It wasn’t a call Marco Scandella expected to get. After playing two games in the American Hockey League playoffs, the Houston Aeros defenseman was told to get on a plane to Minnesota, where the Wild was preparing for its own postseason to begin.
Scandella practiced with the Wild on Monday. Tuesday, he is likely to be in uniform for Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals at Chicago. The Wild’s first playoff game since 2008 will be the first of Scandella’s NHL career, but he said he wasn’t feeling any nervousness.
At 6-3 and 210 pounds, Scandella gives the Wild a big, smooth-skating defenseman to throw at the Blackhawks’ bevy of high-scoring forwards. Though he has wrestled with injuries and inconsistency this season, he performed well as the Aeros split their first two games of the AHL’s Calder Cup playoffs. That put Scandella firmly into a playoff state of mind, and the chance to face the NHL’s top team pushed his excitement level up another notch.
“It’s going to be an adjustment, but I feel like I’m ready right now,” said Scandella, who played six games with the Wild early this season and scored one goal. “I’m really happy to be here. I’ll just try to keep myself level-headed and play hard.”
Wild coach Mike Yeo said he has been waiting for Scandella to recover from wrist and groin injuries and regain his top form. He had to wait a little longer than he hoped, but he was thrilled to see Scandella’s sound, confident play as Houston opened the playoffs. During Monday’s practice at Xcel Energy Center, he paired Scandella with Jared Spurgeon.
A second-round pick in the 2008 draft, Scandella has two goals and 15 assists and is plus-2 in 45 games with Houston this season. His power-play goal in Friday’s playoff opener was the game-winner in a 3-0 victory.
“We’ve seen Marco play a lot of good games,” Yeo said. “The skating ability, the big body, the execution, his best games look very, very good. And that’s what we’re counting on him to come up and bring.”
Scandella played 63 games with the Wild last season, when he got three goals and nine assists and was minus-22. After starting this season in Houston during the NHL lockout, the Wild recalled him in January, but he was returned to Houston 12 days later. Scandella has appeared in 28 playoff games for Houston over the course of three seasons and has played 89 games in the NHL.
Spurgeon has been paired with Scandella before and said the two work well together. “He’s a good skater, a physical player, and also very good with the puck,” Spurgeon said. “He’s played a lot of games with [the Wild], and he fits in well.”
Scandella’s call-up makes Justin Falk the odd man out among the Wild’s defensemen, and he expressed disappointment Monday. “It’s out of my control,” said Falk, who played the last three regular-season games after sitting out eight of the previous 12. “I can’t say much right now; I’ll let 24 hours pass and not let my emotions get the best of me. It’s the Stanley Cup playoffs … you want to be a part of it, which I still am. You never know what can happen. I’ll stay ready.”
Staff writer Michael Russo contributed to this report.