Even sitting out the second game of his two-game suspension during the Minnesota Wild’s Saturday night win against the Arizona Coyotes, the National Hockey League’s TOI leader, Ryan Suter, was active. That’s because he was playing knee hockey with his son, Brooks, in a suite at Xcel Energy Center during the Wild victory.
“We were up in the suite trying to watch the game,” Suter smiled. “(Thomas) Vanek’s kids didn’t show up so I had to play.
“I was the goalie.”
The team’s All-Star blueliner returns to the lineup tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets following his two-game suspension for an elbow on Pittsburgh Penguins forward Steve Downie.
Suter said that watching the Wild’s, 7-0, victory in Buffalo, the most lopsided win in team history, was easy. However, sitting out during the much more tense win against the Coyotes on Hockey Day Minnesota was much more difficult. He’s happy to be back in the lineup as the team tries to make up ground in the Western Conference standings.
“If we want to make this playoff run that we all want, we have to win these games at home,” Suter said.
Viewing from the stands, Suter has had a chance to see newly acquired goaltender, Devan Dubnyk’s impact on the squad. Dubnyk will be in net for the third-straight game.
“Confidence in the team, that, it comes back in our end and he makes a big save and you build off that,” Suter said. “We needed a little boost and I think that’s probably the biggest thing.”
A rested Suter will be another boost. The blueliner is second on the team in assists (22) and fourth on the team in scoring (1-22=23). Though he’d rather have been in the lineup during the last two games, he’s trying to look at the bright side of the suspension.
“Anytime you get suspended, you have to come out of it and think positive,” Suter said. “It was good for me. It recharged my battery and now I’m ready to go.”
Suter said that his conditioning level is fine and he used the time to rest for the second-half push.
With the 29-year-old out, the Wild had to rely on some of its younger defensemen. The club experimented on the blue line placing Jared Spurgeon on the left side. Spurgeon will line up on the left again tonight, starting the game with rookie Matt Dumba. Marco Scandella will be with Christian Folin, while Suter will step back in with Jonas Brodin on the top pair.
“The guys over the last couple of games have shown that they can take on more minutes and that will bode well for our team moving forward,” Suter said. “Guys have shown they can take on more and that’s a huge thing for our team to be able to have more guys playing more.”
Of course, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo is glad to have his top blueliner available and ready for tense situations.
“Looking at that third period last game, you could watch it, you could feel it, that we missed Sutes in that type of situation—his composure, his puck-moving ability,” Yeo said. “Certainly we’re very happy to have him back today.”
Suter is the team’s lone representative for All-Star Weekend in Columbus. The defenseman said he’s bringing his son and wife, Becky, to the festivities.
“Really excited, should be a lot of fun,” Suter said. “Always a good group of guys down there and a fun atmosphere.”
Suter was named to the 2012 NHL All-Star Game. Team Chara picked him in the ninth round of the fantasy draft. Granlund Update
Mikael Granlund skated with the team for the second-straight day. He’ll be unavailable tonight, but Yeo didn’t rule him out for tomorrow’s contest when the team travels to the Motor City to take on the Detroit Red Wings.
“We would make sure we’d have full confidence based on what we hear from the doctors and full confidence that he’s healed up and ready to get in there,” Yeo said. “This is a guy that’s been a huge part of our lineup and a huge part of our team and we’ve missed him since he’s been out.”
Yeo said that he’s not concerned that Granlund hasn’t faced contact drills in practice and that he’d be in the same situation if he waits until after the All-Star Break to return. The bench boss said the conditioning aspect would be the most difficult part of getting back into game play because battling in the corners is another level of being in shape. Kuemper Keeper
Goaltender Darcy Kuemper was on the ice again this morning and when asked if he’d potentially be ready to play tomorrow in Detroit, Yeo said, “Potentially, yes, we believe so. Right now we’re just going day-by-day.”
Yeo said that after tonight’s game they’d determine what the plan is for tomorrow.