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Graovac Set To Make NHL Debut; Injury Updates

by Ryan Stanzel / Minnesota Wild


To an athlete, waking up groggy to a missed call can be unnerving. It could be any number of possibilities, so Tyler Graovac wasn’t quite sure yesterday waking up to a voicemail from Wild Director of Minor League Operations Jim Mill that said: “Grao, call me ASAP.”

It was great news for Graovac actually, who learned he was being summoned to the Minnesota Wild to make his NHL debut tonight. Graovac and his Iowa Wild teammates had arrived in Grand Rapids, Mich., around 5 a.m. He quickly had to get on a plane to Minnesota, before another plane got him to Winnipeg around midnight last night.

Graovac said he “felt a lot of emotions on the ice” this morning at MTS Centre, where he impressed in a Wild preseason game this year.

“I bring a lot of size and speed,” said Graovac, who will center the Wild’s third line, as the Wild plays without Mikael Granlund, who is out week-to-week with an upper-body injury. “If they need me in the top six, I can do that, or I can be in the bottom six. I’ve got a lot of confidence right now.”

Graovac, the Wild’s seventh-round pick (No. 191 overall) in the 2011 Draft, led the Iowa Wild with 12 goals and was tied for first with 24 points at the time of his recall. He credited his breakout season in his second year as a pro to “being a professional and being the best I can be out there every day.”

Injury And Lineup Updates

Mike Yeo said Jonas Brodin (upper body injury) is feeling better and is a possibility to join the team in Columbus for the game on Wednesday. There was no further update on Niklas Backstrom and Jason Zucker (both have a virus). Yeo expects a further update on Granlund tomorrow.

Darcy Kuemper is back from a bout of food poisoning to start tonight, while Erik Haula will be a scratch.

“It’s kind of an odd time to scratch (Haula),” Yeo said. “It comes down to we need him to be the player we know he can be. We need him now more than ever. We had a conversation today and looked at some clips. We made it very clear the things he needs to bring.”

Chasing

The new buzzword in the NHL appears to be “chasing,” as coaches and players of teams out of the playoff race with 50 or so games remaining are asked how important tonight’s game is.

“You can’t use the excuse of ‘it’s early’ anymore,” Wild alternate captain Zach Parise said. “We’re chasing in our division. We’re chasing these guys. We should start to feel the urgency.”

“It’s as important as every game,” Yeo added. “This is a team we’re chasing. As much as anything, we want to keep building off Saturday’s game. If they win the game tonight, they don’t make the playoffs, and if we lose it doesn’t mean we don’t. Last game was a huge step in the right direction for us.”

Late Night Ahead

The Wild will clear customs tonight (at the main terminal in Winnipeg) and fly to Columbus, where the team is scheduled to practice at 1 p.m. eastern on Wednesday. With the customs process and time change, don’t be surprised if the Wild arrives Columbus sometime well after 2 a.m.

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