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Spurgeon A Possibility Against Tampa Bay

by Kelly Erickson / Minnesota Wild

Though it’s still up in the air, the blue line may be getting a Jared Spurgeon-sized boost tomorrow.

Head Coach Mike Yeo wouldn’t saw whether the defenseman was in or out tomorrow, but did admit there’s a “very good chance you could see him.”

In his absence other blueliners have stepped up — including Keith Ballard, who the bench boss praised today after practice.

“His game, I’ve found, in the last couple weeks has really come on,” Yeo said. “That’s a real good sign for us. We lost a couple key guys up front but when you lose a guy like Spurgeon on the backend, then there’s a hole there and you need guys to step up. We’ve seen different guys do it at different times. Again, for the last couple weeks, I feel that you could easily say it’s been some of the best hockey that he’s played for us.”

So how does the Head Coach decide who steps out of the lineup?

“We put it off until tomorrow.”

Well, he does have the time.

The Lighthouse caught up with Spurgeon today after practice, who noted that he is feeling a lot better. Through recent practices, he said he’s gotten a positive response from the foot — which he injured blocking a shot Jan. 2 against Buffalo — he was wearing boot guards in practice. With one more practice to go before puck drop Tuesday night, the 24-year-old knows he’ll be ready to go when called upon.

While Spurgeon’s return remains in question, Yeo already confirmed that Darcy Kuemper will mind net tomorrow night. Though the goaltender is 6-2-2 since the start of Janurary, including a start with a no-decision against Colorado Jan. 30, Yeo believes Kuemper is facing a nice little challenge with the bit of adversity he saw in the last week (went 1-0-2 on the four-game road trip), which is really his first chance to overcome a few tougher starts in his young NHL career.

“As a starter anywhere, you have to deal with that,” Yeo said. “But it’s a different animal when you’re in this league. There’s more pressure and, obviously, a bigger spotlight. But this is a huge growing moment. It’s one thing to come to the rink and feel great, but how do you get it back on track if it starts to slip a little bit … that’s an important quality.

“As a starting goalie, you can’t just go into a game and say ‘I’m at my best. I’m on top of my game.’ You have to find it. You have to find that confidence in the game and that’s the challenge for any starting goalie. The one thing that I like about him is he wants that. He wants that opportunity. He wants the net. I’ve been impressed with that.”

First Star For Parise

Earlier today it was announced that Zach Parise earned the NHL’s First Star of the Week after his eight point effort over three games last week.

The winger said it was a nice little honor, but was also quick to credit his linemates for his play.

“You have those games where you feel like you have the puck on your stick a lot — your linemates find you when you’re open or you get rebounds on your stick — that’s hockey,” Parise said.

The effort came just a few games after Parise made his return from injury, which caused him to miss 15 straight games.

“Physically, I felt very good,” Parise said. “It took a couple games at least to get the timing and stuff down. I felt like the San Jose game was better and from then on it got better and better. When you miss a chunk of time, it does take a little while, no matter how much you practice, it takes a little time to get the pace of the game back.”

Update On Koivu

The Captain was missing once again from practice today, indicating that a possible return prior to the Olympic Break is looking like a bleak prospect.

Yeo said Koivu skated on his own today and is feeling better while doing everything he can to make a return or at least feel healthy enough to play in the Games, though no decision has been made as to whether or not the Finn will play in Sochi.

“We know how bad he wants to go,” Yeo said. “For us personally, first and foremost, if he’s not physically capable, of course we wouldn’t want him to go. But at the same time we’d be very proud and honored to have him go over there.”

Yeo also noted that if Koivu played in the Olympics, it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. Given the amount of time he has missed (13 games as of today), playing in the tournament would allow the Captain to get some game experience before returning to the Wild.

“By the time he came back we would be on top of his game,” Yeo said. “We don’t have to worry about burn out or fatigue with him. What it all comes down to is, physically, is he capable of doing it?”

A Few Of Their Favorites

At both games this week — Feb. 4 and 6 — fans bid on baskets made by the players and their wives and girlfriends, filled with all sorts of goodies and their favorite things. The silent auction tables can be found on the main concourse near Section 104. Fans can bid from the time the doors open until the start of the third period. All proceeds will benefit the Wild Foundation.

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