ST. PAUL — Woodbury native Brennan Menell grew up idolizing Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon, and the connections between the two players aren’t lost on those who have been paying attention.
Not only is Menell supposed to make his NHL debut largely in response to Spurgeon injuring a hand, but he also reminds a lot of his new teammates of Spurgeon with his style of play.
“He’s got an offensive game to him,” defenseman Jonas Brodin said. “He looks like Spurge when he’s on the ice in that he’s a good puck-mover and he’s a good passer. He’s going to be a great player.”
While coach Bruce Boudreau wouldn’t go as far as comparing Menell to Spurgeon — no surprise considering he absolutely adores Spurgeon — he appears intrigued by the 22-year-old blueliner.
“We tried him out on the power play and tried him out on the right side (of Ryan Suter) in practice,” Boudreau said. “He hasn’t practiced in the NHL since training camp, so we had to get him acclimated a little bit to the way that we play.”
After being called up from the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League last week, Menell said the reality of being in the NHL is still setting in. Sometimes it still feels like yesterday that he sitting on the couch in his childhood home idolizing the hometown team.
“It probably won’t set in fully until I step on the ice for an actual game,” Menell said. “It’s just a special feeling being from here. You ask any kid that grows up playing hockey around the Twin Cities and the ultimate goal is to play for the Wild. Just being in the locker room and being around some of the guys I grew up watching is unbelievable.”
This opportunity is the culmination of a lot of hard work: Menell has done his best to develop into an all-around player. He has flourished offensively for as long as he can remember, but his defensive skills lagged behind.
“That was something I knew I needed to work on,” said Menell, who led Iowa Wild blueliners with 44 points last season. “Obviously, putting up the points offensively is really nice. I’ve always had those tendencies to jump up in the play; it’s something that’s always kind of come naturally for me and something that I love doing. But I feel like I’ve definitely improved defensively and I’m proud of that.”
Just how much Menell has improved will be on display Tuesday night against the Anaheim Ducks.
“I don’t really know what to expect,” he said. “I definitely have to keep it calm and collected. I can’t play nervous. I just have to play like I know I can and the rest will work itself out.”
Sturm sent down
After winning the Nico Sturm sweepstakes last season, the Wild threw him right into the fire, allowing him to make his NHL debut right away.
That brief taste greatly benefited Sturm, and while he was sent back down to the minors on Monday afternoon, it seems like only a matter of time before he’s producing in the NHL.
“Just doesn’t feel new,” Sturm said. “I don’t feel like the new guy in the locker room; I got to know everybody and got the jitters out of the way. (I) feel comfortable and feel like I belong here.”
Dubnyk still out
After not traveling on the most-recent road trip, Devan Dubnyk was back at practice on Monday morning but the goaltender won’t be available for at least a few more days as he tends to his wife, Jenn, as she deals with medical issues.
“He won’t be here Tuesday and Wednesday because he’s got some stuff to do,” Boudreau said. “Hopefully he’s back here Thursday and Friday, and if he practices and everything is OK, he’ll make the decision for us. If he’s not OK, or his wife needs some more things, then he won’t be with us.”