Stephane Veilleux, always “naturally wired,” as coach Mike Yeo said, didn’t need any extra Red Bull in the minutes leading into his first NHL game this season.
Veilleux, a veteran of 460 NHL games — 382 with the Wild — spent all year in the minors before getting the call for Sunday’s Game 3 against the Chicago Blackhawks. With the Wild desperate for energy and physicality, Yeo felt comfortable tossing Veilleux into the lineup.
“We knew there would be energy in the building and we knew that he would contribute to that, too,” Yeo said, smiling. “Against a team like this, his skating ability was a big factor of why we chose him. He’s able to get in on the forecheck and he’s able to arrive and apply the pressure.”
Veilleux set a physical tone his first shift, getting two of his three hits against defenseman Johnny Oduya. He is expected to play again in Tuesday’s Game 4.
Frankly, it’s amazing Veilleux didn’t skate through the end boards. It’s been a tough year for Veilleux, who hoped to make the Wild at training camp but instead was assigned to Houston of the American Hockey League at age 31.
“I kept playing the same way in Houston — hard, bring energy and I took a role there to teach the young kids about the game and the approach to have at the rink,” Veilleux said. “I took a lot of pride to that. So I took a negative at this point in my career and a tough situation and tried to find a way to bring a positive into it.”
The Wild held an optional practice Monday, and one of the participants was injured winger Jason Pominville.
Pominville has missed five games, including all three playoff games, because of a head injury. He practiced a week ago but woke up the morning of Game 1 not feeling right. Yeo was encouraged that Pominville skated Monday but wouldn’t guess on his status for Game 4. Since it was only his second practice since being injured April 23, it would seem doubtful. The Wild didn’t make Pominville available for comment.
In addition, Zenon Konopka (foot) and Mike Rupp (knee) didn’t practice Monday. “Might need some rest,” Yeo said.
With Houston’s season over, the Wild recalled center Carson McMillan and defenseman Matt Dumba on Monday.
If Rupp doesn’t play Game 4, Jake Dowell or McMillan likely would slide into the lineup.
After appearing in only five games this season and compiling a 3.24 goals-against average and .863 save percentage, Josh Harding is 1-2 in the playoffs with a 2.41 GAA and .928 save percentage.
“The fact that he has played so little hockey, the thing that impresses me is it’s not noticeable,” Yeo said. “I think his timing looks good, he’s fighting through traffic, he picking up pucks, he’s controlling rebounds.”
Niklas Backstrom (lower body) practiced Monday. It will be decided Tuesday morning whether Backstrom or Darcy Kuemper backs up Harding in Game 4.
• Chicago ruled out injured Dave Bolland and Ray Emery for Game 4, but coach Joel Quenneville said physical forward Dan Carcillo might play. He was scratched the first three games.
• Wild centers have seemed to be kicked out of an inordinate amount of faceoffs in this series. Asked if he has any conversations with the linesmen, Yeo said, laughing, “I may have said a couple things, but it wasn’t much of a conversation.”
• The Wild is expected to recall more players from Houston on Tuesday, including Minnesota Duluth product Justin Fontaine.
• The time for Thursday’s Game 5 in Chicago is expected to be announced Tuesday.
• The Wild will host a party before Game 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. between Gates 1 and 3 at Xcel Energy Center.