Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau, spoiled by the weather in Miami, were nevertheless excited for their latest homecoming in subzero temperatures so they could take “a breath of fresh air,” Bjugstad said, not even kidding.
“They saved the coldest day of the year for us,” said Bjugstad, speaking for his Florida Panthers teammate, who also skated with him for the Gophers.
Tuesday’s game against the Wild was the fourth NHL game at the X for Bjugstad, the 2010 Minnesota Mr. Hockey from Blaine, and the second for Rau, the 2011 Mr. Hockey from Eden Prairie.
“This is kind of his rink. He’s won a few state championships, and I haven’t,” Bjugstad said of Rau, who scored a triple-overtime Class 2A state final winner in 2011. “We won some big games with the Gophs, but the high school games I still have some bad memories.”
Added Rau, “I definitely have some good memories here.”
Both got home-cooked meals Monday night, Rau at his parents’ Christmas-decorated house and Bjugstad at his uncle Tim’s, where he played mini-hockey with his cousins.
Both were excited to go up against former Gophers teammate Erik Haula, although Bjugstad wasn’t eager to hear Haula’s chirping, “especially not scoring yet.”
Bjugstad has no points and 10 shots in 11 games. It has been a perfect storm of misery this season for Bjugstad, who broke a wrist in training camp during what coach Tom Rowe called “a freak accident at West Point.” He missed the first 19 games, then started at wing, not center.
Tuesday, he centered a line with the two linemates the Panthers envisioned Bjugstad playing with this season, Jonathan Marchessault and Colton Sceviour.
“You never want an injury in general, but to start the season off that way was a tough way to go. But I’m starting to find my stride,” Bjugstad said. “I’ve had 10 games now, so my feet should be wet and hopefully I get rolling.”
After missing seven games because of a knee injury, defenseman Christian Folin returned Tuesday, replacing Nate Prosser in the Wild lineup.
“Foles could’ve played Sunday, but because Pross was playing so well, we rewarded Pross by playing him another game,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Boudreau noted how well Folin was playing before he got hurt.
“He’s a bigger-bodied guy and plays a little more physical than most guys we have on the back end,” Boudreau said.
Folin hadn’t played since Nov. 25 but said, “Especially since the team was gone for so long, it felt way longer. It was a long 12 days when they were on the road. It’s a good feeling to be back out there with the guys and share some laughs.”
For the second time in a week, winger Teemu Pulkkinen was recalled in case an ill teammate couldn’t play. Last Wednesday, it was Mikko Koivu. Tuesday, it was Chris Stewart. Pulkkinen was scratched both occasions.
Oldies but goodies
Devan Dubnyk, who somehow can remember the details of most every goal scored against him, guessed 44-year-old Jaromir Jagr had six points against him, joking that it was nice to contribute to his Hall of Fame career.
Dubnyk, naturally, was correct. Jagr entered Tuesday with five goals and an assist against Dubnyk.
Boudreau still was playing in the minors when Jagr broke into the NHL in 1990.
“Wow,” Boudreau said. “I had Teemu Selanne [in Anaheim], and he was in such phenomenal shape he led our team in scoring when he was 43. Then at 44, he just started to slow down. At some point guys get old. [Jagr] is sort of the guy that doesn’t.”