The Minnesota Wild are in the thick of an NHL playoff race and they’re battling away without left winger Thomas Vanek. However, they’re without him by choice.
According to Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter Michael Russo, Vanek is a scratch for the second consecutive game when the Wild visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night. Wild coach John Torchetti also kept Vanek also sat out of Saturday’s 3-2 shootout win over Carolina.
“Actually I haven’t talked to Torch yet, so I don’t know,” Vanek told Russo. “I think at this point there’s no need to talk. We’re trying to win games and if that’s what he thinks is the best lineup, I’ve got to respect that.
“I still feel like I can make a difference in this league … I’m not going to get frustrated here or be negative. I’ll just work hard and wait for my chance to get back in and to make a difference.”
Vanek is third on the Wild with 18 goals and fourth with 41 points in 70 games. He’s in the second year of a three-year, $19.5-million contact. According to General Fanager, his salary increases to $7.5 million from $6.5 million next season.
Torchetti is looking for a better output from his high-priced forward. He scratched Vanek after a 7-4 loss in New Jersey. The winger played 13:55 and was minus-2.
“Just a solid game,” he told Russo in terms of what he wants from Vanek. “That’s all we’re looking for from all our players. We put the lineup in that we feel that’s going to help us win and if you’re not in, you’ve got to wait your turn. And then when you get back in, stay in the lineup.”
Without Vanek, the Wild entered their game with the Blackhawks trailing the Colorado Avalanche by a single point for the last wild card spot in the Western Conference. The Avs are in Edmonton.