Dane Mizutani / St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL — Matt Cullen's drive to work Friday morning, Oct. 27, was another reminder that he made the right choice when he decided to put off retirement and sign with the Wild this offseason. While many Twin Cities residents were perhaps perturbed by the first snowfall of the year, the 40-year-old Cullen smiled when asked about it. "It's fun to see it," said Cullen, a native of Virginia, Minn. "I don't know that everybody is as excited. I love it."
ST. PAUL — Wild winger Nino Niederreiter glided around the ice with no hesitation during Thursday's morning skate at the Xcel Energy Center, the first time he has skated with teammates since suffering a high ankle sprain in the Oct. 12 game at Chicago "It's definitely a lot more fun skating with the team than by yourself," Niederreiter said of the Oct. 26 practice. "It's getting better and better. I'm happy to be out there again." His teammates were happy to see him out there again, too.
ST. PAUL — A few minutes after the Wild's lackluster 1-0 loss to Vancouver on Tuesday night, Oct. 24, at the Xcel Energy Center, a reporter's question gave coach Bruce Boudreau the opportunity to lay into his team like he has so many times in the past. It was low-hanging fruit. Instead, the 62-year-old coach credited the Canucks for playing "a very good road game" to earn the two points. "You can look worse than that," Boudreau said of his team. "(The Canucks) didn't have very many chances. ... They took advantage of theirs."
ST. PAUL — Lakeville, Minnesota, native Justin Kloos had been waiting for this moment since the first time he laced up his skates. Even better for someone who grew up only 20 minutes from the Xcel Energy Center, it was happening with his hometown Minnesota Wild. "I'm pretty excited," Kloos said in the Wild locker room hours before his NHL debut Tuesday night, Oct. 24, as the Wild prepared to take on the Vancouver Canucks. "I kind of always believed that one day this would happen. I feel fortunate and special and privileged to be able to make an NHL debut in my hometown."
ST. PAUL — Wild winger Mikael Granlund knows patience is a virtue. That doesn't mean these past two and a half weeks have been easy for him. Granlund has been out since aggravating a groin injury in the Oct. 5 season opener against the Detroit Red Wings. He has missed five games in total, and while he's been getting closer and closer to making his return, the Wild don't want him back until he's 100 percent. In fact, the team is being so cautious with Granlund that he was ruled out for road games at Winnipeg and Calgary over the weekend despite traveling with the team.
ST. PAUL — Wild winger Chris Stewart is on pace for 82 goals this season. Yes, this the the same guy who had almost as many fights (10) as goals (13) last season. Can he keep up the ridiculous pace? "I mean, more than likely, no," Stewart said with a laugh. "I'd take it, for sure." Stewart said more than anything, he's been trying to improve with the Wild ravaged by injuries up front. A couple of weeks into the season, Zach Parise has missed six games, Mikael Granlund five, and Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter three each.
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."
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."