VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – When Stephane Veilleux scored the Wild’s second goal Thursday night in a 3-0 victory at Edmonton, you could see the gratification on his face.
Hey, everybody loves to score, especially checkers, but this is a veteran who after six seasons with the Wild and one in Tampa Bay spent much of the past three seasons toiling in the minors.
Veilleux played 22 NHL games the past three seasons — none last season and none in 2010-11. In a league in which youngsters always knock on doors and take jobs, usually NHLers who end up in the AHL disappear off the NHL radar.
But Veilleux, 32, who ranks eighth in Wild history with 409 games, played his 27th game of the Wild’s season Friday night in Vancouver. That’s the same amount he has played with AHL Iowa.
“You can never give up,” said Veilleux, who was reacquired by Minnesota in 2012 from New Jersey in a trade for Marek Zidlicky. “There’s times that I can’t deny when I’m down in the AHL, sometimes you wonder if you’re going to get another sniff up here. But I always have the mind-set that being down there, you’re still playing hockey and you’re still doing what you love.
“But I’ve never been satisfied with anything, so that’s what keeps me working as I hard as I did my first couple years in Minnesota. To come up and have a role and be contributing on a winning NHL team right now, I’m really proud of it.”
Veilleux has been playing on a super-fast fourth line with rookie Erik Haula and Torrey Mitchell.
“Hauls, we can feed off him,” Veilleux said of him and Mitchell. “He’s a young guy coming in, he makes good decisions with the puck and he’s composed and with our speed, I think we can sometimes take chances because we’re fast enough to come back.”
Coach Mike Yeo has immense respect for Veilleux. “He’s a real competitive guy and brings a lot of passion to the game, and that stuff’s valuable to your team,” Yeo said. “You go on the road and you’ve got a guy like that playing with that type of intensity, that’s quite often contagious to the rest of the group.”
Koivu still waiting
Captain Mikko Koivu missed his 17th consecutive game since ankle surgery Jan. 6. He wants another “good team practice” Sunday before deciding if he can play Monday at home against Calgary.
“It’s slowly getting there and getting more comfortable on skates, but it’s still not quite where I want to be, especially battles and things like that,” Koivu said. “I think now we just got to put the emotions away and be smart and wait another day and see on Sunday, Monday where we’re at.”
Defenseman Marco Scandella (sprained knee) missed his third consecutive game. After the Wild’s six blueliners played well in Edmonton, Yeo said, “I don’t think it would hurt Marco to have another day of practice, another day of rest.”
Defenseman Keith Ballard returned to Vancouver for the first time since the Canucks bought him out last summer. He had three rough years here, dealing with injures and dipping in and out of former coach Alain Vigneault’s doghouse.
Ballard was returning after one of his best games with the Wild. He was plus-3 Thursday in Edmonton.
“I think I’ve played pretty well for the last few weeks before the break, so it feels good getting my game back again,” Ballard said.
• The NHL reviewed Matt Hendrick’s unpenalized hit from behind on the Wild’s Nate Prosser on Thursday night, but the Oilers forward wasn’t disciplined.
• The Wild has the day off Saturday. Goalie John Curry and defenseman Steve Kampfer likely will be reassigned to Iowa.
• Ryan Kesler and Chris Tanev returned from injuries for Vancouver.