With every injury comes an opportunity, and Mike Reilly’s finally getting another after biding his time patiently in the minors.
The young defenseman watched the Wild’s two-month hot streak from afar. The team went 19-3-3 since Reilly was reassigned after last playing Nov. 21 at Dallas.
“It’s been pretty cool to follow, the talk of the league for sure,” Reilly said after being recalled from Iowa on Thursday morning.
Reilly now hopes to be part of the success. The former Gopher didn’t play in Thursday’s 4-3 victory over the Arizona Coyotes, but he will surely draw into the Wild lineup this weekend after defenseman Jonas Brodin broke a finger on his right hand blocking New Jersey Devils defenseman Ben Lovejoy’s shot in the second period Tuesday. Brodin will miss at least a month.
Coach Bruce Boudreau used veteran right-shot defenseman Nate Prosser on his off side against the Coyotes, but he said Reilly was given a firm endorsement from Iowa coach Derek Lalonde.
“The reports were that he was playing the best,” Boudreau said.
Reilly’s play was inconsistent during his previous stint with the Wild, but as Boudreau pointed out, so was the Wild’s.
“I don’t think he had the confidence,” Boudreau said. “One of the reasons he got sent down was to build the confidence. He has been playing really well, so he’s coming up here probably a different player.”
Reilly, 23, says he has rounded out his game in Iowa. He is second among Iowa defensemen with four goals and 15 points in 29 games and most notable is his even plus-minus rating, a far cry of last season’s American Hockey League-worst minus-27 in 45 games.
“The team has been doing better down there and that always helps,” Reilly said. “I’ve been getting a lot of minutes, that always helps. I get to play in every situation where realistically, I probably wouldn’t be in those situations up here, at least right away. It’s good to get those reps.
“You never want to wish an injury on anyone, especially when a guy works hard and is a great person, [you] hate to see that. But obviously it creates an opportunity. I’ll just try to come here and play my game and build on what I did in the beginning of the year at least when I was up here and try to bring my game from down there up to here a little bit.”
Call to action
Boudreau said before Thursday’s game that he was looking for more from third- and fourth-line centers Erik Haula and Tyler Graovac.
Haula scored his first goal in eight games Tuesday against the Devils.
“Haulz can bring more, but maybe that goal was a steppingstone for confidence,” Boudreau said.
He also would like to see a more assertive Graovac, who has one point in his past 27 games and no assists this season.
“He does an adequate job for the position he’s in right now,” said Boudreau, who added Graovac “works hard, he’s a young guy, he’s getting better all the time. It’s something you have to be patient with. His time will come.”
• Kirill Kaprizov isn’t the only Russian tearing up his league. While Kaprizov continues to rack up points in the Kontinental Hockey League (38 points in 41 games), 2016 Wild seventh-round draft pick Dmitry Sokolov entered Thursday’s game for Sudbury in the Ontario Hockey League with 33 goals in 39 games and 11 goals and 14 points during a seven-game point streak. He leads the Wolves in goals, power-play goals (10), game-winning goals (six), points (46) and shots (158).
• Defenseman Victor Bartley, who underwent surgery in training camp to repair a torn triceps, is expected to return to Iowa’s lineup in early March.