ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild have plenty to be happy about heading into Tuesday's visit from the Sabres, with a 6-2-1 record that has them atop the Central Division and third in the NHL's overall standing. But the Wild also have plenty to worry about that left coach Bruce Boudreau in an admittedly foul mood at practice Monday.
The Wild skated with just 14 players, four under what would dress in a normal game. Two players were returned to the minor leagues after Saturday's 4-0 win over Dallas to save some cap space, former Sabre Chris Stewart had the flu and former Buffalo/Rochester winger Zac Dalpe underwent knee surgery Monday, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
"I was really grumpy this morning,” Boudreau told Minnesota reporters. "Coaches like to have really good practices. And I know the reasons why we only have eight forwards and six defensemen out there. It doesn’t make practice any easier if you want to keep getting better, especially early on in the season. ... when you’re not able to practice full bore because of numbers, then it’s sort of irritating.”
Minnesota lost two stalwarts, forward Zach Parise (foot) and defenseman Marco Scandella (ankle), with week-to-week injuries in Thursday's 4-0 win over the Sabres in KeyBank Center. Center Erik Haula remains at least a week away from returning due to a foot injury.
The Star Tribune reported the Wild was checking with the league about potential long-term injured reserve designations on their cap so they can avoid potentially playing the same short-handed by a player due to the cap.
With that as a backdrop, Minnesota has won four games in a row -- and Devan Dubnyk has become the first goaltender in franchise history to post shutouts in three straight games. The Wild blanked Boston and Buffalo on the road and returned home for the Dallas win as Dubynk earned NHL Second Star of the Week honors.
The Wild have gone a franchise-record 181 minutes, 43 seconds without allowing a goal, dating to a tally by New York Islanders center John Tavares with 1:43 left in a 6-3 Minnesota loss Oct. 23 in Barclays Center.
Minnesota native and former University of Minnesota star Hudson Fasching won't have a homecoming Tuesday night against the Wild as the Sabres winger was ruled out for the game with a groin injury suffered on his lone shift Sunday in Winnipeg.
Coach Dan Bylsma said Monday the Sabres will make a recall from Rochester to have 12 forwards for the game and made it official Tuesday morning with the news that Williamsville native Justin Bailey has been called up. Bailey was not on hand for practice Monday, perhaps out of salary cap considerations and perhaps given the fact the Amerks just returned from a road trip in Newfoundland on Sunday.
Bailey has three goals and one assist in seven games for the Amerks. He did not register a point in eight games with Buffalo last year, but collected 20 goals and 25 assists in 70 games with Rochester.
The Sabres ended practice Monday with some light moments. It started with a shootout drill, and goalie coach Andrew Allen as well as his two netminders were celebrating making 11 straight saves before Nicholas Baptiste finally scored.
Then the goalies got out of the way, the Sabres gathered at one end of the ice and took turns firing pucks at the empty net at the opposite end. The team had multiple chances at the empty net in the final three minutes in Winnipeg, including several chances when the Jets were on a 6-on-4 power play. And no one looked for a pass to Kyle Okposo, who was in seach of his first hat trick with the Sabres.
"We went over a couple scenarios," said a smiling Bylsma. "All in good fun. You'd like to slide them in there and end the game. There were a few lessons to learn, from not getting the center red line to not finding Kyle Okposo for a hat trick."
— Mike Harrington (@BNHarrington) October 31, 2016