.

That put Calgary on a power play to start the third period with the score tied 1-1. Things were made worse when Ryan Suter was penalized for slashing, giving the Flames a five-on-three for 1:11. Kris Versteeg walked the goal line from the left, used some fancy stickwork and scored to give Calgary its first lead.

“I was so mad we gave up another goal in the last minute of the period,’’ Boudreau said. “Once I (made the challenge) and (the official) started going over it, it’s funny how fast you have to look at that thing. Then I looked at it more and said, ‘Oh, crap. It’s not offside.’

“But (the Wild) came back. They were determined.’’

--Suter scored the tying goal at 10:33 of the third on a nice drop pass from Erik Staal. After the game, Boudreau jokingly thanked Suter for bailing him out after his lost challenge. Suter was glad to bail himself out, too, after taking that slashing penalty that helped the Flames take a 2-1 lead 43 seconds into the third period.

“It was important to have a good third period,’’ Suter said. “We talked about it before the third. Going down five-on-three and them scoring a goal doesn’t help us, but we found a way to battle back, and that’s what good teams do.’’

Spurgeon’s winning goal was a beauty, a hard, high shot from the right circle that sneaked past goalie Mike Smith’s shoulder and under the crossbar. Spurgeon also blocked four shots as the Wild registered 22 blocks.

--Luke Kunin took a step forward in his third NHL game. He had two assists—his first two NHL points—and four hits. He played with poise and confidence, earning minutes in key situations as the game wore on—including a big penalty kill in the final four minutes.

The Wild will take a day off Sunday, then resume practice Monday before starting that six-game homestand Tuesday against Vancouver.

Final, 10/21 1 2 3 F
Minnesota 2-2-2 0 1 3 4
Calgary 4-4 0 1 1 2

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