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Spurgeon Doubtful As Wild Braces For Top Offenses

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

Already missing defenseman Jonas Brodin, the Minnesota Wild was also without Jared Spurgeon on Monday at practice and will likely be without him Tuesday when the Wild begins a three-game homestand against the Dallas Stars.

Spurgeon sustained a deep bruise during Minnesota's 4-1 loss against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday. He played two shifts in the second period totaling 1:53, and then left the game and did not return.

"Obviously he's in a lot of discomfort today, and feeling pretty sore, and consider him doubtful tomorrow, but not something long-term," Head Coach Mike Yeo said.

The Wild lost Brodin on Thursday when he broke his foot blocking a shot against the New York Rangers. He's expected to miss three to six weeks. 

Yeo said there was an initial fear Spurgeon's injury was more severe.

"There was concern that there might have been a fracture, or something along those lines, and there's nothing there that showed up, so that's very positive," Yeo said.

Forward Mikko Koivu left the ice early during practice on Monday after feeling some discomfort. Yeo said he had no update on Koivu's status, but he " … does not think it will be an issue."

Likely down two regular defenseman on Tuesday, the Wild will host the NHL's second highest-scoring team in Dallas, before playing the league's top offense in the Washington Capitals on Thursday, and the third-ranked offense in the Boston Bruins on Saturday.

"We're missing a few pieces to the d-corps, and those are big, big losses," Nate Prosser said. "It makes the rest of us just have to elevate our game a little bit. Just pick up your game in the small areas, making sure we're making hard and simple plays."

This homestand comes on the heels of a three-game road trip in which the Wild allowed 13 goals-against, the most in any three consecutive games for Minnesota this season.

With the Wild having lost 10 of its past 11, the losses have come in different ways. In the first five, Minnesota allowed 2.5 goals per game. In its past five, the Wild has allowed 3.8 goals per game.

Its upcoming opponents are not getting any easier from an offensive standpoint, so the Wild is hoping to reestablish its defensive posture quickly.

"We need it," Prosser said. "We've got some offensive-powered teams coming in. That's our staple, is being hard defensively, getting that puck moving north and playing in the offensive zone as long as possible."

If Spurgeon doesn't play, the Wild would likely have to call up a defenseman. In practice on Monday, Christian Folin skated with Ryan Suter, while Matt Dumba was with Marco Scandella, and Prosser alternated partners.

"It presents a challenge for everyone," Dumba said. "We're going to have to be on our game — hopefully the forwards are coming back and helping us out in that sense — and as a d-corps, just short shifts, and all just being alert, and aware, and as sharp as we can be tomorrow night, because it's going to be a good test."

Spurgeon normally plays with Suter, and the pairing receives a heavy dose of the other team's top forwards. Against the Stars highest-scoring duo this season, Spurgeon has played 30:46 against Tyler Seguin at even-strength, and 31:31 against Jamie Benn. 

Only Suter has played more against either forward for the Wild.

"I have a lot of fun with that," Dumba said. "In the playoffs last year matching up, playing against guys like (Patrick) Kane and (Jonathan) Toews, or if you're playing against (Alex) Ovechkin and Seguin, those guys are all marquee players in this game, and stepping up and trying to bring your game and impose that on them is a fun challenge."

Without Koivu, forward Tyler Graovac centered Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle during drills. That shifted Erik Haula into the middle on the third line, and Thomas Vanek played in Haula's spot on the left.

Vanek and Jason Zucker were each scratched on Saturday in St. Louis. Yeo said there hasn't been a decision made on the Wild's lineup for Tuesday, and that Koivu's status isn't as much a factor.

"We're bouncing around a number of different scenarios right now," he said.

Zucker alternated shifts on the fourth line Monday with Chris Porter, Jarret Stoll, and Ryan Carter.

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