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Shorthanded Wild Gets Its Work In

Injuries, illness force Wild to practice with just eight forwards, six defensemen

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

Wild Practice Recap

A recap of Monday's Wild practice

Mikko Koivu, Devan Dubnyk, Nate Prosser and head coach Bruce Boudreau recap Monday's practice at Xcel Energy Center

  • 01:50 •

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Wild is piecing together a lineup for its game against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night at Xcel Energy Center.

A combination of injuries, illness and a desire to preserve as much salary cap space as possible made for a unique mix at practice Monday, a day after the Wild's first day off in two weeks. Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau was unable to get the kind of work done he would typically like.

Coming off a stretch in which it has played eight games in 16 days, including a four-game road trip to the East Coast, the Wild will play just three games in the next 12 days. It's a time Boudreau would like to spend conducting harder practices, perfecting system work and special teams.

But Minnesota had only eight forwards and six defensemen available at practice, which made it impossible to work on any of that.

Video: Bruce Boudreau talks to the media after practice

"These 11 days, every team has it," Boudreau said. "These 11 days are days for you to get better by being able to practice. And when you're not able to practice full-bore because of numbers, then it's sort of irritating."

Injuries to forwards Erik Haula, Zach Parise and Zac Dalpe and defenseman Marco Scandella and an illness for Chris Stewart limited numbers to the point where defenseman Nate Prosser was skating on the third forward line while also mixing in some work on the blue line.

Video: Nate Prosser on practicing at forward

"We're short numbers right now in practices, so we just have to make sure we put our work in," Prosser said. "We had eight forwards and needed a ninth, so I just have to be that utility player that I can be."

Salary cap limitations kept the Wild from calling up players from Iowa to help fill in the gaps, although moves will need to be made before Tuesday. Forwards Christoph Bertschy and Tyler Graovac were recalled before the Wild's 4-0 win against the Dallas Stars on Saturday. A similar move will be made on Tuesday as well.

"I was really grumpy this morning because coaches like to have really good practices," Boudreau said. "I know the reasons why we only have eight forwards and six defensemen out there, but it doesn't make practice any easier if you want to keep getting better, especially early on."

The hope is that part of the roster crunch will be solved with Stewart's return. With Minnesota already in a tough spot, Boudreau didn't want to exacerbate the problem by introducing whatever bug is ailing Stewart to the rest of the dressing room.

"The way our situation is, we just sent him home," Boudreau said. "We didn't want anyone else to catch anything. Hopefully it's the 24-hour variety and he'll be ready tomorrow."

The Wild has enough cap space for two call-ups for Tuesday's game. If the team needs to recall a third player, it could place Dalpe on long-term injured reserve, which would keep him out of the lineup for 10 games and 24 days but would also allow the Wild to exceed the cap by the amount of Dalpe's salary.

Dalpe was hurt in the win against Dallas with a lower-body injury, and Boudreau said he thinks he could be out "multiple weeks."

Parise progressing

Parise, who missed the game Saturday with a lower-body injury, is listed as week-to-week. That timeframe hasn't changed, but Boudreau said he was encouraged by the presence of Parise at the rink on Monday.

"He was here today, in good spirits," Boudreau said. "He thinks he's ahead of schedule, so that's good."

Haula getting closer

Haula has missed the past four-games with a lower-body injury but is nearing a return. Boudreau said it could come in the next 7-10 days, which would put him in line to be back for the start of Minnesota's three-game road trip to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Ottawa at the end of next week.

That trip begins Nov. 10 against the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins.

More from Duby

Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk was named the NHL's Second Star of the Week after going 3-0-0 with three shutouts against the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres and Dallas Stars last week.

It's the fourth time Dubnyk has been named a star of the week since being acquired in January of 2015; all three previous times came in the weeks after the trade that brought him to Minnesota.

"I've said it before with shutouts: you don't get them by yourself," Dubnyk said. "There are so many plays that happen throughout the game that might not be noticed or might seem subtle. It's been a lot of fun to play with these guys, and we'll try and stretch it out as long as we can."

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