The Minnesota Wild will be without Edmonton-native, Jared Spurgeon, tomorrow as the club wraps its three-game Western Canadian road trip against the Oilers at Rexall Place. The blueliner is out with an upper-body injury after taking a puck up high yesterday against the Calgary Flames.
Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said he doesn’t know how long Spurgeon will be sidelined.
“I don’t have an answer on that,” Yeo said. “The only thing I’ve got word on is that he’s out for tomorrow.”
The bench boss said that he and the staff would discuss the potential of recalling a defenseman from its American Hockey League affiliate, the Iowa Wild, or suiting up Stu Bickel on the blue line. If Minnesota recalls a defenseman, the team will have to place a player on Injured Reserve or return one to Iowa.
Meet Michael Keranen
Yesterday, Minnesota recalled forward Michael Keranen from Iowa. The 25-year-old joined the team after morning skate and participated in warmups, but didn’t make his National Hockey League debut. Today, Keranen was one of a handful of players in Edmonton participating in an optional skate.
Last season skating for Ilves Tampere of the Finnish Elite League (SM-Liiga), he earned the Lasse Oksanen Award, given to the best player during the regular season. He tied for the SM-Liiga lead in points (17-35=52) and was tied for second in assists. Over the summer, Keranen signed as a free agent with Minnesota on June 5.
“They have a good young team and they liked me as a player,” Keranen said. “So it was pretty easy to sign here.”
The forward said it’s been a difficult season in Iowa, with the team battling for wins. He was thrilled to get his first National Hockey League call-up.
“It was nice,” Keranen said. “We just landed in Charlotte and I got the call to come to Calgary and join the team.”
He’s had to adjust to the North American game, but despite the learning curve, he’s maintained his production offensively. The forward leads Iowa in assists (23) and is second in points (32).
“The ice is smaller,” Keranen said. “You’re a little bit closer to the net to shoot the puck, that’s the biggest difference.”
His roster card might list his birthplace as Stockholm, Sweden, but Keranen said his parents are Finnish and he’s a Finn through and through. In school growing up in Finland, he learned English, but being in North America has given him the opportunity to practice and experience the language first-hand.
“Language is a big part,” Keranen said. “Talking to teammates. We didn’t have Finnish guys down there, so I had to [speak] English every day and that’s how I’ve learned it.”
Of course, learning from teammates makes things easier, but here with Minnesota there’s a certain amount of comfort knowing he’s joining other Finns on the Wild roster.
“There’s lots of Finnish guys, it’s easy to come here,” Keranen.
After missing yesterday’s practice, Minnesota Wild forward Thomas Vanek joined the team for morning skate before the club tries to pick up ground in the Western Conference tonight against the Calgary Flames. The forward has been dealing with general soreness and will be a game-time decision.
“It got better as the skate went on,” Vanek said. “The way I look at it: if I can deal with the pain and still contribute I’ll play, but if I feel like I can’t help the team then I think it’s better if a different guy plays.”
The 31-year-old is hopeful that he’ll feel good throughout the afternoon and up until puck drop.
The Minnesota Wild has recalled forward Michael Keranen from the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League (AHL).
Keranen, 25 (1/4/90), has recorded 32 points (9-23=32) and 16 penalty minutes (PIM) in 52 games with Iowa this season. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound native of Stockholm, Sweden, leads the team in assists, ranks second in scoring and shots (113) and is fourth in goals. He recorded 52 points (17-35=52), 47 PIM and a plus-12 rating in 52 games for Ilves Tampere in Finland’s Elite League in 2013-14. Keranen ranked tied for first in the league in scoring and tied for second in assists and received the Lasse Oksanen Award given to the best player during the regular season. He tallied 27 points (13-14=27) in 56 games with Ilves in 2012-13 and collected 101 points (41-60=101) and 122 PIM in 194 games during four seasons (2010-14) with Ilves.
Keranen was signed as a free agent by the Wild on June 5, 2014, and has not appeared in an NHL game. He will wear jersey No. 36 with Minnesota.
For the second time in less than a month, defenseman Matt Dumba returns to his hometown of Calgary as the Minnesota Wild skates against the Flames. Last time the young blueliner arrived in the Stampede City, it was under much different circumstances. He was recalled the morning of Jan. 29, flew in the day of the game and arrived on the flight while the team was at morning skate.
Since being recalled the former first-round pick has skated in all nine of the team’s games, and was much at ease after practice today compared to his last visit. He’s excited to be back and, this time, have an evening to relax.
“It’s nice that I get to be home for just a bit and see the friends and family and the people that supported me through every step to get to this point,” Dumba said. “I get to go home for a nice home-cooked meal tonight, so that’s going to be fun.”
Dumba said he doesn’t have a number for the people who will attend the game, but will send out some texts today to inquire. However, he has a buffer in the city for ticket requests.
“My mom, she’s the coordinator,” Dumba laughed. “I think all my friends and all my family definitely know to go through her.
“She’s made it known that Matt’s got other things to think about than arranging tickets for everyone.”
On the ice, Dumba has been part of the team’s third pair along with Nate Prosser. The more stay-at-home veteran has started to see improvement from the more offensive-minded youngster.
“He’s developing; you can really see it,” Prosser said. “I think he’s really focusing on the D-side of it, that’s the biggest thing that [the coaches] wanted him to do.
