When Adam Carlson retired from professional hockey last July, he stopped cold turkey. No more summer workouts with other local pros, either, and certainly no men’s league.
“I’m too competitive,” he said.
But Carlson, 29, was back in net on Friday in St. Paul, joining rookie Jesper Wallstedt as the goaltenders stopping shots from Wild players during an hour-long practice at TRIA Rink. He got the call on Thursday night, after the Wild’s 3-2 loss to Nashville at Xcel Energy Center.
The Edina native who played a season at Mercyhurst College before signing an entry level deal with the Washington Capitals after the 2015-16 season is working as a goaltending coach and happy to help the local NHL team.
“This is my only real workout these days,” Carlson said Friday as he packed up his gear, including the helmet he wore last winter for Calgary’s ECHL team, the Manitoba Moose. Filling in Friday for Filip Gustavsson, he gave the Wild a workout, too, his 6-foot-3 body filling the frame during D zone drills.
Gustavsson missed practice for what John Hynes called “maintenance,” but the Wild coach said he expected Gustavsson to be in net on Saturday when the Wild play host to Anaheim in an 8 p.m. puck drop — an hour later than usual because it’s the headlining event of Hockey Day in Minnesota.
Marc-Andre Fleury, out with an upper-body injury after getting run by Florida’s William Lockwood during Minnesota’s 6-4 victory last Friday in Sunrise, Fla., skated alone before Friday’s practice but will be unavailable Saturday.
Also missing from practice Friday was veteran wing Mats Zuccarello, out with an illness. Asked if Zuccarello was questionable to play against the Ducks, Hynes said, “Yeah, but it’s not injury-related at all.”
Saturday is another big game for the Wild, who missed a chance Thursday to pull within two points of Nashville for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff position. A victory would give the Wild some momentum heading into the weeklong All-Star Game break, a 2-1 homestand and wins in five of their past seven games.
After Thursday’s loss, the Wild are six points behind Los Angeles and Nashville, seventh and eighth in the West, and 13th in the conference standings. Since Dec. 18, they’re 9-4 against Eastern Conference teams — and are 4-0 combined this season against No. 1 Boston and No. 2 Florida — but they’re struggling against their playoff rivals. Minnesota has gone 8-12 against teams ahead of them in the West, and is 0-7 against conference rivals since Dec. 30.
“I think the focus is not so much in the past,” Hynes said Thursday. “We’ve gotta win (a) hockey game on Saturday night. We’ve gotta get four out of six points this week, and then we go on break, we get a reset and then we come back and then there’s that next phase of the season.”
Wing Vinni Lettieri, out with a lower-body injury since Dec. 30, was a full participant in practice on Friday but questionable for Saturday’s game. “He skated a little bit, too, before practice, so he had a full day today,” Hynes said. “So, we’ll see how he responds.” … Rookie wing Adam Raska, injured in last Sunday’s 5-2 victory at Carolina, skated alone before practice. “It doesn’t seem like it’s anything major; it’s just soreness and stuff like that,” Hynes said.