Mike Yeo is the now-defunct Houston Aeros’ all-time leader in fighting majors and “probably the only coach that took boxing lessons” during the lockout last season.
So the Wild coach isn’t opposed to tough hockey. But he did take exception Thursday to “anybody that tries to call us soft.”
Yeo was trying to fend off criticism that the Wild didn’t have the appropriate response to Toronto’s Nazem Kadri steamrolling and injuring Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom during Wednesday’s 2-1 shootout victory. Backstrom will miss Friday’s game against Florida with an upper-body injury and Kadri was suspended three games Thursday for the infraction.
The Wild is expected to recall Johan Gustafsson to back up Josh Harding.
“It’s this simple really: They’ve got one [tough guy] after another,” Yeo said. “So if we go after Kadri, well, are they going to go after [enforcer Zenon] Konopka? No. They’re going to go after one of our top guys. They’ve got more down the line where they can keep playing that game.
“So where we have to be better is on the power play. Teams have to be afraid to pull that [stuff] on us [because] they’re fearful of our power play. But at the same time, what I like is that our guys continued to play the game.”
Yeo said the Wild didn’t cower to the physicality. Instead, the Wild elevated its game, “and that to me is [toughness]. It’s a different type of tough.”
Granlund misses practice
Five Wild skaters didn’t practice during the Wild’s optional workout Thursday, including center Mikael Granlund, who also took a head shot from Kadri in the third period. Kadri was booted from the game for the hit but not disciplined for it Thursday.
Yeo expects Granlund to play against the Panthers, but he was kept off for precautionary reasons.
“With those things, you’re not in the clear for a couple days here, but we expect him to be fine,” Yeo said.
• Zach Parise was getting ribbed by teammates for doing a bench “flyby” after scoring the tying goal with 4:17 left Wednesday. Parise is trying to weed the post-goal celebration out from the Wild. “It was a reluctant one,” Parise joked.
• Konopka said he broke his nose for the 14th time in his career Wednesday when he was elbowed by the Maple Leafs’ Carter Ashton. He woke up Thursday in a pool of blood.
• Both Backstrom and Josh Harding didn’t practice Thursday. Harding wasn’t feeling better from an illness Tuesday night, and Yeo wanted to make sure he rested for Friday’s game against Florida. The Wild used two local goalies — former minor-leaguer A.J. Bucchino and amateur Tino Vasquez. They both work with Wild strength and conditioning coach Kirk Olson at Total Hockey Minnesota as part of the ProHybrid Goaltending Group.
• Yeo on Ryan Suter’s 108 minutes of ice time the past three games and league-leading 29:43 a game: “It’s such a big story now and I wish it wasn’t.”