To paraphrase a famous quote from the “Star Trek’’ TV series: Mike Yeo is a hockey coach, darn it, not a doctor. That didn’t prevent the Wild boss from fielding multiple questions Friday about the epidemic that has knocked two more regulars out of the lineup.
Yeo was among many Wild players and staff members to be vaccinated against mumps after Thursday’s 6-3 victory over Buffalo. Defensemen Marco Scandella and Jonas Brodin are believed to have mumps and will not travel to Saturday’s game at Dallas. Fellow blueliner Keith Ballard was diagnosed earlier with the illness, which cost him eight games, and rookie defenseman Christian Folin missed five games with similar symptoms.
Players from St. Louis and Anaheim also have been diagnosed with mumps. Yeo said the Wild’s trainers and doctors are “taking proper precautions’’ to prevent further spread of the disease, but center Kyle Brodziak said some players were concerned they or their families might yet become ill.
“Nobody’s really sure at this point of the exact precautions we should be taking,’’ Brodziak said after Friday’s practice at Xcel Energy Center. “You just try to keep yourself as sterile as you can. It’s tough with a hockey team; we’re on the plane, we’re in the same dressing room every day, the guys are around each other every day.
“I have a newborn at home, nine or 10 days old. It’s something where you’ve got to hope for the best that you don’t bring anything home.’’
Julie Grand, an NHL senior vice president and senior deputy general counsel, said the league is monitoring the situation and that its infection control subcommittee has been in contact with teams. Craig Custance of ESPN.com reported Friday that Dr. Greg Wallace of the Centers for Disease Control has helped Anaheim’s team physician respond to the outbreak.
Wallace — who oversees the CDC’s measles, mumps, rubella and domestic polio epidemiology team — told the website that outbreaks among groups with “close, prolonged contact’’ are not uncommon. He added that the illness usually does not spread beyond that immediate group. The mumps vaccine is about 88 percent effective, Wallace said, and the severity and number of cases is lower among groups that have been vaccinated.
Parise out, Falk up
Winger Zach Parise also will stay home from Dallas as he continues to recover from a concussion. Yeo said Parise is “progressing well’’ and could return to the lineup Sunday when the Wild plays Winnipeg at Xcel.
The Wild sent Folin to its AHL affiliate in Iowa on Friday and recalled defenseman Justin Falk. Yeo expects Falk’s lefthanded shot will be an advantage against the Stars’ pressure and aid the Wild’s transition game.
The coach praised Folin, who had no points in eight games and was -2. But he thinks the rookie will benefit from playing games in a lower-pressure environment.
“After being sick, I didn’t feel he was playing with quite the same pace and assertiveness,’’ Yeo said. “For him to have an opportunity to play and not worry about making a mistake, I think that will be useful.’’
The Wild’s other rookie defenseman, Matt Dumba, has three points and is -3 in 13 games. Yeo called Dumba’s role on the power play “a very big factor’’ in keeping him on the roster.
After a run of five games against Eastern Conference teams, the Wild returns to division play this weekend — starting with Saturday’s game in a city that has not been kind. The Wild is 1-14-5 in Dallas since March 21, 2003.
No one had a good explanation for the team’s futility there, but Yeo has seen a disturbing pattern in the Wild’s road games this year. Away from home, he said, the team tries to get fancier with its playmaking, and it doesn’t have the same emotional toughness it displays at Xcel.
The coach said the Wild was more fragile on the road last year, too, and took half the season to break the habit — a scenario he doesn’t want to repeat this year.
“As a group, we have to get tougher and play the same way on the road as we do at home, with the same confidence and the same ability to get over a bad play and move on,’’ Yeo said. “That’s going to be real important for us.’’