The American Hockey League is the chief development league for all NHL teams, but the big reason the Wild recalled defenseman Mike Reilly is to aid his development.
A professional rookie, Reilly’s stay in Minnesota will be temporary. But the Wild felt it would be healthy to give Reilly a needed respite from the Iowa Wild, which lost all 13 games it played in November.
Reilly, who was a Hobey Baker finalist after leading the Gophers in scoring last season, has a league-worst minus-23.
“That’s been a product of the team partly. It’s been a grind in Iowa,” said Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr, who doubles as Iowa’s GM. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a defenseman, if you’re playing that much down there, it’s hard to be a plus player right now the way the team’s going.
“For him, this will be a learning experience and should be a positive, and then when he gets back there, he’ll continue his growth.”
The Wild wants Reilly to reset, get a taste of being around the NHL and, most all, work for a little bit with assistant coaches Rick Wilson and Darryl Sydor. In fact, Reilly watched Thursday’s game against Toronto with Sydor in the press box.
“He’ll be better for it when we get him back to Iowa,” Flahr said. “He’s a big part of our future. There’s been a learning curve, but he’s been significantly better lately. We’ve changed some things in his game. The game is totally different at the pro level [than the college level]. It’s something you just don’t pick up on.
“The offensive side of the game will come, but you’ve got to build the base and then the rest happens. It’s a hard league down there.”
Thursday was 30 days from Tyler Graovac’s surgery to repair a sports hernia and reattach his right groin. The protocol for a return is six weeks.
“My first game back, professionals say you can’t get too high, you can’t get too low, but I’m going to really enjoy it,” Graovac said. “I’m counting down the days. It feels like forever. Four weeks in, I never thought I’d be skating this well.”
Graovac has only played one game this season, so if the Wild’s healthy, he knows he will likely start in Iowa.
“If I’m down to Iowa, I’ll work my way back up,” Graovac said.
Papa don’t freak
It’s getting down to the nitty-gritty. The due date for Jennifer and Devan Dubnyk’s second child is Friday. The Wild hosts Colorado on Saturday, then leaves for Denver on Sunday for a Monday night game.
“I’m hoping he’ll come after the game [Thursday]. It’d be perfect,” the Wild goalie said. “But he can come whenever as long as he’s healthy.”
Dubnyk said it was nerve-racking being in Chicago Monday and Tuesday knowing his son is due any minute, “so I’m keeping my fingers crossed he decides to come before [Sunday].”
Wild assistant coach Andrew Brunette is looking forward to playing on the North Stars/Wild roster in the Feb. 20 Stadium Series Alumni Game against the Blackhawks.
“It’ll be really fun playing with Wes [Walz], Darby [Hendrickson], [Brad Bombardir, Antti Laaksonen and Richard Park],” Brunette said. “That group was pretty special and it’ll bring back a lot of memories.”
Brunette said Dino Ciccarelli will be the net-front guy on the power play: “Dino’s got me by 400 goals.”