The ice at Xcel Energy Center was spookily undermanned during today’s optional Minnesota Wild practice. It wasn’t a quite ghost town, but a handful of players took the option along with those ailing from injuries.
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon didn’t skate and will miss tomorrow’s game against the Dallas Stars. The blueliner left during the third period of yesterday’s game against the San Jose Sharks following a Joe Pavalski hit. Spurgeon didn’t finish the game after suffering an upper-body injury. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said that Spurgeon will likely miss multiple games and didn’t put a timetable on a return, but is hopeful it’s not a long-term injury.
There is optimism that helping fill Spurgeon’s hole tomorrow will be Jonas Brodin. The blueliner participated in today’s optional skate and Yeo said he’s listed as “possible” tomorrow. Brodin missed the last two games after taking a hit from behind against the New York Rangers on Oct. 27.
The Wild may get another of its young D corp. back against its Central Division foe tomorrow. Christian Folin is likely to be in the lineup for the first time since Oct. 19. Folin has been on Injured Reserve since Oct. 21 with an illness.
It’s impossible to replace Spurgeon–his six points (2-4=6) is tied for the team lead in defenseman scoring with Ryan Suter–but it will be a chance for some of the younger defensemen to expand their role and earn more ice time.
“Another test for the depth of our D-men,” Yeo said. “When you lose somebody, there’s always more opportunity. There ends up being opportunity for someone like Marco (Scandella), there ends up being more opportunity for someone who was playing a different role or wasn’t in the lineup.
“What you want are those guys to come in and really rise to the occasion.”
Of course, the team still has Suter, who is used to bringing his game up when he’s counted on. The NHL’s ice time leader will likely see more frozen water with Spurgeon out. Against the Sharks, he nearly set a career high for time on ice. Suter played 33:49 last night–much of it in the third period and overtime. Yet, the iron-lunged blueliner was at today’s optional skate.
“I don’t think (came off the ice) in overtime or late in the third,” Parise said. “I don’t think he was tired after the game either.”
Parise joked that there’s a reason defensemen can log more minutes than forwards, “It looks a lot easier than up front. Not a lot of movement back there.”
Haula Likely Means Line Options
Center Erik Haula skated again today and Yeo said he’s got, “a good shot to play tomorrow.”
The team will make sure Haula ready to go, but if the center can play, Yeo will have to make some decisions about the forward lines. The team’s bench boss was mum on what he’d do, but he does have options.
“It’s a wait and see right now,” Yeo said.
It would be hard to split the Kyle Brodziak–Thomas Vanek combination after last night’s game. They were first paired together in Boston on Tuesday, and Brodizak scored twice on tape-to-tape passes from Vanek in the third period last night. They were sparked in the third when Justin Fontaine was put on their wing.
“That line has produced, two games in a row,” Yeo said. “We’ll make sure everyone is getting the ice time that they need and make sure everyone is in the role that they need to be in, too.”
Yeo didn’t have an update on Matt Cooke, who is dealing with a lower-body injury and didn’t skate after missing yesterday’s game. If Cooke is out, we could potentially see a line of Haula, Ryan Carter and Nino Niederreiter.
“I’m not sure where we’re going to go,” Yeo said. “Bottom line, if Haula plays, if Fontaine plays, we’re going to have four good lines tomorrow.”
Yeo said that he feels like the Wild has four lines that can go out against anyone in the National Hockey League. For teams around the League, that’s scarier than bobbing for Halloween beverages and finding a snake at the bottom of the cooler.
This season, the Wild is changing the narrative as a defense-minded organization to a balanced, attacking club. While retaining it’s D-zone strength (second in the League Corsi-against), the Wild is firing more shots (second in the NHL in Corsi-for and tops in Fenwick-for at even strength), making for an exciting brand of hockey.
Due to its puck possession and shots on goal numbers, NHL.com’s Super 16 Power Rankings has the Wild ranked second behind Central Division rival, Chicago Blackhawks. See the full list, here.