The day after taking down the Nashville Predators, the Minnesota Wild was back on the ice at Xcel Energy Center for a late-morning practice without a key piece to the blue line.
After taking a puck to the face in the opening minutes of yesterday’s contest, Jonas Brodin was absent from today’s skate. He suffered a broken cheekbone and is out indefinitely. There is no timetable for his return, but Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo is hopeful there will be more news tomorrow. Depending on the severity of things, and Brodin’s pain threshold, he could play with a full cage, but count him out for tomorrow night.
With Brodin out, the pressure will be on the rest of the D-corps to pick up some of the slack. Through 9 and 1/30th games, the 20-year-old is the Wild’s highest scoring defenseman (3-3=6) and was averaging more than 25 minutes of ice per game.
Last night, the five remaining Wild blueliners did a masterful job with Brodin missing, as all of them totaled more than 20 minutes of ice. Nate Prosser stepped in, playing in only his second game of the season, and put in a solid defensive and physical effort. After practice, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said that Prosser’s attitude and preparation has enabled him to be ready on the drop of a hat when his number is called. Keith Ballard was held out of practice again today, so expect Prosser to be called upon again tomorrow night. Yeo said that they don’t want to rush Ballard back and that he was able to go through an off-ice workout to ensure that he keeps up with conditioning.
After Saturday’s loss to Florida, the Five Takeaways included a take on The Suter Effect, a theory about how the Norris Trophy finalist has had a positive impact on the rest of the blue line, as far as making plays and finding time. Well, the Lighthouse talked to Clayton Stoner about the idea and the blueliner said that Suter does have a calming effect on the team and the defenseman realizes that he has more time and space out there when watching him make plays. Which might’ve prompt Stoner to attempt a toe-drag at the offensive blue line yesterday. However, after practice he laughed and said that it would probably be the last time he tried that move in that spot. Stoner nearly pulled off the play, but Yeo cracked a smile after practice talking to the media and said that’s not what they’re necessarily looking for out of Stoner. While the toe-drag might not have worked, the 28-year-old made a great play on the team’s first goal. He activated on a 3-on-3, found space in the high slot as Mikko Koivu drove the net and Zach Parise pulled up, handled a Parise pass that was nearly out of reach and was able to fire the puck on net, which Justin Fontaine banged home for the game winner. While the Wild doesn’t need Stoner to be Ryan Suter, they will need him to continue to play a reliable game with Brodin out.
While the blue line is getting a lot of props for its solid play, Stoner said that the forwards also should be getting praise, especially the centermen, for their support in the defensive end. Yeo said that everyone has been playing well in the team’s new system, one of the reasons they have owned shots, attempts and puck possession early in the season. Yeo believes that the scoring will come if the team continues to take care of the details. The Wild has hit several posts in the last two games, yesterday Suter and Mikael Granlund being the latest victims of the iron being unkind.
While the Wild has been limiting shots against, goaltender Josh Harding has done his part in shutting the door when opponents do get their opportunities. Yesterday, Harding earned his eighth-career shutout and first of the season. While he wasn’t tested often, he had to be sharp and remained focused during lulls, which Yeo said can be tougher for a goaltender than facing a highway’s worth of rubber. Yeo didn’t acknowledge which netminder will get the nod tomorrow, but the game against the Carolina Hurricanes will be Harding’s Hope Night. All fans will receive a Josh Harding Masterton Trophy poster. There will also be autographed memorabilia randomly awarded throughout the game, and fans can take photos with the Masterton Trophy while visiting the Harding’s Hope information table on the lower concourse. The game against the Hurricanes is presented by Treasure Island.
On the ice, the team practiced with the same forward lines that ended the game against Nashville:
With Brodin out, Jared Spurgeon was paired with Suter today. If you remember last season, Spurgeon and Suter were paired together at the start of the season when Spurgeon suffered an injury. Brodin jumped in and the rest, as they say, is history. The blue line is looking symmetrical as each pair sports a righty and lefty:
The team also did some work on the PP/PK. The first unit looked the same as yesterday: Parise, Koivu, Pominville, Suter and Spurgeon. With Brodin out, the second unit had Dumba and Fontaine on the point with Granlund, Niederreiter and Heatley taking the forward spots.
Finally, Yeo said that Charlie Coyle skated today before the team’s practice, which is a promising sign. Even more promising, Coyle was working on his shot in the shooting cage in the tunnel at Xcel Energy Center. Yet the most promising news is that Yeo plans to have Coyle participate in the team’s morning skate tomorrow. Yes, we saved the best for last for those of you who stuck around to read the entire post. Have a great day State of Hockey Legion and Lighthouse loyalists.