Minnesota Wild face measuring-stick game against Blackhawks
ST. PAUL — No Zach Parise. No Mikael Granlund. No problem?
With both players injured and out for the Thursday, Oct. 12, measuring-stick game against the rival Blackhawks in Chicago, the Wild are down to 11 healthy forwards on the roster, leaving them short-handed up front for the second consecutive game. They were forced to fill the hole in the lineup with extra defensemen in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.
The reason for that is money. Or lack thereof.
The Wild are paying out $74,793,591 this season to players on their current roster, leaving the team just $206,409 of space with the NHL's $75 million salary cap. That's not enough to call up a forward from the minors. To do that, the Wild would need to send down a defenseman, presumably former Gopher Mike Reilly, who would not need to be put on waivers.
Asked whether that was an option, coach Bruce Boudreau responded, "No. It hasn't been brought up to me."
Boudreau called it "a great challenge" to plan for the game knowing he will have only 11 forwards, one short of filling four lines.
After constantly shuffling his forwards across four lines against the Hurricanes, the coach hinted he might change the way he approaches the situation for the game against the Blackhawks.
"Mostly three lines with the other two guys doing something specific," Boudreau said.
That would mean a first line of Eric Staal centering Marcus Foligno and Charlie Coyle, a second line of Mikko Koivu centering Jason Zucker and Nino Niederreiter, and a third line of Joel Eriksson Ek centering Tyler Ennis and Chris Stewart, with Matt Cullen and Daniel Winnik filling in as needed.
Although it isn't an ideal way to approach a game so early in the season, Boudreau isn't making any excuses.
"In all honesty, I come to work every morning and whoever's here is here, whoever's not here (is not here)," Boudreau said. "In a perfect world, would we like 12 (forwards) and 6 (defensemen)? Yeah. ... I don't think it will happen all season long. Usually things work their way out."
Parise still out
Parise will not play Thursday in Chicago despite practicing with the team the past three days. It looks like he also will miss Saturday's home opener against Columbus.
Boudreau is hopeful Parise will be able to return for the Oct. 20-21 games at Winnipeg and Calgary.
"That's the plan," Boudreau said. "Who knows? Anything can change. He looked pretty good out there. I know he's champing at the bit to play. It's the protocol, and whatever the doctors say and the trainer says is what's going to happen."
Just the two of us
Boudreau has been hosting individual meetings with players this week, which he has done throughout his career.
That leaves the door open for communication between player and coach, something Boudreau finds extremely beneficial in the grand scheme of things.
"Anything they don't get and they don't want to ask in a forum of other people, they can ask me, and we can go over it in private," he said.