In Bruce Boudreau’s experience, players sent to the minors after their first taste of the NHL return a better player the second time around because they’re hungrier and know what to expect.
But Alex Tuch may have played his worst of four NHL games during Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to Anaheim. He had no shots in 10 minutes, 13 seconds of ice time, was bumped off pucks easily and was unhurried with his skating and decisionmaking.
“I think he’s got to increase the pace,” the Wild coach said. “He is the same pace all the time. I’ve seen him skate fast. He can skate, and he can handle the puck and he’s big and strong. I think sometimes he’s overthinking the game and not playing the way he’s capable of playing.”
Tuch said Tuesday morning he felt he showed he fit in during his three-game stint, and that gave him the confidence to play well during weekend games in AHL Iowa.
Tuch said he has learned the NHL is a more structured league.
“It’s a lot more physical down there with guys running around, a lot of grinders,” Tuch said. “Here, it’s controlled speed and a lot more skill, so you have to be on your toes at all times defensively.”
Angry Vermette slashes linesman
In the third period, Ducks veteran Antoine Vermette was ejected for slashing, then yelling at linesman Shandor Alphonso after a Mikko Koivu faceoff win.
Depending on the category of “physical abuse of officials” filed after the game, Vermette could face an automatic suspension, pending appeal of three, 10 or 20 games.
“I think it was pretty innocent,” center Ryan Getzlaf said. “It was a pretty light tap on the leg. He was a little frustrated.”
Headed down to Iowa
Center Tyler Graovac cleared waivers and was assigned to Iowa.
Boudreau hopes Graovac finds his game in the minors. Graovac has six goals and no assists in 45 games with a .383 Corsi-For percentage (possession metric), which ranks second worst to Chris Stewart on the team.
Zack Mitchell, who played 10 scoreless games for the Wild in November, had one shot in nine shifts Tuesday.
Mitchell played right wing alongside Stewart and Erik Haula. Jordan Schroeder, who has no goals and three assists in his past 14 games, was scratched for the third time in six games.
Mitchell was part of an Iowa team that won 11 of 16 and nine in a row on the road.
“We have a ton of depth down there, up front, on ‘D’ and goalie, too,” he said. “Coach [Derek] Lalonde has done a great job changing the culture. We’re playing a really good team game.”
On the docket
Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist, who speared Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon in the face Sunday, faces a long suspension following a phone hearing with the NHL on Wednesday.
“This isn’t the player I am,” Nyquist told Detroit reporters. “I haven’t been in this situation before. It’s new for me. I hope people don’t think that’s the kind of player I am.”
Nyquist has 92 penalty minutes in 317 career games.
“The intent was not there,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “In other cases, because of a guy’s record, it’s hard to argue that. In Nyquist’s case, I think it is an easy argument and a strong argument to say that the intent wasn’t there.”
Wild left winger Jason Zucker ranks 14th in the NHL with 19 drawn penalties, including one he drew in the first period Tuesday.
“It’s just skating and putting defensemen in a spot that they’re uncomfortable and making them either haul you down or trip you or hook you or something,” Zucker said.