CHICAGO – Mike Yeo was vague, but with six games left in the regular season, it certainly sounded Wednesday as if the Wild coach isn’t expecting center Mikael Granlund back soon.
Officially, Granlund has an upper-body injury. Unofficially, replays show that Granlund’s head smacked into the left shoulder of Los Angeles Kings center Jarret Stoll on Monday as Granlund tried to deliver a check.
Yeo said there’s no timetable until Granlund sees the Wild doctors. Granlund won’t play Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks.
“We’re losing a very talented player, an offensive guy that we count on,” Yeo said of Granlund, the Wild’s fourth-leading scorer with 41 points in 63 games. “We’re going to lean on our other lines a little bit more, lean on our power play a little bit more.”
Granlund came to the NHL with a history of concussions. And earlier this season, he missed 13 of 14 games because of a concussion after three hard hits in a six-game span from Toronto’s Nazem Kadri, Ottawa’s Marc Methot and Phoenix’s Connor Murphy.
The one game he did play in that stretch lasted 29 seconds. He missed the next 11 games. During that 14-game stretch, the Wild went 6-7-1 with 23 goals scored (1.64 per game).
Captain Mikko Koivu will continue to get the bulk of the big minutes and matchups. Since March 18, Koivu is on a six-game point streak, ranks first in the NHL with 10 assists and is tied for first with 12 points.
Rookie center Erik Haula has played a fourth-line role for much of his 40 games with the Wild. Haula, 23, has three goals and nine points, is plus-9 and will assume Granlund’s role between veterans Matt Moulson and Jason Pominville.
“It’s nice to play more,” Haula said after assisting on Moulson’s tying goal in Monday’s come-from-behind victory at Los Angeles. “It’s unfortunate what happened to Granny. I hope he has a speedy recovery. He’s an important player for our team, but it’s all about winning. I got a chance to step up. It’s a confidence booster for myself.
“It’s my first year pro, and it’s a process to get going. I’ve taken little steps as the year’s gone, and hopefully I can keep taking more steps down the line here.”
Yeo has been impressed with Haula’s ability to adapt to a defensive and penalty-kill role. Now that Haula will skate with Moulson (five goals and four assists in 14 games with the Wild) and Pominville (27 goals), Yeo said, “We’re going to ask him to be a little more creative.”
Haula will have to improve in the faceoff circle, as Granlund did. Granlund won 52.6 percent of his draws; Haula has won 42.7 percent.
“You’re on a line like that, starting with the puck in the offensive zone is a huge key,” Yeo said.
Newly signed UMass-Lowell defenseman Christian Folin, 23, practiced for the first time Wednesday. Just as advertised, he was big with a booming shot.
The plan initially is to get him involved in practice, teach him the Wild’s system and allow him to get comfortable. He is eligible to play in any of the remaining six games, but Yeo said the decision will be based on “team-first.”
Folin played two years with Austin (Minn.) in the North American Hockey League and said, “In the back of my head, I always wanted to come [back] to Minnesota.”
• With the Wild down a center, the team recalled former Blackhawk Jake Dowell to play Thursday instead of using center/winger Cody McCormick in the middle. Veteran winger Dany Heatley is expected to be scratched for a third consecutive game.
• Left winger Nino Niederreiter, who played only three shifts Monday after getting crushed by Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin, practiced Wednesday and is expected to play.
• Defenseman Keith Ballard (groin) practiced, but Yeo is expected to stick with Jon Blum and the same cast of six defensemen that played the past five games (three wins).