COLUMBUS, OHIO – Tyler Graovac played the second game of his NHL career Wednesday night and joked that he felt like he had been in the league “twice as long.”
OK, “Ten minutes longer.”
Maybe the one bright spot in a 3-1 Wild loss to the Blue Jackets was that the big 21-year-old center looked so comfortable.
“I feel good with the puck. I feel patient in the corners,” Graovac said. “I was so much more calm today. I was just more relaxed. Still soaking it all in to be honest, but I just feel comfortable out there. I felt like I’ve been in the league a little longer today.”
Graovac, who stands 6 feet 5 and weighs 206 pounds and could be a 2011 seventh-round steal, took the puck hard to the net, forced turnovers, had three shots and used his big frame and strength to battle behind the net to draw a first-period power play. Zach Parise took advantage by giving the Wild a 1-0 lead on his 14th goal and fifth on the power play, tying Nino Niederreiter in both categories for the team lead.
Coach Mike Yeo called Graovac’s game “another good step.”
Bickel on defense
Stu Bickel played his third consecutive game on the blue line Wednesday in Columbus. Besides his physicality, Yeo has been impressed with Bickel’s willingness to join the attack and his ability to get pucks up to forwards with stretch passes.
“We don’t want players to blend in,” Yeo said. “He’s not going out there with that type of mind-set. He wants to make a difference.”
Bickel has practiced mostly at forward when up with the Wild.
“It’s a pretty easy transition. Sometimes I have to give myself five minutes to get in the right mindset in terms of responsibilities,” Bickel said. “But it’s comfortable being able to understand the structure we want to play with.”
Look it up
In two games against Winnipeg, Wild winger Ryan Carter was involved in two unique plays. On Saturday, Carter sent several searching for their rulebooks when he was called for interference because he played a puck with his right skate while his left skate was still in the penalty box as he emerged. Indeed, Rule 56:2 says that’s not permissible.
“I was under the impression you just couldn’t play the body coming out of the box,” Carter said.
Two nights later in Winnipeg, Carter played a puck with a high-stick. Carter and Winnipeg defenseman Paul Postma got into a standoff surrounding the puck. Instead of letting Carter touch the puck or waiting for a whistle, Postma tried to chip the puck out of the zone.
Kyle Brodziak intercepted the clear, and Brett Sutter assisted on Carter’s momentum-turning goal in a come-from-behind Wild win.
“I have to believe [Postma] knew it was a high-stick,” Carter said. “I’m not sure why he touched it. I tried to fake it like I didn’t think it was a high-stick hoping he’d stick his stick in there and touch it and he eventually did. I owe him a thank-you note.”
• Goalie Niklas Backstrom, ill the past few weeks, joined the Wild in Columbus to back up Darcy Kuemper. With back-to-back games Friday against Toronto and Saturday in Dallas, the Wild figured the faster it could get him on the ice with the team, the faster he can play.
• Defenseman Jonas Brodin (head) feels better. The hope is after a good practice Thursday, he’ll be able to return Friday.
• Center Erik Haula was scratched a second consecutive game and third time in four games.
• Defenseman Gustav Olofsson (shoulder surgery) has begun skating at Iowa of the AHL but still isn’t expected to return until late February.