Mike Reilly looked a little tired after Wednesday's practice at Xcel Energy Center, and with good reason. The former Gophers defenseman was called up from the Wild's AHL affiliate in Iowa for the first time, and after getting the call Tuesday night, he got a driver to take him to the Twin Cities at 6 am.
Reilly stayed on the ice long after the rest of his teammates finished practice, so he could put in some extra work. That's likely to be his routine for a while. Coach Mike Yeo said he doesn't have a plan in mind for Reilly other than to "get him here and working with our group,'' and Reilly isn't expected to play Thursday against Toronto as the Wild opens a two-game home stand.
With Reilly called up, defenseman Christian Folin was sent to Iowa so he can get more playing time.
Iowa has struggled mightily this season, with only three victories in 23 games. Reilly, 22, has played in all 23 games and has two goals and seven assists. The stat that has gotten the most attention is his plus-minus: he is minus-23, a number that Yeo knows is weighing on Reilly. Bringing him up to the Wild for the first time, Yeo said, allows Reilly "to hit the reset button'' and continue working on his game.
"We just want to get him up here and get him in with the group, get him practicing, see where he's at,'' Yeo said. "My message to him is pretty simple. I don’t want him focusing on tomorrow, whether he's in the lineup or out of the lineup. I want him focusing on that drill he's doing right there. We'll be keeping a real close eye on him, seeing where he's at and seeing what we can do to help him.''
Yeo said he isn't alarmed by Reilly's plus-minus, noting that it indicates some parts of his game need "tightening up'' but understanding that it is likely skewed by playing for a floundering team. While Reilly is here, Yeo plans to have him watch lots of video and study players during games. He expects that observing and practicing with NHL players should help Reilly "clear his head'' and make progress.
Reilly said he is adapting to a pro hockey schedule that features lots of games, fewer practices and less time to rest as compared to his college days.
"You've got to prepare every day like it’s a game,'' he said. "Especially as a young guy, you've got to come in and show your stuff every day and keep your mouth shut and try to work your way up here. That’s the goal for all of us.''
Other news from Wednesday's practice:
--Tyler Graovac, who has missed 22 games because of a groin injury, was on the ice. He wore a red no-contact jersey and participated in some drills, as well as a brief stint of special-teams work. Yeo said his return is not imminent and there is no plan for when he might be ready to play.
--Yeo said the Wild should be prepared for a tight-checking game against Toronto. Though he was pleased with Tuesday's 2-1 victory at Chicago, he is more interested in what his team does going forward. He's looking for the Wild to play assertively, pressuring opponents while maintaining defensive structure and making smart decisions that allow it to keep control of the puck.