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Pateryn returns to lineup after lengthy road back from injury

Veteran defenseman expected to be a consistent presence for Minnesota down the stretch

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

ST. PAUL -- Had things gone according to plan, Wild defenseman Greg Pateryn would have been back in the lineup nearly two months ago. 

After undergoing bilateral core muscle repair surgery on Oct. 1, Pateryn's season finally got underway on Sunday in Minnesota's 4-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks at Xcel Energy Center.

Pateryn had a couple of setbacks in his return from surgery, which had an initial timeline of just six weeks. That would have meant a return to the lineup a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving. 

Instead, the veteran blueliner was forced to watch the first 44 games of the season, as rookie Carson Soucy gained control of a full-time job in the NHL in his stead. 

Soucy has been a revelation for the Wild this season, scoring five goals and assisting on five others while leading the team's defensemen in plus/minus. 

It's a performance that likely wouldn't have been possible without Pateryn's unfortunate training camp injury. Not that the affable Pateryn isn't happy for Soucy, but the youngster's success will make playing time on an already clogged blueline even more competitive.

Video: Locker room postgame vs Vancouver

"Obviously very frustrating, but I think sometimes that's what helps you bounce back a little better," Pateryn said. "There's not really much you can do with certain things, but you take with it what you can. You gotta take advantage of any opportunity you get."

One thing Pateryn has going for him is his style of play. 

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound veteran of 248 NHL games has size and is a willing combatant in front of the net. He's the classic defensive-defenseman, much like Soucy. 

Brad Hunt, who was scratched for the first time this season, leads all Wild defensemen in goals (seven) and doesn't possess the "prototypical" size of a Pateryn. 

That should allow Wild coach Bruce Boudreau to mix and match on his third pairing depending on the opponent. 

Video: Boudreau postgame vs Vancouver

"I thought Pateryn was fine. He did a good job," Boudreau said. "With Hunt, Pateryn's got to play. We knew that the power play would be affected, but we knew that we probably if we're going to win it's going to be the 3-1 game. So defending was more important. 

"You've got to put him in at some point. It's game 46. He's gonna play, so somebody's got to come out and we just thought at this stage, Soucy was the guy and it would be pretty drastic measures if I take any one of those other four out. I mean, it would be newsworthy around the hockey world I would think."

For Pateryn, his return to the lineup was a quiet one on the scoresheet, which is usually a good thing. He skated 12 minutes, 27 seconds, dished out four hits and blocked one shot while maintaining an even plus/minus. 

The only negative part of his day was the result on the scoreboard. 

"It's never fun losing, but I think personally it was good to get back out there," Pateryn said. "I felt pretty good and it was good to just get back in and get back around the guys.

"I feel good. I feel great. No issues at all. I felt good on the ice. It felt good to get the timing back. I was just excited to be out there with everyone."

Pateryn's return, and that of forward Jason Zucker, highlighted what was otherwise a disappointing day for the Wild, which was whistled for eight penalties on the afternoon. The constant parade to the penalty box prevented any sort of real momentum or flow as the Wild scored just once in the game on Marcus Foligno's drive to the net 11:58 into the second period.

Video: VAN@MIN: Foligno bats rebound past Markstrom in front

The goal, Foligno's eighth of the season and fourth in his past four games, briefly tied the game at 1-1, but the Canucks would take the lead for good just 13 seconds later on Bo Horvat's goal. 

"We're not a team, I don't think, and I don't want to downplay our team, but we're not a team that's going to go tic-tac-toe, tic-tac-toe, and score goals," Boudreau said. "We're a team when we're going well we get shots on net, we go to the net, like Marcus' goal. That's how we score. We grind it out. But we don't have enough guys grinding right now."

The Wild created little in the way of quality chances until the final two or three minutes, when Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom denied Minnesota on four or five grade-A chances. 

According to the website, the late push gave Minnesota more scoring chances (18-12) and high-danger chances (10-7) in the game. 

Ultimately, it was too little, too late.

"It's tough. We're a good team when we have all the lines rolling. It is what it is. Power play and then you also take some penalties on the power play, too, which is tough. It goes back the other way," Foligno said. "They got their skill guys moving the puck a little more. Our penalty kill did a fabulous job I thought. But it can tire guys out and you kind of saw that in the third period. We had some looks obviously to theirs but for the most part the jump wasn't always there."


Postgame Hat Trick: Canucks 4, Wild 1

Video: MIN Recap: Foligno scores in 4-1 loss to Canucks

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