DALLAS – Center Erik Haula, who has a team-high 21 points in 27 games since John Torchetti took over as Wild coach, is expected to return to the lineup for Saturday’s Game 2 of the first round playoff series with Dallas.
Haula missed Thursday’s 4-0 loss to the Stars because of a lower-body injury.
While it was clear watching Friday’s practice that Haula isn’t 100 percent, the Wild is hoping that Haula’s speed and offensive ability between Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville create a threat that was missing Thursday.
“It’s frustrating to watch up top,” Haula said. “You want to be out there and helping your teammates and you can’t. I’m ready to go. I’m excited.”
What did Haula learn from watching?
“I feel like we lost opportunities to hold onto pucks and create in the neutral zone,” he said. “If we can just get in their zone and have the puck, be in there more than 5 seconds and create shots off that, that’s a key thing. They’re going to get their chances, they’re going to get offense, but we’ve just got to stick with it for 60 minutes and play the same way and make it really hard on them to get pucks into open ice.”
Haula indicated that the Wild planned to get together as a team later Friday.
“It’s a challenge. We came here for a split and I think everyone should just be positive and create a positive environment just overall everywhere of being able to accomplish the goal,” he said.
Wild adds college star
The Wild signed Quinnipiac All-America forward Sam Anas to a two-year deal Friday. The undrafted free agent was 10th in the nation during his junior year with 50 points in 43 games and helped lead the Bobcats to the NCAA championship game, where they lost to North Dakota last week.
The 5-8, 160-pound native of Potomac, Md., had 69 goals and 63 assists in 121 games in three seasons. Anas, 22, was named to the 2015-16 AHCA/CCM Hockey Men’s Division I All-America first team, the NCAA tournament All-East Region team and the ECAC Hockey first team.
In 2013-14, Anas led NCAA freshmen in goals (22) and points (43) as well as points per game (1.07).
“He’s a smart offensive player,” Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr said. “He’s produced offensively at every level and finished in the top 10 of NCAA scoring this year. While undersized, Sam has a high compete level and knows his way around the offensive zone.”
The strong get stronger
Stars center Tyler Seguin practiced again Friday, but Dallas coach Lindy Ruff didn’t officially say Seguin would return Saturday. The Stars are 9-2 without Seguin, who suffered a lacerated Achilles’ tendon last month against Tampa Bay.
“He just seems to be a lot more fluid, lot more jump, no hesitation,” Ruff said. “Those couple extra days are doing him well.”
It will be a tough call which forward will come out of the lineup for Seguin.
“We’ve got a good problem,” Ruff said. “There’s teams that are pretty banged up that are trying to put people in where we’ve got ourselves healthy and we have to take somebody out.”