You know things have taken a weird turn when you find out the NHL has an "infection control subcommittee.'' The league announced Friday that the group is monitoring the mumps outbreak that has hit the Wild, St. Louis and Anaheim. The Wild took more concrete precautions after Thursday's 6-3 victory over Buffalo, as team doctors offered mumps vaccinations to all who wanted them.
Coach Mike Yeo took a shot in the arm, after his team gave him a symbolic one with that much-needed win. He's still waiting for the booster he really wants: Zach Parise's return to the lineup. Parise won't go to Dallas for Saturday's game there, but Yeo said he hasn't been ruled out for Sunday's home game against Winnipeg.
The status of the latest apparent mumps victims, defensemen Marco Scandella and Jonas Brodin, is murkier. There's no telling how long they might be out. And the illness played a part in the team's decision to recall defenseman Justin Falk on Friday and send rookie Christian Folin to Iowa. Yeo said Falk will add a left-handed shot to the blue line, which will be helpful against a pressing team like Dallas and aid the Wild's transition game. Folin, he said, was not the same after missing five games because of symptoms that appeared to be the mumps.
"After being sick, I didn't feel he was playing quite with the same pace and assertiveness,'' Yeo said. "And that's normal. You know that guys are starting to come back, and you start to think there might be a roster move made, and you start fearing that the next mistake might be the one that puts you down. For him to have an opportunity to play and not worry about making a mistake, I think that will be useful.''
Yeo said his other rookie defenseman, Matt Dumba, is sticking around largely because of his ability to play on the power play.
Going to Dallas presents a particular challenge for the Wild, which has won once in its past 20 games there since March 21, 2003. Yeo said that number of losses is "way too big'' and that the Wild needs to toughen up on the road. It has not played with the same confidence and urgency in road games this season, getting quickly derailed by mistakes far more often than it does at home.
It took the team half the season to get over that last year, Yeo said, and fixing that problem sooner is a point of emphasis. He urged his team to stop trying to be "too cute'' with its playmaking away from Xcel; its strength, he said, is the gritty type of offense it created in Thursday's victory, via a strong forecheck and a consistent attack on the net.
"Every game is important,'' Yeo said. "Teams around us are winning, and you go up against a division rival and it increases the importance. It increases the intensity of the games. The most important thing for me is I want to continue building our game.
"I thought we did something good last game, but the thing about building is that you have to follow it with work. What we did last night, it only means something if we build off of it. So we've got to get to work.''