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Rink Report: Wild Thrilled with Brodin's Return

After missing 14 games with a finger injury, defenseman was back in the lineup Saturday against Nashville

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

MINNEAPOLIS -- In the midst of one of his best seasons as a pro, Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin sustained an injury last month when he fractured a finger that kept him from the lineup for more than four weeks.

And while the Wild was able to stay afloat without Brodin in the lineup, it was certainly glad to welcome him back for the first time on Saturday against the Nashville Predators. 

"It was very frustrating. It was very tough to just sit out and watch the guys play," Brodin said. "But the good thing is, they played really well. But it's not fun to be out, especially when the team is playing good and I'm playing good."

In all, Brodin missed 14 games with the injury but received nearly 15 minutes of ice time over 19 shifts in his first game back -- and rave reviews from coach Bruce Boudreau.

"[He was] really good," Boudreau said. "Really pleasantly surprised. I didn't know what to expect after 14 games missed. I didn't know if it would take some time to get going or how apprehensive [he would be] about shooting the puck and getting involved. But I thought he played a real good game and helped [Gustav Olofsson] out a lot."

Although he played on the left side almost exclusively over his first 43 games this season, Brodin skated on the right side of the rookie Olofsson on Saturday and was there again at practice at Ridder Arena on Monday.

A left-handed shot, Brodin's ability to play both sides seamlessly makes him extremely valuable. He also has plenty of experience at right defenseman after skating to Ryan Suter's right for most of his rookie season in the NHL in 2012-13. 

"I'm pretty used to playing it," Brodin said. "It's a little bit different. But it's just fun to play again. I can play both sides. Of course it's a little different, but I feel pretty good on the right."

While Brodin has played with several different defensive partners in his five seasons with the Wild, including Suter and Jared Spurgeon in the past, as well as Matt Dumba and Christian Folin this season alone, Brodin sees a bit of himself in Olofsson.

Only one year his junior, the two Swedes have taken very different paths to the NHL. While Olofsson will play in his 10th NHL game on Tuesday when the Wild hosts the Chicago Blackhawks, Brodin will be skating in his 308th. 

Still, their temperament, their wiry frames and their styles of play are nearly identical.

"I feel [we're] pretty similar," Brodin said. "Both good skaters, lefties, the way we play on the ice. He sees the game really well."

Decision time on Dumba

With Brodin back in the mix, the Wild's attention now turns to another defenseman, Matt Dumba, who has missed the past four games with a lower-body injury sustained Feb. 10 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

Dumba was on the ice practicing again on Monday and appeared to be close to 100 percent. 

Now, the club must decide if it wants Dumba to return for the Blackhawks game or if it wants to sit him Tuesday and allow five extra days of rest before the March schedule grind begins.

"He's physically, ready to play, I think," Boudreau said. "I haven't talked to the trainers yet, but that's what I would gather from just watching him out there. As to whether he's [in the lineup Tuesday] or whether, with one game before the break, would it'd be better to let the lower-body injury rest for six more days, that's something the trainer will decide."

If Dumba returns, he will likely play next to a familiar face in Marco Scandella.

Graovac back with the big club

The Wild recalled Tyler Graovac from Iowa of the American Hockey League on Monday, a day after sending rookie Alex Tuch back to Des Moines.

The move was two-fold: Tuch wasn't receiving enough playing time here, according to Boudreau, who said he would rather have him playing 20 minutes per night in the AHL than the seven or eight he was getting with the big club.

He also was eager to see Erik Haula move back up in the lineup against the speedy Blackhawks, an opponent that always seems to bring out the best in Haula's game. With Graovac in the mix and Haula up to the third line, Charlie Coyle will head back to right wing. 

With the club going on hiatus for four days after the Blackhawks game, it's possible Graovac could be returned to Iowa after Tuesday, as clubs often do with young players during a long layoff. 

Regardless, Graovac said he's motivated to show what he can do against Chicago. 

"My main goal right now is to be the best player I can be. I'm definitely going to be a little more aggressive tomorrow," Graovac said. "Obviously, I want to go out there and prove to [Boudreau] that he can trust me in situations if I'm put in them."

Scouting the Blackhawks

Chicago returned from its own bye week over the weekend, losing 3-1 to the Edmonton Oilers in its first game back on Saturday before rebounding nicely in a 5-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.

The Blackhawks snapped an eight-game losing streak against the Wild when it won 4-3 in overtime at Xcel Energy Center earlier this month, although Minnesota carries a nine-game point streak into the matchup (8-0-1). Chicago trails Minnesota by seven points in the Central Division standings, although the Wild has one game in hand and will have three in hand by the time it returns from its bye week with a game against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday in St. Paul. 

Patrick Kane scored a goal in his return to his hometown on Sunday, giving him 20 for the season. He is the first American-born player in NHL history to score at least 20 goals in each of his first 10 seasons. 

Kane is second on the team in goals, behind Artem Anisimov and Marian Hossa, who each have 21. Artemi Panarin is one goal shy of becoming the fourth 20-goal scorer in Chicago's lineup.

Captain Jonathan Toews has been red-hot as of late, scoring five goals and chipping in 10 assists over his past 11 games since Jan. 22. He scored the overtime game-winner and also had two assists in Chicago's win in St. Paul on Feb. 8.

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