“He skates well, he shoots the puck well, so he has a lot of the elements that you need.”
Like any partnership, they have one another’s backs out on the ice.
“We both do a pretty good job of picking each other up,” Prosser said. “We’ve been doing pretty well of communication on and off the ice and making sure we’re ready on the bench going out for our next shift.”
Minnesota closes out the season series against Calgary tomorrow night. Though it’s the 20-year-olds second time skating in the arena with the Wild, it remains a special place.
“It’s kind of a special event when a minor hockey team gets to play at the Saddledome,” Dumba said. “Playing junior in Red Deer, we played Calgary eight or nine times a year, so we played lots here in the Dome.”
Maintenance Day For Vanek; Line Juggling?
Wild forward Thomas Vanek skipped practice for a maintenance day. Head Coach Mike Yeo expects the forward to be in the lineup tomorrow.
Who Vanek will skate with, along with the rest of the forwards, is yet to be determined. Yeo said that there’s a possibility of some line movement. The team’s bench boss said that dispersing the top line of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville was “something we’re tinkering with.”
“Last game was a bit of a different situation, matchup-wise; and tomorrow will be a different one as well,” Yeo said. “So, it’s something we’re thinking about, but nothing concrete yet.”
Here’s what the combinations looked like today sans Vanek:
Heat Is On
The hits just keep on coming for the Wild, as it tries to ascend the top-8 in the Western Conference against another team that is ahead in the standings. Despite going 8-1-2 in its last 11 games, Minnesota found itself in 10th place in the West thanks to last night’s loss in Vancouver, and coupled with wins by the Flames, Los Angeles Kings and Winnipeg Jets. So, the Wild is trying to concentrate on things it can control, like on-ice performance in practice and games.
“It’s tough because you lose one game in two weeks or three weeks or whatever it was in regulation and it feels like you’ve probably lost four or five in a row,” Yeo said. “But that’s part of the challenge and part of the journey of getting there.”
With the standings looming over the team like a storm cloud, the club looks to use the precipitous situation to its advantage.
“Hopefully you use it to improve your game day-in and day-out,” Yeo said. “If you lost a game like we did last night, then we have to come back today and figure out what we need to do better.”
The Wild looks to rain on the Flames’ margin in the standing at 8:30 p.m. State of Hockey Time tomorrow at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Jordan Schroeder scored twice last week, his first two goals as a member of the Minnesota Wild. The celebration after his second tally, in the club’s last outing against the Carolina Hurricanes, was much subdued when compared to the first. The emphatic fist pump of his first in a Wild sweater was, at least in part, because in accordance with being his inaugural mark, it came against his former team, the Vancouver Canucks.
Tonight, the 24-year-old returns to the Vancouver for the first time since signing with Minnesota in the offseason. The Lakeville native was selected in the first round (22nd overall) in the 2009 National Hockey League Entry Draft.
It was just over two months ago when Minnesota Wild defenseman, Keith Ballard, took a hit during a game against the New York Islanders that led to an unnerving scene on the ice of Xcel Energy Center. The incident left him with three facial fractures and a debilitating concussion.
From the desk of Let's Play Hockey:
Nominations are currently being accepted for the inaugural Patrick Schoonover Award, an annual award that will be given to the Minnesota PeeWee or Bantam hockey player who best exemplifies Patrick’s ideals of hard work, high character, loyalty, honesty, humor and athletic achievement.
On the ice for his Eastview Bantam AA team, Patrick Schoonover was a leader, defender and excellent teammate. Off the ice, he was a leader, defender, excellent friend and classmate, loving brother and son. In recognition of the way he led his life, Let’s Play Hockey and the Minnesota Wild are proud to present the Patrick Schoonover Award.
Nominations can be made by youth hockey coaches and parents, with the winner selected by Let’s Play Hockey staff and the Schoonover family. The winner of the inaugural Patrick Schoonover Award will be presented at the Boys’ High School Hockey State Tournament Banquet in March at Roy Wilkins Auditorium. The winner and the Schoonover family will make the “Let’s Play Hockey” announcement at a Minnesota Wild game, and a permanent display for the award will be installed at Xcel Energy Center.
To nominate a player for the Patrick Schoonover Award, fill out the this form and e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Forms are also available, here, at letsplayhockey.com. Nominations are due by noon on Friday, Feb. 20.
Minnesota Wild forward Stephane Veilleux has brought the same energy and work ethic to the rink for 499 National Hockey League games. Tonight, the veteran will do it for the 500th time, as the Wild hosts the Florida Panthers at 7 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center.
The Minnesota Wild has recalled forward Stephane Veilleux from the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League (AHL).
The 33-year-old has recorded 14 points (2-12=14) and 65 penalty minutes (PIM) in 43 games with Iowa this season and has tallied eight PIM in five games with Minnesota. The 6-foot-1, 199-pound native of Beauceville, Que., has compiled 104 points (49-55=104) and 346 PIM in 499 NHL games with Minnesota, Tampa Bay and New Jersey. Veilleux ranks fifth in Wild history in hits (439), eighth in games played (421) and ninth in PIM (298). He was originally selected by Minnesota in the third round (93rd overall) of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft and wears No. 19 for the Wild.