Expected bad news on the Tyler Graovac front.
Coach Mike Yeo announced today that Graovac will miss at least a couple weeks with a strained groin.
That means right wing Justin Fontaine, sidelined the first two games with an oblique injury, is expected to make his season debut at Arizona on Thursday when the Wild begins a three-game trip.
Fontaine had a hat trick in Glendale on two Januarys ago.
“It’s a tough break [for Graovac]. It’s a tough break for us, too,” Yeo said. “He was playing well and we liked the way the lines were working.”
Charlie Coyle, who scored two goals playing center on the third line Saturday, will remain at center and Fontaine will slide into the spot held by Jordan Schroeder on Saturday. All other lines remain unchanged.
Yeo said he had not yet talked to GM Chuck Fletcher about whether the Wild will recall a forward to bring along for the ride as an extra on the road trip.
The Wild, tight to the cap, could just carry 12 forwards. It wouldn’t be too hard to adjust and get somebody to L.A. on Friday if there were to be an injury at Arizona.
If the Wild suffers another injury at center, things would get thin though because I hear Zac Dalpe got hurt with Iowa. Sounds like a groin.
As for Graovac, it really depends on the Wild’s health situation and how long he’s out as to whether Graovac would return right to Minnesota’s lineup or need some games with Iowa.
“There’s going to be a period of time where we’re going to have to get him back in shape and have get him game ready,” Yeo said. “We’ll see when he starts skating.”
Fontaine is excited to get going and said the last week of not playing was definitely a help.
“We’re hoping he takes a step,” Yeo said of Fontaine recently. “He took a step last year. He found himself on the scoresheet more, he found himself in more important roles, whether it was moving up in the lineup and playing with more skilled players like Thomas Vanek or whether it was the role he took on in a penalty killing role for us.
“He’s a smart player and we know he has the ability to continue to grow. It’s a big year for him. I’d like to see him push and show that he’s a lot more than just a third-slash-fourth-line guy. I’d like to see him demand more.”
Yeo also wants more from the Chris Porter-Erik Haula-Ryan carter line. He said the line has spent too much time in its own end. He wants more forechecking and spending time in the offensive zone.
“They have to be that kind of line for us,” said Yeo, adding that they should have a “work ethic and battle level that shouldn’t be matched.”
Jason Zucker, who took Sunday off as a maintenance day, was back at practice today.
The Wild will practice Wednesday, then fly to Arizona. I’ll do a story for Thursday’s paper on Devan Dubnyk’s first return to Arizona since his trade to the Wild last season.
-- Also, back by popular demand, the Star Tribune Fans Night Out. On four different occasions this season, I will be holding a Chalk Talk prior to a Wild game. Three will be with Wes Walz, one with Mark Parrish. The dates are Dec. 3 before the Toronto game, Dec. 22 before the Montreal game, Jan. 25 before the Arizona game and March 6 before the St. Louis game.
The package includes a lower-level ticket to the game, the pregame Chalk Talk, a limited edition Wild pint glass, all-you-can-at hot dogs, popcorn, nachos and soda at the game and $5 12 oz. draft beer.
For more information and/or to buy tickets, go to www.wild.com/fansnightout.
-- Lastly, there are a lot of Wild bloggers out there who do a great work, but I wanted to point you to one you must check out: 11-year-old Levi’s blog at www.mnwildrock.weebly.com.
Young Levi wrote me an email the other day telling me how much he loves writing and loves the Wild, so he started his own blog. He wanted to know how to get people to read it because only “friends and family know about it. So about 20.”
So I clicked the link and was blown away. Besides the fact that the blog looks sharp, the writing is outstanding and dead-on accurate, like how Levi noted that Thomas Vanek has to step up this season because he makes a lot of “dough” and the only thing that can get in Jason Zucker’s way from scoring 30 goals this season is health.
So if you have kids that are huge Wild fans, definitely introduce them to Levi’s blog.
I remember being an 11-year-old Newsday paperboy in Old Bethpage reading the Islanders and Mets articles as I did my route. But I never would have thought to start my own blog to write about the teams (Of course, I never would have guessed there’d one day be something known as a blog).
But I do remember always pretending to be a play-by-play guy during games or a radio DJ. I think it’s awesome that Levi has such a passion, so definitely give Levi’s blog a look and prepare to be impressed.