The injuries keep piling up for the Minnesota Wild, but they have done little to diminish the confidence inside the Wild locker room.
Today, Mikko Koivu (lower body) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard (facial injury) were both held out of practice. They joined Devin Setoguchi (lower body) and Guillaume Latendresse (concussion symptoms) on the shelf. None of those forwards are expected to be in the lineup tomorrow against the New York Islanders.
The good news is that Koivu’s injury is not thought to be serious, and Bouchard’s issue is not because of “symptoms.” Head Coach Mike Yeo pointed out that his whole face hurts, but he is expected to work out lightly this afternoon. Yeo called him “very doubtful” for tomorrow, but added that if Bouchard comes in tomorrow and feels great the Wild “will probably be able to find a spot for him.”
Casey Wellman did practice, but he is currently hampered by an upper body injury. His status is probable, but the Wild will likely have to call up at least one forward. Candidates are sure to include Jeff Taffe, who had two assists in two games last week, as well as Jed Ortmeyer, David McIntyre or Carson McMillan who all have experience with the Wild.
Whoever does get the call likely joins a line with Warren Peters and Brad Staubitz. In practice today, Cody Almond centered Wellman and Gillies. Matt Cullen moved up to play with Cal Clutterbuck and Dany Heatley. And Kyle Brodziak was in between Darroll Powe and Nick Johnson.
Despite the growing list of ailments, the healthy players in the locker room didn’t sound the least bit concerned. Cal Clutterbuck noted that the team has dealt with other injuries, and the game plan remains unchanged despite losing four “top six” forwards.
“I think we’ll be okay,” he said. “I think honestly collectively the way we play the game, we’re not relying solely on our top six offensive skill players to win hockey games, which is good when you run into unfortunate circumstances like this.”
“Our top goal scorer is our ‘third line center’ so it’s a collective group thing and I think there’s a definite benefit with guys coming into the lineup and know exactly the way we play the game. There’s no shock to them. They just kind of transition into it.”
Yeo even joked that “it’s our forwards turn” to be injured after the blueline was decimated earlier in the year.
So there wasn’t a ton of consternation at practice today. Certainly the injuries aren’t ideal, but for now it doesn’t sound like Koivu or Bouchard will miss too much time. And, as Yeo and Clutterbuck both pointed out, this team has dealt with injures all year and still finds itself atop the NHL.