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Injuries a big part of early season for Wild, Hurricanes

by Dan Myers / NHL.com

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A number of injures on the blue line have forced the Minnesota Wild to shuffle their defensive pairs heading into their game Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes at Xcel Energy Center.

The team announced Wednesday that Jonas Brodin, hit in the face by a dump-in attempt by Gabriel Bourque during a game Tuesday against the Nashville Predators, sustained a broken cheekbone on the play. He will not play against Carolina, but Wild coach Mike Yeo indicated Brodin could be back sooner than initially expected.

"I would suspect we could get him back on the ice [Friday] and hopefully back in the lineup soon," Yeo said.

Brodin, who is tied for the NHL lead among defensemen with three goals, also averages more than 24 minutes of ice time per game. His spot on the Wild's top pairing with Ryan Suter will fall to Jared Spurgeon, who held that spot for the first handful of games last season before Brodin established himself as one of the League's best young defensemen.

Minnesota also is without Keith Ballard, who has missed the past four games after also being struck in the face by a puck. The team has not disclosed Ballard's specific injury, but he won't play Thursday.

The injuries to Brodin and Ballard open opportunities for Nate Prosser and Mathew Dumba to get regular playing time. Prosser played in his second game of the season Tuesday, while Dumba has played in six games.

"You never want to see injuries and obviously you hope for speedy recoveries for those guys," Prosser said. "I just try to do whatever is in my control. Work hard in practice, be a good teammate, staying positive. When injuries happen, guys need to step up and that's where I need to step in and take hold of this opportunity."

In Dumba's case, the Wild will have a decision to make on him in the next week or so. The 19-year-old can be returned to his junior team, the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League, prior to him playing his 10th game and delaying the start of his three-year, entry-level contract.

The Hurricanes are dealing with a number of injuries of their own, but appear close to getting a couple of contributors back.

Defenseman Tim Gleason, who hasn't played a game yet this season due to a concussion, has skated this week in practice but is not quite ready to play. He could be in the lineup as soon as Friday when the Hurricanes play at the Colorado Avalanche.

Forward Elias Lindholm, who sustained an upper-body injury nearly two weeks ago against the Los Angeles Kings, also is close to returning, and Carolina coach Kirk Muller has indicated he will be back in the lineup as soon as he's ready. That could come Friday against Colorado.

Forward Patrick Dwyer was placed on injured reserve Wednesday with a lower-body injury and goaltender Anton Khudobin, out since Oct. 13, could start skating again next week.

HURRICANES

Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Alexander Semin

Nathan Gerbe - Jordan Staal - Radek Dvorak

Jeff Skinner - Riley Nash - Tuomo Ruutu

Drayson Bowman - Brett Sutter - Kevin Westgarth

Andrej Sekera - Justin Faulk

Jay Harrison - Ryan Murphy

Brett Bellemore - Ron Hainsey

Cam Ward

Justin Peters

Scratched: Mike Komisarek

Injured: Anton Khudobin (undisclosed), Patrick Dwyer (upper body), Tim Gleason (concussion), Elias Lindholm (upper body)

WILD

Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Justin Fontaine

Dany Heatley - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Matt Cooke - Kyle Brodziak - Nino Niederreiter

Stephane Veilleux - Zenon Konopka - Torrey Mitchell

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Nate Prosser - Marco Scandella

Mathew Dumba - Clayton Stoner

Josh Harding

Niklas Backstrom

Injured: Mike Rupp (knee), Charlie Coyle (knee), Jonas Brodin (face), Keith Ballard (undisclosed)

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