If it had been up to him, Nino Niederreiter would have played last Saturday. The Wild’s team doctors pulled back the reins, telling the forward that his injured ankle would be well served by waiting a few more days.
Niederreiter finally rejoined the lineup Tuesday. He played on the top line with Eric Staal and young winger Luke Kunin in his first game since Oct. 12, when he sprained his left ankle in a victory at Chicago. Though the Wild lost 2-1 Tuesday, Niederreiter got his first point of the season with a beautiful no-look pass to Kunin for the Wild’s only goal of the game.
“It’s finally here, so it’s super exciting,” Niederreiter said Tuesday morning. “I wanted to come back earlier, but at the end of the day, it’s the doctor’s word. I think he’s happy with how things are going, and I’m happy to be back.”
Doctors have told Niederreiter he will continue to feel some discomfort for a while. Once they judged him ready to play, Niederreiter said the next test was for him to trust in its stability.
Coach Bruce Boudreau declared Niederreiter looked ready, though he figures the ankle will keep the Wild’s trainers busy for weeks to come.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if he has to tape that thing until February,” Boudreau said. “Any time I’ve seen that injury, that’s what’s happened.”
Wheeler on a roll
The Jets came to St. Paul on a roll, with a 5-1-2 record in their past eight games. Forward Blake Wheeler has led the charge lately, entering Tuesday’s game fresh off a rapid-fire hat trick on Sunday.
Wheeler, a Plymouth native and former Gopher, scored his three goals in a span of 4 minutes, 20 seconds in the first period to propel a 7-1 rout of Pittsburgh. The hat trick came on three shots and was the quickest in Jets history. Before Sunday, Wheeler had seven assists this season but only one goal, the winner in a 4-3 win over the Wild on Oct. 20.
“The puck is shaped funny, and it bounces weird,” said Wheeler, who enjoyed some family time on the Jets’ visit.
The Wild scratched defenseman Kyle Quincey, opting to play both of its young blueliners, Mike Reilly and Gustav Olofsson.
Reilly’s strong play had left Olofsson as the odd man out among the team’s seven defensemen. Olofsson had sat four of the previous five games, though he drew praise from Boudreau for his play at Calgary in his last appearance 10 days ago.
Quincey, signed as a free agent last summer, had played all nine games before Tuesday.
• The Minnesota Blue Ox, the minor league team owned by Boudreau and his wife, Crystal, will play the Minnesota Moose Monday in a fundraiser for injured player Matt Olson.
The game will be at Isanti County Arena in Isanti, following the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Museum Women’s Face-Off Classic between Bemidji State and Minnesota Duluth at 6 p.m. Olson, of Isanti, was playing for the Chicago Cougars of the U.S. Premier Hockey League last February when he suffered a spinal injury and was paralyzed from the shoulders down. The Blue Ox (12-1-1) lead the USPHL’s Premier Midwest West division.
“The USPHL is a family, and Matt is part of the family,” Boudreau said. Admission for both games is $10 for adults and $5 for students.
• The Vikings’ Stefon Diggs led the “Let’s Play Hockey” chant.