With center Matt Cullen still sidelined because of a lower-body injury, winger Devin Setoguchi acknowledged that other players must step into the void created by Cullen’s absence. Coach Mike Yeo said Thursday that he would like to see Setoguchi — who has gone cold since his linemate was hurt — turn those words into action.
The rapport Setoguchi had developed with Cullen helped him as he compiled 12 goals and nine assists over a 25-game stretch from Feb. 9 to April 1. In the five games that Cullen has missed — culminating with Thursday’s 2-0 loss to St. Louis — Setoguchi has only one assist.
Alongside Cullen, Setoguchi said, he was able to anticipate the play, which ensured he would be in proper position with no wasted energy. He is working to develop similar chemistry with center Mikael Granlund, and the best way to do that, Setoguchi said, is through increased effort.
“I think when you don’t have [chemistry], sometimes you try to take a shortcut,” said Setoguchi, who has 12 goals and 12 assists this season. “You need to work harder, and when you do that, you tend to build the chemistry. That’s what our plan is, to work really hard and hope it pays off.
“It’s obviously frustrating [to have Cullen out], but that just gives opportunities to other guys to step up and play more minutes and try to be that go-to guy.”
Yeo said Setoguchi could be the one to do that. “I’ll be perfectly honest,” the coach said. “I don’t know that he’s been completely on top of his game. Certainly going into a game, he can maybe be a little more sharp, a little more alert if you think you’re going to get a few more pucks.
“He’s got the opportunity to help be a leader of this team. Cully is a huge complement to him, but Seto has the ability to have an impact in every game.”
Goaltender Josh Harding and Yeo said there has been no timetable set yet for Harding’s return to competition. Wednesday, Harding practiced for the first time in two months; at Thursday’s morning skate, he was the last player off the ice.
Harding and Yeo both said his readiness is being assessed day by day. The goalie said he continues to feel great after missing time because of issues related to his treatment for multiple sclerosis.
“I know there’s a lot of work to do to get back to the game as quick as possible,” said Harding, who is working in practice on reading plays and reacting to situations he will face in games. “It’s coming back a lot quicker than I thought. It’s only been two days, but I hope it keeps going like this.”
Yeo said Thursday that Granlund, who was recalled by the Wild on April 4 after 12 games with the team’s AHL affiliate in Houston, looks more comfortable in his second stint. Granlund got off to a sluggish start with the Wild and was scratched in four of eight games before being sent to Houston.
He has one assist in four games since his return, and Yeo is happy with Granlund’s play. “His game has been better than it was when he was here earlier in the year,” the coach said. “That says a lot, because this league is also better. The quality of competition is better now than it was earlier in the year.
“He’s not where we know he can be, and I think he’d be the first to tell you that. But we are seeing signs of improvement.”
• Cullen skated again Thursday morning, but Yeo said he remains uncertain when he might return to the lineup.
• Defenseman Tom Gilbert, a healthy scratch in the previous two games, played Thursday alongside Justin Falk. Nate Prosser was scratched.