ST. PAUL, Minn. The first-place Minnesota Wild have been doomed by injuries of late. Seemingly every game, another player is banged up and the lineup is again juggled.For Jarod Palmer, that was his ticket to the NHL.The 25-year-old Palmer, who grew up in nearby Fridley, Minn., made his NHL debut with the Wild in Saturday's 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Islanders at Xcel Energy Center. The rookie forward finished with a team-high six shots in 15:38 of ice time."I was just trying to shoot pucks," Palmer said after the loss. "The team was struggling to get shots in the net. I was just trying to put them there. I know I've got (Colton) Gillies and (Warren) Peters that are going to crash the net hard, so any shot might be a second or third opportunity and you've got to think that way."
The Wild placed Guillaume Latendresse on injured reserve, and Mikko Koivu (leg) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard (broken nose) were also scratched from Saturday's lineup. So in stepped Palmer, and the rookie impressed his teammates in his debut."I thought he was good. He was fast, shooting pucks," said Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck. "It's not easy to play your first game. There's a lot of nerves, especially in your hometown. It was good for him."Palmer admitted after the game he felt some nerves early on, but they were eliminated quickly as he fired a backhand shot on Islanders goalie Al Montoya during his first NHL shift. While Montoya made the pad save, it was a sign of the spark Palmer would provide throughout the rest of the game."A dream come true to play for the Wild at home," Palmer said. "I think it was hard to feel my body. My whole body was tingling after the first period, so I just had to calm down in between periods and go out there and just play hockey. After I got (those) first couple shifts under my belt, I felt a lot better."Before the game, Palmer said he had about 100 friends and family that made the short trip from Fridley to St. Paul to see him in his debut. If it added to the nerves of skating in his first NHL game, Palmer didn't show it."I gave a quick peek (in the stands), but there's so many people," Palmer said. Palmer had a chance at an overtime winner, but couldn't get a handle on the puck in front of Montoya. Had Palmer been able to corral the puck midway through overtime, he had Montoya out of position and an open net to shoot at.Instead, the game went to a shootout, where the Wild failed to score and fell 2-1 to the visiting Islanders."I wish I had it back," Palmer said of the overtime chance. "I would have stepped away from the net a little, gave (Nick) Johnson a little more space for him to hit me on the tape. It kind of hit off my heel or hit off my skate or something. I thought it was going in, but it just didn't trickle in for me. "That would have been pretty sweet."Palmer, like several other players in Saturday's lineup, began the season with the AHL's Houston Aeros. He played in 26 games with Houston before his call-up, scoring four goals and adding six assists with a plus-8 rating. Before joining Houston last year, Palmer played four seasons at Miami (Ohio) University from 2006-10, where he tallied 137 points in four seasons.Saturday, the third line of Palmer, Gillies and Peters combined for 10 of Minnesota's 10 shots, as Peters and Gillies each fired a pair on net."Palms, in his first game, played a great game," Peters said. "Threw pucks at the net, really carried the momentum of our line. It seemed like we were a bounce away a couple times."Wild coach Mike Yeo was impressed with how Palmer and the third line played."They were really good," Yeo said. "As far as I'm concerned, they turned the game around. I haven't looked at the final game sheet, but I know that we didn't get a lot of shots. But the majority came from them just because of the way they were playing the game."Through one period Saturday, the Wild had just five shots on goal three were by Palmer. He had another shot on net in the second period as he tallied four of Minnesota's nine shots through two periods.On a night when Minnesota's top lines struggled to generate much offense, Palmer's six shots on goal and his constant motor provided a spark for the first-place Wild."I thought he was great," Yeo said. "You could argue he was our best forward tonight."