Christian Folin’s holiday mail will probably not be forwarded to Iowa this year.
The Wild defenseman spent last season between the big club and its American Hockey League affiliate in Des Moines. Or, just watching from the press box as a scratch.
This season’s strong start — he’s 10th among NHL defensemen at plus-8 — has secured Folin a spot on the team’s second defensive pair with Jonas Brodin.
“It helps that you’re in the lineup every night and knowing if you make mistakes you’re going to get back out there,” said Folin, who played 26 games for the Wild and 28 in Iowa last season. “I come in here every day and prove something — I want to be an important player for this club.”
In Thursday’s 1-0 victory over Boston at Xcel Energy Center, Folin had memorable first and final minutes. When teammate Nino Niederreiter was boarded by the Bruins’ David Backes 56 seconds in, Folin roughed up Backes, getting a retaliatory penalty but earning high praise from coach Bruce Boudreau. Then Folin and Brodin were part of an all-out blitz that resulted in Mikael Granlund scoring the winning goal (albeit banked in off an opponent’s leg) with 45 seconds remaining in the game.
“He’s a big body, makes simple plays but doesn’t make mistakes,” Boudreau said of Folin. “That’s what you’re going to get out of him. Those guys are hard to play against.
“As well as [goalie Devan] Dubnyk played, and Granny scores the winner, people recognize solid defensive play, let alone jumping in for his teammate and all that stuff.”
Boudreau’s trust in Folin hasn’t escaped the 6-3, 205-pounder’s notice.
“Being able to get back out there after you make a mistake, you get more minutes under your belt, and you feel more comfortable,” Folin said. “And I have Brodes to thank for a lot of it too. There’s such good chemistry between us.”
Said Boudreau: “You didn’t know if he was a fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth [defenseman] at the start of the year, and he’s proved his worth.”
The Wild plays host to Colorado on Saturday night in an offensive slump — one Wild goal in the past two games — but has given up a league-low 29 goals and has an NHL-best 1.81 goals-against average.
“If we stay the course I think we’ll start to score three goals plus again, but if you can keep up the defensive work, you’re going to be above the grade,” Boudreau said.
In discussing the Folin-Brodin pairing, Boudreau noted that his “shutdown” pair is still Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon, but “I feel very confident that we have at least four defensemen that when you start to play the really good teams that have two really good lines you can match up a little better.”
• The Wild had an optional practice with no contact Friday, but it was the first full practice in which injured defenseman Marco Scandella participated since suffering a high ankle sprain on Oct. 27.