SAINT PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Wild fans haven’t seen their team play a game that matters at home since April. Their excitement before Saturday night’s meeting with the Columbus Blue Jackets might be tempered by the fact that they’re not going to see a few notable stars play, at home or on the road, for even longer.
Minnesota was already missing high-scoring forwards Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund because of injury before Thursday’s 5-2 win in Chicago. That victory — the Wild’s first of the season — came at a steep cost, as three more regulars on offense were lost to various ailments.
On Friday, forward Charlie Coyle underwent successful surgery to fix a right fibula fracture and is expected to miss six to eight weeks. In beating the Blackhawks, forward Nino Niederreiter suffered a high left ankle sprain and is expected to miss a minimum of three weeks. Both were placed on injured reserve.
New Wild forward Marcus Foligno suffered a left facial fracture and is expected to miss a minimum of one week.
It means that trio, along with Parise and Granlund, will be unavailable against the Blue Jackets.
“I’d like to make them available, but I don’t think I can,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau joked about Parise and Grandlund after the victory in Chicago gave Minnesota a 1-1-1 record for the season.
As a result of all the ailments, the Wild recalled rookie forward Luke Kunin from their Iowa AHL team on Friday and the former University of Wisconsin standout is expected to make his NHL debut on Saturday. Defenseman Mike Reilly was sent to Iowa of the American Hockey League.
The Wild will attempt to remain unbeaten in home openers. The team is 14-0-2 in their home debut since entering the NHL as an expansion team in 2000.
Columbus comes into the game on a two-game winning streak, with the most recent victory a 3-1 home decision over the New York Rangers.
Coach John Tortorella thought his team came out flat as the Blue Jackets didn’t get on the board until defenseman Seth Jones’ slapshot deflected off a Rangers player with 45 seconds left in the second period. They completed the rally in the third period.
Despite that, Tortorella said he’s pleased with they way they’ve found ways to win lately. On Tuesday in Carolina, the Blue Jackets overcame a late third-period equalizer to pull out the 2-1 victory in overtime.
“You have to find a way to win these types of games because we’re going to do this again sometime,” he said. “You just don’t play well all the time during the year.”
A main reason why Columbus is able to win those kinds of games rests with goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. He has saved 74 of 76 shots in the two wins.
A familiar face will return to visit the Wild on Saturday. Columbus acquired left winger Artemi Panarin during the summer from Chicago. The 25-year-old Russian scored his first goal of the season Friday to put the Blue Jackets up for good.
As a second-team NHL All Star last season with the Central Division Blackhawks, Panarin scored 74 points and finished tied for 11th in the league in scoring.
He showcased his skills Friday, weaving around Rangers starting from his blue line before unleashing a quick shot past goalie Henrik Lundqvist in the high slot.
“He’s obviously a very special player for a reason offensively,” said Jones, who also scored his first goal of the season in Friday’s win. “The way he moves on his feet, cuts across the ice, it’s real tough to compete against. … You can barely stay in front of him.”
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