WINNIPEG – Tyler Graovac had to be mentally and physically exhausted Tuesday night.
The Wild forward played his fourth game in four days — back-to-back Iowa Wild games at the Chicago Wolves and back-to-back Minnesota Wild games in St. Paul against Los Angeles and in Winnipeg against the Jets.
In between, there were six-hour bus rides to and from Des Moines and Chicago and a last-minute, emergency four-hour car ride from Des Moines to St. Paul because the Wild needed a center to play against the Kings after Zac Dalpe was lost via waivers.
“The sleeper bus,” Graovac said, smiling. “I kind of got used to the charter planes up here. The sleeper bus is not the same. But you know what? I’m used to it. That’s been my schedule the last three years in the AHL. Three-in-three’s, and travel. Now we’re in Winnipeg living kind of the fast life. How can you complain about that?”
The Wild flew to Columbus late Tuesday. With a chance the Wild scraps practice Wednesday, Graovac might get a deserved and needed day off. Even Bruce Boudreau, a minor league lifer before coaching in the NHL the past 10 seasons, couldn’t think of another time a “kid’s had to play four in four” in the pros.
After a disappointing training camp landed him in Iowa, Graovac, who scored in the first period Tuesday and has seven goals and an assist in 48 games, spent 3½ months in the NHL before being blindsided Feb. 13 with a trip through the waiver wire.
This is his second call-up since and the latest only came after the Wild passed him over for Dalpe.
Asked if it’s a coincidence he had a hat trick for Iowa hours after learning he had been snubbed, Graovac said, “There’s been a little bit of outside noise here and there. For me, I’ve just been dialed in. I’ve realized the biggest thing I can control is my game. A little early on, I think I was too focused on outside noises and trying to figure things out.”
Thrown right in
Despite being traded to Minnesota, Martin Hanzal and Ryan White’s Monday home debut felt part of a normal road trip. After arriving in the afternoon and playing that night, the two former Arizona Coyotes forwards didn’t even get to inspect their new digs before the Wild left for a two-game road trip after the game.
“But it’s kind of nice, too, because you get thrown into the fire with the boys and you’re forced to be around them, which is good for us to get with the group a bit,” said White, a Brandon, Manitoba, native.
Tuesday morning, Boudreau held a brief video session with Hanzal and White.
“Everybody at this level has all grown up playing hockey. They know how to play,” Boudreau said. “It’s just giving them a couple little pointers that we might do that’s different than Phoenix, and then let them play and go at it. They’ll learn as time goes on.
“Right now I don’t want them thinking too much because then they don’t play the way they can play.”
White, who had a goal and an assist Monday, scored another goal Tuesday. And Hanzal had two assists.
• The Wild turned defenseman Mike Weber’s AHL contract into an NHL two-way contract for the rest of the season. That means Weber, 29, provided he clears waivers Wednesday, can be recalled if the Wild needs blue-line depth the rest of the season, including the playoffs. Iowa’s captain has nine goals and 53 points in 351 career games for Buffalo and Washington.
• The Wild’s game in Chicago on March 12 was switched from 6 p.m. to 11:30 a.m. and will be televised on NBC.