Erik Haula got the call Thursday that there was a chance he may be called up to the Wild for his NHL debut Friday night against the Colorado Avalanche.
One problem: Haula was actually in Minnesota for Thanksgiving dinner at his girlfriend’s parents’ home. So his hockey gear was back in Des Moines and he didn’t even have a suit to wear to Friday’s game and the flight afterward to Denver (NHL/Wild policy for players).
“Thankfully it was Black Friday, so I got a good deal,” Haula said, laughing.
The Wild had his gear sent from Iowa to Minnesota by courier and Haula was able to play his first NHL game, a 3-1 Wild loss.
Haula said he was nervous before the game, but those butterflies were barely noticeable. His speed was, though — most notably as he assisted on his first NHL goal, by Dany Heatley.
“It came out of nowhere,” Haula, 22, the former Gopher said, of the callup. “Every time I’ve been here, you always think of what it feels like. Now it’s actually happening. It’s pretty crazy.”
To make room for Haula, the Wild, which was at the 23-player max, designated veteran Mike Rupp on non-roster status. Rupp said he was returning home because of a death in his family and plans to return to Minnesota by the end of the weekend.
It’s one game, but Haula, who scored 42 goals and 124 points in 114 games for the Gophers, made an initial case to stay, with Mikael Granlund sidelined by a concussion. In the first period, he set up Jason Pominville and Zach Parise for good scoring chances. Coach Mike Yeo said “he didn’t look out of place.”
Parise plays through
Parise returned against Colorado after missing one game with a bruised left foot. He was originally expected to miss two to three weeks. He finished with four shots and was minus-2, saying his foot felt “fine.”
Still, teammate Nino Niederreiter said Parise was “inspiring.”
“It helps to see a player like him who’s supposed to miss two or three weeks come back almost the next game,” he said.
Parise didn’t wear a shot-block protector over his skate because it was heavy. “I didn’t like it,” Parise said.
Goals keep coming
Heatley, who has six goals and played a fourth-line role much of November, scored his fourth in six games. He played on the second and third lines.
“Opportunity has a lot to do with it,” Heatley said. “The last few games I’ve played 18, 19 minutes and it’s nice to get a regular shift. You get into a rhythm a little bit better and tonight I felt good.”
• Rookie winger Justin Fontaine was scratched for the first time. Fontaine practiced Thursday as the No. 2 center, but other than a few shifts in college and the American Hockey League, Fontaine has never played the position. So Haula was recalled. The Wild could have scratched Torrey Mitchell, but Yeo values Mitchell’s role as a penalty killer. Fontaine should play Saturday in Denver.
• Center Zenon Konopka was taken to the hospital after a puck struck him in his left eye in the first period Friday.
Yeo said he doesn’t think the injury is serious, but there’s no way the swelling will go down or his vision will be normal to play Saturday.