VANCOUVER, British Columbia – First NHL goals only occur once, so the shame of Wild rookie defenseman Mike Reilly’s first Saturday against the Boston Bruins was it came with 35 seconds left in a 4-2 loss.
Under those circumstances, Reilly understandably decided not to react with any kind of celebration.
“I knew the score, I knew the time of the game, so just natural decision not to really do anything,” Reilly, 22, said. “It would have been way better with a win, but hopefully next time I can celebrate. It was nice, though, that my parents were there, and I got a bunch of really nice messages.”
Monday night against the Canucks, Wild interim coach John Torchetti chose to scratch veteran Nate Prosser for the first time since Oct. 25 and skate Reilly with Christian Folin as the third pairing. It was a comfort level for Torchetti, who paired Reilly and Folin for “five to eight games” in Iowa of the AHL.
“He’s familiar with a lot of players on this team and coached a ton of these guys, but it’s a boost of confidence that he feels comfortable playing us as partners,” said Reilly, who was as plus-1 Monday. “I thought we had good chemistry in Iowa.”
Torchetti is looking for better play than Folin has provided the four games — he was a minus-4. But Monday, he was a plus-2.
“One thing that we found out down there is we put him on the power play because he’s got a heavy shot,” Torchetti said, “but he’s got to be a stay-at-home guy, physical, boxing out, making a great first pass, getting back hard, being smart. Just making sure he plays a solid two-way game.”
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who strained an oblique muscle Feb. 6 in St. Louis, returned after missing three games. He was paired with usual partner Ryan Suter and scored late in the first period to give the Wild 2-1 lead. Spurgeon also assisted on Charlie Coyle’s second-period goal.
Spurgeon felt terrible for not being able to help Mike Yeo’s cause the past week. Yeo, fired Saturday with one year left on his contract, first began coaching Spurgeon in Houston of the AHL in 2010.
“It always falls on the coach when the players on the ice aren’t doing it,” Spurgeon said. “I owe a lot of my success to him and the way he coached me the last six years. I’m grateful for what he did for me.
“Torch is a new voice, but it falls on us in the room. We have to come together as a team again.”
Yeo left the Twin Cities on Monday for a few days of rest and relaxation. He said out of respect for the organization, he would wait until next week to speak publicly because he doesn’t want to overshadow Torchetti’s first week and this weekend’s Stadium Series events.
• Torchetti said the first couple of games will be a lot of getting to know the players and even his assistants.
He said the lines are day-to-day: “You’ve got to earn your ice, you’ve got to earn your spots.”
Against the Canucks, Torchetti called the line switching of the forwards and veteran assistant Rick Wilson switched the blue-liners, as usual. But Torchetti said he would see how it goes on the bench and in practice before deciding if roles of assistant coaches will be altered.
• Winger Chris Porter was scratched for the fifth time in six games.