Dane Mizutani / St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL — Wild tough guy Marcus Foligno has been told he hits like a truck. Well, he looks like he got hit by a truck after a fight with Chicago Blackhawks winger John Hayden last week.
MINNEAPOLIS — Traded by the Timberwolves during the offseason, new Utah Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio looks very much like someone who's trying to win the breakup. He doesn't look or sound like the soft-spoken, baby-face star Twin Cities fans grew to love over the past six years. Instead, the 26-year-old Spaniard returned to Minnesota rocking a messy man bun, a hipster beard and a full-sleeve tattoo, along with his new No. 3 jersey. "Just a lot of things happened in my life," Rubio explained at the Friday, Oct. 20, shootaround. "I want to change a little bit."
MINNEAPOLIS — Jason Zucker still remembers the first time he walked into the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital nearly two years ago. He took the elevator adjacent to the lobby, rode up to the fifth floor with teammate Jared Spurgeon, and stumbled into a room where he met his biggest fan, Tucker Helstrom. "Walking in that day," Zucker said before taking a few seconds to compose himself, "I had no idea it was going to change my life."
ST. PAUL — After playing well in a 5-2 victory over the rival Chicago Blackhawks last week, Wild defenseman Mike Reilly was rewarded with a demotion to the minors. Such is life for the only waiver-exempt blue liner on a team ravaged by injuries up front. "I was definitely very disappointed," said Reilly, a former star at Holy Angels in Richfield and with the Gophers. "I'd say most of it is out of my control. ... It's not so much to do with me. It's just a unique situation." Indeed.
ST. PAUL — Darby Hendrickson hasn't played in the NHL in more than a decade, yet there he was skating with the Wild during practice at St. Thomas Ice Arena on Monday, Oct. 15. This is what it's come to for the cap-strapped Wild so early in the season. Already without Mikael Granlund (groin), Charlie Coyle (broken right fibula), Nino Niederreiter (sprained left ankle), and Marcus Foligno (broken facial bone), the Wild needed a 45-year-old assistant coach to suit up to run a full practice.
ST. PAUL — It looks like Zach Parise's return to the Wild lineup might have to be put on hold. Parise left practice Monday, Oct. 16, at St. Thomas Ice Arena after only about 20 minutes following a session in which players went through intense one-on-one drills. "I talked briefly with (general manager) Chuck (Fletcher) and he said it was setback," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I don't know how much of a setback or anything."
CHICAGO — It didn't take long for big-bodied Marcus Foligno to realize there was something different about the culture of his new team. Whether it was the motivational quotes coach Bruce Boudreau has plastered on the walls of the Wild locker room, or the Stanley Cup expectations heading into the season, it was very clear to the 26-year-old that he wasn't in Buffalo anymore.
ST. PAUL — No Zach Parise. No Mikael Granlund. No problem? Not exactly. With both players injured and out for the Thursday, Oct. 12, measuring-stick game against the rival Blackhawks in Chicago, the Wild are down to 11 healthy forwards on the roster, leaving them short-handed up front for the second consecutive game. They were forced to fill the hole in the lineup with extra defensemen in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. The reason for that is money. Or lack thereof.
ST. PAUL — Mikael Granlund's groin injury will keep him on the shelf a little longer than expected. "I think Granny is going to miss the next four games," coach Bruce Boudreau said Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 10, less than 24 hours after saying he hoped it was a short-term injury. "It's a day at a time with him." That means Granlund will miss Thursday's road game against the Chicago Blackhawks, the home opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night, plus the two-game road trip against the Winnipeg Jets and the Calgary Flames next weekend.
RALEIGH, N.C. — Matt Cullen breathed a sign of relief when Jaromir Jagr signed a one-year deal with the Calgary Flames on Oct. 4. That meant the seemingly immortal Jagr, 45, remains the NHL's oldest player. Otherwise, it's Cullen, 40. "I was pretty happy about that," Cullen said with a smile. Make no mistake, though, Cullen is the old man of the Wild locker room. He's six years older than Mikko Koivu, the team's second-oldest player, and rookie Joel Eriksson Ek, 20, was 10 months old when Cullen made his NHL debut with the Anaheim Ducks.