Not many Wild players participated in this morning's skate at PNC Arena. Most of the veterans were tossing footballs, kicking soccer balls, skipping rope or pedaling away on exercise bikes. But one of them--Mikael Granlund--was off the ice because of an injury that is likely to keep him out of Saturday's game at Carolina.
Granlund, who injured an ankle in the offseason, was limping after Thursday's season-opening loss at Detroit. Coach Bruce Boudreau excused him from Friday's practice, then said Saturday that Granlund probably won't play. The four-day break between Saturday's game and next Thursday's at Chicago is well-timed for Granlund, as Boudreau doesn't expect this to be a long-term absence.
"That’s the reason, I think, that he’s not playing today,'' Boudreau said, referring to the break. "We’ve got a week off after this, so there’s no sense just chasing the injury all night long, all year long. Get rid of it early in the year, so he’s healthy to go.
"You're missing your leading scorer. It's a dent in our lineup, for sure. But every team’s going to go through it, so you've just got to persevere, and somebody’s got to step up. I’ve always believed one guy goes out, somebody comes in and steps up to do the job.''
If Granlund is out, the Wild will play all seven defensemen. Thursday, when Boudreau wasn't sure Daniel Winnik would be able to play because of work-visa issues, his backup plan was to play the seven defensemen and double-shift Charlie Coyle and Granlund.
The Granlund absence made for some funky lines in Friday's practice. The Nino Niederreiter-Eric Staal-Coyle line remains intact. The other combos were Marcus Foligno-Mikko Koivu-Tyler Ennis; Jason Zucker-Joel Eriksson Ek-Chris Stewart; and Winnik and Cullen playing on the fourth line with others rotating into the open spot.
Alex Stalock will get his first start of the year in goal. The way the games line up over the first three weeks, with two games per week and extended time in between, doesn't provide a lot of opportunity to get the backup goalie some playing time. Saturday's game seemed like the best option to Boudreau.