ST. LOUIS - Matt Dumba's job shadow came to an end Sunday morning.
The teenage defenseman got to spend the past two weeks skating with, working out with, traveling with and hanging out with the Wild.
On Sunday, he returned to his Western Hockey League team, Red Deer, but the 2012 first-round draft pick said he would cherish the experience and hopes it "sets me up well" for training camp next fall.
"I think that's huge for me, getting to know the guys personally and just knowing what it takes to be at this level," said Dumba, 18, saying he returns to Red Deer a more confident player. "Just having this experience under my belt, I should be steps ahead of others guys throughout the league."
Dumba made the Wild out of the six-day training camp in part because defensemen Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella weren't ready to return from injury. But Brodin, 19, made his NHL debut in Detroit on Friday, and Scandella, 22, was recalled Sunday for his season debut against St. Louis.
Brodin played professionally in Sweden. For Dumba, it's a massive jump to the NHL from Canadian juniors, so the Wild doesn't want to rush him. But he should feel more comfortable at next season's camp now that he knows his future teammates and understands how the Wild operates.
"He was a sponge," General Manager Chuck Fletcher said.
Fletcher said the Wild wouldn't have hesitated playing Dumba in a game, but with Brodin and Scandella ready to play, it just didn't work out.
"I would have loved [to play] for sure. I'd be lying if I told you otherwise," Dumba said. "But I'm OK. I'm OK. The experience that I did have up here was great."Competition on the blue line
Scandella's arrival resulted in Nate Prosser sitting out Sunday's game. With Jared Spurgeon expected to return soon from a foot injury, the Wild suddenly will have eight defensemen. Fletcher said that may be needed with a lot of games and travel on the horizon. But this also means defensemen like Prosser and Justin Falk have to start looking over their shoulders.
"I think that's good thing," coach Mike Yeo said. "We've got quality players here. You don't want people gripping the stick and feeling nervous, but at the same time there should be a pressure to perform and be at your best every night."Expectations rise for Scandella
Scandella returned in Houston's 1-0 victory at Grand Rapids on Friday after missing five weeks because of a groin injury. But Yeo said the fact that Scandella got to play in the minors during the lockout while so many of his Wild teammates didn't should give him a "leg up."
Scandella is a big body who skates and defends well. He played 63 games last season. The Wild brass wants more consistency and says it is time he takes the next step as an NHLer.
"I had more of a leadership role down [in Houston]," Scandella said. "I learned a lot about myself too and my game. Now it's my third year [as a] pro, and I just feel like I'm a better player."
Scandella and Brodin were defense partners in Houston before Brodin broke a collarbone Nov. 2.
"He's a young guy but he plays like an older guy," Scandella said of Brodin.Kassian sits again
Against a big, physical team like St. Louis, Matt Kassian still was scratched for the fifth consecutive game.
"I don't want him just sitting here all year long and never playing," Yeo said. "He's a guy that I think could have value, ... [but] there's a lot of things to weigh there."