After the Wild won in Vancouver on Friday night, coach Bruce Boudreau made assistant Darby Hendrickson an offer he couldn’t refuse: Go home.
“I didn’t know if he was serious,” Hendrickson said. “But he said, ‘What do you think about going home to see your son?’ ”
The Wild was heading to Edmonton to play the Oilers on Saturday. But Boudreau — after consulting with General Manager Chuck Fletcher — decided to offer Hendrickson the chance to get home in time to watch son Mason play for Minnetonka, which defeated Duluth East in the Class AA state boys hockey title game Saturday night.
“You know what? Chuck brought it up, and I think it was a good idea,” Boudreau said after Wild practice Monday. “Darby didn’t want to leave at first. But once he had a chance to think it through? It’s maybe a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
To be fair, once Hendrickson got the offer, no arms had to be twisted. He had been following the Skippers’ run through the tournament — even streaming Minnetonka’s semifinal win over Centennial in the Wild locker room between periods on Friday.
So Hendrickson stayed in Vancouver as the Wild flew to Edmonton. He got up and caught a 6:30 flight home — not telling wife, Dana, he was coming — and arrived in the Twin Cities by 11:30 in the morning.
“I walked through the door and my wife is like, ‘What are you doing?’ ” Hendrickson said. “I said, ‘We have a game here.’ It was fun.”
They texted Mason, a junior, that his dad was in town. Then Hendrickson got a chance to be just another proud parent.
“It was just so fun to be a dad, to be a fan, to see two really good teams play,” Hendrickson said. “Those are moments you can never get back. They fact they let me do it was unbelievable.”
Hendrickson played in one state tournament, in 1991, for Richfield. He remembers losing a first-round game to Duluth East that spring. He hasn’t had a lot of chances to get back to the tournament. But being allowed to go home for this one was special.
“It was classy,” he said of the Wild. “And it’s something I’ll never forget.”
When the Wild plays host to Colorado Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center, will the Wild feel like a little payback is in order?
“I think it’s in the back of your mind,” center Eric Staal said.
All sorts of motivation can be found in this one-game homestand. The Wild is fighting for playoff position. The schedule ahead is daunting. But there is also this: The last two times the two teams played — both in Colorado — the Avalanche won both by a combined score of 14-3.
Colorado — which has earned 14 of a possible 20 points in its past 10 games — has worked its way into playoff position.
“Well, whether we think we owe ’em or not, we know we need to win,” Boudreau said. “There is an opponent in front of you. At this stage of the year you have to just come out and play.”
And contain the Avalanche top line, which includes Nathan MacKinnon, Gabe Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen. In the Wild’s 3-2 shootout victory over Colorado in St. Paul Nov. 24, neither MacKinnon nor Rantanen had a point. But in two games in Denver, MacKinnon had three goals and eight points, Rantanen two goals and seven points.
“They have some pretty effective players,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “A lot of speed. Their defense jumps up in the play. I don’t know why we struggled the last couple of games there. Tomorrow we have to make sure we’re ready to go.”
• Defenseman Nick Seeler, back from both a biceps injury and the flu, practiced with the Wild on Monday and should be available Tuesday.