As Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund prepare for their Olympic semifinal matchups with Canada and Sweden, respectively, tomorrow, it’s back to the grind stone for the rest of the Minnesota Wild’s skaters.
According to the Star Tribune’s Michael Russo, defenseman Marco Scandella (sprained MCL) has been cleared to skate by team doctors. He’ll start with strength and conditioning coach Kirk Olsen before likely joining the rest of the group within the next few days. His return to the lineup is huge for a team looking to make that final push for a playoff spot. In 55 games this season, the 2008 second round pick has three goals and 13 assists for 16 points–good enough for a two-way tie with sophomore Swedish sensation Jonas Brodin for second in total point scoring from Minnesota’s blue line. His plus-10 rating is also second-best on the team and ranks first among Wild defensemen.
In exchange for Scandella, speedy winger Jason Zucker remains on the shelf after undergoing a minor procedure during the Olympic break. The injury isn’t cause for concern, but he’ll be off the ice for at least a week, meaning he’ll stay behind when Minnesota travels to Edmonton and Vancouver next week. In 21 games this season, Zucker has four goals and an assist for five points and a plus-2 rating.
That said, barring a trade, Erik Haula will again receive the call from the big club. In 25 games this season, the former Minnesota Golden Gopher has two goals and two assists for four points and a plus-5 rating. More importantly, he’s played an important role defensively and has been quite good at it. In 29 games with the Iowa Wild, the Pori, Finland native has scored 14 goals and 12 assists for 26 points and a plus-1 rating. There’s no question Haula has been one of the few highlights for an injured and struggling team in Des Moines.
Be sure to check back tomorrow as Mikael Granlund and Finland take on Sweden and Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Team USA do battle with the Canadians to get into the gold medal game. Granny and the Finns drop the puck against Sweden on NBC Sports Network at 6:00 AM Central Time. Parise, Suter and the Americans follow shortly after at 11:00 AM Central Time, also on NBC Sports Network.