This is obviously a heartbreaking situation, but Wild defenseman Marco Scandella talked this morning about saying goodbye last week to his ailing father.

His dad, Francesco, is dying of prostate cancer. If you read my fun profile last February on Scandella (here’s the link, so please give it a read), you know just how much Scandella loves and respects his dad and credits his parents for making him the person he is today.

“My dad doesn’t have much time left, so I’m really happy that the organization let me go back home to see him and say goodbye to him,” Scandella, who missed two games, said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. Family’s going to miss him, and I’m just happy to have great teammates and it’s great to be back with everybody and be back and be busy and be playing with this team.”

Scandella, his eyes welled with tears and taking deep breaths, saying, “It’s tough saying goodbye. It’s not an easy situation, but at least I got to say goodbye to him. I definitely learned a lot from him. He taught me most of what I know today. I’m just going to have to keep proving his name and being a great person, a great player and just doing what he taught me.”

But Scandella said it’s time to concentrate on hockey, saying he “owes it to him to play my best hockey, and that’s what I’m going to do shift in and shift out and just keep growing as a player and keep growing as a person. I have a lot to thank to my dad. It’s a tough situation, but I just have to keep playing hard. Life goes on, but it was definitely good to go say goodbye to him.”

Scandella returned to the team in Dallas just after midnight Saturday. Hours later, Scandella scored a third-period tying goal to force overtime.

“Definitely scored that goal for him,” Scandella said, his voice cracking. “It’s too bad that we didn’t get the win, but it’s a new game today, it’s a new day and we’re going to come out hard tonight.”

Scandella, who recently joined Twitter at @marcoscandella, is trying to raise awareness for men’s health through Hockey Fight’s Cancer and tweeted a link to auction off a game-worn tie last week.

“It’s something that affects a lot of people,” he said. “It’s not something that’s easy to deal with. And I think just talking about it maybe helps a little bit.”

Scandella said when his dad passes away, he’s going to stay with the team as the family will do something formally next summer to memorialize his dad. He said he skypes daily with his mom, two brothers and sister.

“I’m here with the team to stay. My dad’s wishes will be met,” Scandella said. “It was a tough week, and just seeing the guys, we have a great group of guys in here and really supportive and it was just great to get back with everybody.”

Obviously, just so sad. Before last season, Ryan Suter lost his dad, and Zach Parise lost his dad in-season. Wild owner Craid Leipold lost his mom last season unexpectedly, and right before this season, former Wild defenseman Jon Blum lost his mom. Former Wild defenseman Nick Schultz lost his dad on the eve of one Wild training camp, too.

It's just a reminder that these are real people with real lives, and there are far more important things than just hockey.


But onto a much more trivial note, tonight's game …

Last time the Wild played in Pittsburgh, it got blown out 7-2, had a nearly half-hour meeting after its winless streak hit six games (12 losses in 14 games) and acquired Devan Dubnyk the following day with Niklas Backstrom, playing for an injured Darcy Kuemper, floundering.

Backstrom hasn't played since and the Wild hasn't even lost consecutive regulation games since, going 38-12-6 during the Dubnyk era.

Coach Mike Yeo asked if that game was the lowest point in his career, and he deadpanned, “I think the lowest point’s still to come, but up to this point, … .”

Tonight, the Wild returns to Pittsburgh a more confident team and hopes to show it on NBC Sports Network. Gord Miller and Pierre McGuire on the call.

The Penguins should be a surly bunch though tonight. They’ve dropped three of their past four with no regulation wins in that stretch. Overall, they just haven’t played very good hockey (4th-worst goals per game), their power play stinks (4th-worst) and their players have talked in recent days about frustration inside the room and with their play.

Evgeni Malkin has 12 points in 17 games, Phil Kessel six goals and 11 points in 17 games. Sidney Crosby has two goals and nine points in 17 games and is minus-8. Kris Letang is minus-11. If not for Marc-Andre Fleury and his .931 save percentage, where would they be?

At some point, one figures this team will break out. Their players are just too good not to.

So, the Wild, 3-0-1 without injured Zach Parise, should expect quite the challenge tonight as it plays the third game on a four-game trip (1-0-1).

Erik Haula won’t play tonight. He missed practice yesterday and didn’t travel to Pittsburgh because he’s under the weather. Yeo said with the Wild already short players with Zach Parise, Justin Fontaine and Tyler Graovac hurt, the Wild chose not to bring Haula so not to put other players at risk of getting sick. If he’s feeling much better, the Wild would fly him commercially to Boston to potentially play Thursday.

So, for the third time in five games, a player will make his NHL debut. Michael Keranen, who scored in both weekend games for Iowa, was recalled and will slot into the left wing on the Charlie Coyle-Jordan Schroeder line (Schroeder, who took a puck to the face Thursday at Carolina, will wear a full cage tonight because he took a high-stick in practice Monday and his nose started gushing).

Brett Bulmer, also recalled, will play right wing on the fourth line with Chris Porter and Ryan Carter, who moved from right wing to center to replace Haula.

Yeo said the roles for the offensive Keranen and gritty Bulmer will allow them to play within their identities. Keranen is not expected to play the power play.

Christian Folin will be the defenseman scratched.

Keranen, a stud in Finland, will get his first chance tonight. Yeo gives him credit for re-signing with the Wild after not seeing any NHL action (other than a callup and scratch in Calgary) last season. Keranen could have returned to Finland, but he said this morning his goal is to play in the NHL.

Wild has to be better in its own zone tonight. Most every goal going in against Dubnyk these days are off deflections. I asked Yeo about that, and he said the Wild defensemen must do a better job making sure guys around the net are contained.

Yeo said it’s no secret the Wild’s first priority is to box guys out, but he said the Wild forwards have to get out on the points quicker and he feels they’ve been too slow and that’s allowed more time for opposing forwards to establish position in front of the net.

But he said if the Wild can’t box out, once position is established, “we have to get their stick. And I don’t think we’ve done a good job of that,” Yeo said.

That’s it for me. I’ll be on the NHL Network’s Arena Bald Spot Cam at 5:10 p.m. ET tonight, 4:10 p.m. CT. I’ll be the guy with the unkempt facial hair.

Talk later.