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Wild roster looks considerably different in wake of injuries

Ailments have provided opportunity for others to step up, earn additional ice time

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

ST. PAUL -- When the puck drops at Xcel Energy Center tonight, the Wild will become the final team in the NHL to celebrate its home opener.

Much has changed since Minnesota opened its season nine days ago in Detroit, when the club was without Zach Parise because of an undisclosed injury.

Mikael Granlund re-aggravated a groin injury and hasn't played in the two games since Detroit.

But the biggest blow yet came in Chicago on Thursday.

The Wild lost three top-six forwards in the span of about a period of hockey, when Marcus Foligno sustained a facial fracture in a second-period fight and Nino Niederreiter went out with a sprained ankle and Charlie Coyle a broken fibula early in the third.

The Niederreiter and Coyle injuries actually occurred on consecutive shifts; in fact, after Niederreiter reached the bench following the injury, the guy over the boards to replace him was Coyle. 

After a couple of icing calls, Coyle took a blast from the point by teammate Jared Spurgeon to the back of the leg, and down he went as well.

"Every team goes through that piece of adversity at some point during the season. When you hit that bump in the road early in the season, sometimes that can be good for a team, bringing the group together," said Wild forward Matt Cullen. "I think you saw in Chicago, the group kind of rallied around it and found a way to win. Tonight is no exception, we've gotta be at our best, it's going to be a tough game but I'm looking forward to it, a lot of energy in the building, it'll be fun."

Video: Wild pregame vs. Columbus

The Wild overcame the injuries, scoring four times in the third period -- two into an empty net -- in capturing a 5-2 victory against the Blackhawks. 

Minnesota did much of that damage with eight healthy forwards. At one point late in the game, with two players in the penalty box, coach Bruce Boudreau was staring at a half empty bench and just six available forwards.

"You've heard me say the last year, when one person leaves, another one's got to come in, and I expect them to do the same job," Boudreau said. "We're not a 'woe is me' team, and we're not going to sit there and say, 'Oh well that guy's out and this guy's out,' and make excuses because excuses are for losers. We plan on being as good as we were against Chicago, and I'm convinced if we play the right way, good things are going to happen."

If anything, the Wild proved to itself that it can withstand a tremendous amount of adversity and still overcome it, like it did during the turbulent third period on Thursday.

The Wild has five days to rest and prepare for a quick two-game road trip next weekend following the Columbus game on Saturday. By then, it's possible Parise and Foligno could each be ready to re-join the lineup. 

"It's interesting. It's something that you can't really prepare for," said Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk. "We're a deep team. That's where we find our success from throughout the season. We have guys playing on the third and fourth line, usually, who are capable of playing on the first and second line and getting points for us. In that regard, it's going to be a good opportunity for quite a few guys and something that I'm not at all worried about."

"There's a lot of things that we probably didn't love about it but we found a way to win [on Thursday]," Cullen said. "I think that we feel like we have another level. It's early in the season, we're still looking to improve but there's things we can draw on there and there's things you can build your group around."

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