ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild will be without defenseman Jared Spurgeon for the foreseeable future after the team put him on injured reserve with a lower-body injury Saturday before the final game of a four-game homestand against the Washington Capitals.
Spurgeon, who elevated to the Wild’s top pairing with Ryan Suter earlier this week, was hurt while blocking a shot in a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday. He never missed a shift during the game but did not practice Friday, elevating concerns that he could be hurt.
With Spurgeon out, Wild coach Mike Yeo will reunite the pairing of Suter and Jonas Brodin, who have played together for much of the past two seasons. Nate Prosser will step into Spurgeon’s old role next to Marco Scandella on Minnesota’s second pairing. Prosser has two assists in 17 games this season but will add some size and grit.
"It’s a great opportunity for [Prosser]," Yeo said. In the past, he’s shown the kind of stability and defensive game that we need to go against top lines."
Veteran defenseman Keith Ballard, a healthy scratch for the first time all season against the Sabres, will be back in the the lineup on Minnesota’s third pairing next to Clayton Stoner.
Minnesota will also be without goaltender Josh Harding and forward Justin Fontaine against the Capitals.
Harding was feeling ill Thursday and was unavailable against the Sabres. He did not practice Friday and was still not on the ice this morning. Yeo said he had no further updates and still considers him day-to-day.
Harding missed four games around Christmas after doctors adjusted his medication to help deal with his multiple sclerosis. It’s unclear if Harding’s current illness is MS-related.
Fontaine was injured during a battle drill in practice Friday and his status is day-to-day. Minnesota called up Brett Bulmer from the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League to take his place in the lineup.
The Capitals are playing their first game outside the Eastern Time Zone in nearly two months and first game in Minnesota in three years. In six games all-time at Xcel Energy Center, Washington has never won, going 0-5-1 and scoring seven goals in the six games.
Braden Holtby will start in goal for the first time since Dec. 21 — a span of two weeks. Holtby hasn’t won a game since a 34-save effort in a 5-2 win Dec. 7 against the Nashville Predators.
Here are projected lineups for the Capitals and Wild:
Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Troy Brouwer
Eric Fehr - Mikhail Grabovski - Alex Ovechkin
Jason Chimera - Brooks Laich - Joel Ward
Martin Erat - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Mike Green
John Erskine - Steve Oleksy
Scratched: Aaron Volpatti, Alexander Urbom, Michal Neuvirth
Injured: Michael Latta (lower body), Jack Hillen (fractured leg)
Dany Heatley - Mikko Koivu - Jason Pominville
Jason Zucker - Mikael Granlund - Nino Niederreiter
Matt Cooke - Charlie Coyle - Brett Bulmer
Stephane Veilleux - Kyle Brodziak - Torrey Mitchell
Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin
Marco Scandella - Nate Prosser
Clayton Stoner - Keith Ballard
Scratched: Mike Rupp
Injured: Zach Parise (fractured left foot), Jared Spurgeon (lower body), Justin Fontaine (upper body), Josh Harding (illness)