The reinforcements came four deep Wednesday, just in time for the Wild’s morning practice and a flight to Pittsburgh.
Mike Reilly, Christoph Bertschy and Zack Mitchell were recalled from the team’s AHL affiliate in Iowa, while Erik Haula finally stepped away from a stationary bike and into a full-bore practice at Xcel Energy Center.
Their presence was enough to brighten the mood of Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, at least a little. Haula could return for Thursday’s game at Pittsburgh after missing seven games because of a foot injury. And Wednesday’s decision to put defenseman Marco Scandella on long-term injured reserve allowed the Wild to bring back Reilly, the rookie defenseman, who could give a boost to an anemic power play.
Injured winger Zach Parise won’t play on a three-game, four-day jaunt to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Ottawa, leading the Wild to summon Bertschy and Mitchell from Iowa as well. Boudreau’s aim for the road trip sounds simple enough: try to get three goals a night and defend well. After scoring only once in a pair of losses last week, the Wild also wants to change the conversation, perhaps with the help of some new faces.
“We had the ability to win both games last week,’’ Boudreau said. “If we win both games, we’re sitting here 8-2-1 and people are going how great you are. You don’t win those two games, and people are going, ‘Uh-oh, what’s wrong with you guys?’
“It’s a long season. We’ve just got to muddle through, and we’ll get there.’’
Boudreau said Haula’s status would be a game-time decision Thursday. At his first practice since Oct. 20, Haula centered the third line between Mitchell and Jason Zucker. He will gauge how his foot feels Thursday morning, and that will determine whether he plays against the Penguins.
Though Haula said he was tired of riding an exercise bike — and a little frustrated by the slow pace of his healing — he added that his conditioning felt solid in Wednesday’s rigorous practice.
“It was nice to be out there with the guys,’’ said Haula, who had a goal and an assist in four games before his injury. “When you’re hurt, you’re always an outsider in a sense, on a different schedule.
“We’ll see how [the foot] reacts to this practice today and just keep going from there. I don’t want to have too many thoughts in my head yet. For sure, I’m real close.’’
Boudreau said there is “a good possibility’’ Mitchell will make his NHL debut Thursday. Though he has only one goal in 11 games this season, he led Iowa with 22 goals and 42 points last season.
The Wild could use a jolt for an offense that went cold in last week’s 2-1 loss to Buffalo and 1-0 defeat at Colorado. Iowa coach Derek Lalonde told Boudreau that Mitchell had been the team’s best forward last weekend, prompting his recall.
“He missed all of training camp, so we didn’t get a chance to look at him,’’ Boudreau said. “We just decided, the last two games we haven’t really been scoring, so we’re just going to give him a chance.’’
The same kind of thinking drove the decision to bring Reilly back. The defenseman was sent to Iowa after playing two games, and Scandella’s retroactive move to long-term injured reserve cleared salary-cap space for Reilly to return. Scandella has missed three games because of a high ankle sprain and is eligible to return Nov. 23.
After Reilly got extensive playing time in the rugged AHL, Boudreau is hopeful he can inject some life into the power play. The Wild has scored five power-play goals on 34 chances, ranking 22nd in the league; on the road, it is last in the standings with a single goal in 20 opportunities.
The players worked Wednesday on being more decisive on the power play, going to the net and standing their ground, and operating as a unit of five. Reilly, who played alongside Jared Spurgeon, has seven points in seven games for Iowa and is tied for the team’s scoring lead.
“I think [the power play] is a huge part of my game,’’ Reilly said. “It gives me a little bit of an opportunity for sure, and I’m going to try to take it and just kind of roll with it. Moving the puck and getting shots to the net, that’s kind of my game. I definitely think I can help with the power play.’’