Yesterday’s emotional Minnesota Wild comeback win against the New York Islanders came at a price. During the second period, defenseman Keith Ballard was run hard into the boards by Islanders forward Matt Martin and was taken to Regions Hospital. Ballard suffered three facial fractures, a concussion. He was released today and is out indefinitely.
“I haven’t spoken to him yet, but I know that he’s feeling better, and that’s very encouraging,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “It’s a significant injury.”
After the hit the Wild was charged up, engaging in scrums and jawing after nearly every stoppage. Minnesota was trailing, 3-0, at the time of the hit and went into the third period down, 4-1. However, the club used its emotions to rally to a four-straight third period goals and a 5-4 win.
“The way that we came out after that, it said a lot to me,” Yeo said. “I hope that we can continue with that passion we played with the rest of the game.”
There were a number of instances of the team’s response—both goals and physical play. Mikael Granlund got into it with Kyle Okposo, who took a slashing penalty in the altercation, and Kyle Brodziak dropped the gloves with Martin.
“That stuff is contagious when guys take themselves out of their comfort zones and they’re making a statement to the rest of the group,” Yeo said. “If you mess with one of us, you’re going to have to deal with the entire group.
“We always say we want that pack of wolves mentality and that’s what we’re going to keep striving for.”
Martin will not see any supplementary discipline for the hit on Ballard. Yeo was clearly upset at the hit, but didn’t rail against the League’s ruling.
“I’m not going to argue with the League on this one,” Yeo said. “For me it’s our player, it’s our teammate. When I looked at it, I know Bally was in a little bit of a vulnerable position. He may have turned into it a little bit, but at the same time I saw a player launching himself at him in an area close to the boards.
“He’s seeking him out; he’s on a mission there.”
Today, the team practiced at SAP Center in San Jose before taking on the Sharks tomorrow night. Yeo said that they want to play with the same energy as Tuesday, but will need to balance their emotions.
“It’s a fine line,” Yeo said. “We have to understand how we were able to elevate our play. You’re not going to manipulate those same feelings, but we have to make sure we play with the same kind passion and intensity we did in the second half of that game.
“We’re going to need it tomorrow against a good opponent.”
Defenseman Marco Scandella will have a phone hearing with the NHL following his second illegal check to the head penalty. Scandella was assessed a two-minute penalty for an illegal hit to the head of Islanders forward Brock Nelson. His first came against the St. Louis Blues T.J. Oshie on Nov. 29 and wasn’t handed a suspension.
“Obviously, we’re hoping he’s not suspended,” Yeo said. “We’ll see how it goes and we’ll have a better chance to talk about it after that.”
This morning the Wild recalled defenseman Justin Falk from the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League. The blueliner joined the team and practiced today in San Jose. The 26-year-old has averaged 8:29 in time on ice in three contests with Minnesota this season and recorded four points (1-3=4) and 24 penalty minutes (PIM) in 16 games with Iowa.
Fans joining the team on its current road trip and departing from Terminal 2 of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport can get a taste of the Wild before they depart.
Today was the grand opening of the Minnesota Wild restaurant at the airport’s Humphrey Terminal. Wild.com sent Kelly Erickson to sample the food and check out the new establishment; her story can be found, here.