Tension mounted inside the two-bedroom apartment. Elk River native Nate Prosser, his wife, Brittani, and their three kids were crammed together like hockey players fighting for space along the boards.
Meanwhile, the St. Louis Blues kept scratching the defenseman, game after game after game. Prosser knew he was a strong candidate for the waiver wire.
On Monday, the Blues finally moved the Prossers into a three-bedroom place, only to waive him two days later. Prosser got the 8-by-12 U-Haul trailer ready, not knowing which way to haul it. Thursday, the Wild brought him home.
“I went and picked up the kids from school,” Prosser said, “and they were like, ‘Oh, we’re going back to [Wild mascot] Nordy! We’re going back to stay with Grandma and Grandpa! Just seeing their smiles was priceless.”
Ryan Suter was still beaming Friday, when Prosser returned to practice with the Wild, in preparation for Saturday’s game against those familiar Blues.
“Oh yeah, it’s like he didn’t leave,” Suter said. “He walked in this morning, and he’s the center of attention.”
Prosser, 31, is no superstar. He spent parts of eight seasons with the Wild, often as an extra defenseman, and is returning for his third stint with the team after twice signing with the Blues.
He might get scratched again Saturday, as Wild coach Bruce Boudreau appeared to like what he saw from his other six defensemen in Thursday’s 4-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights.
But there was no mistaking the emotional lift the Wild gained by adding Prosser. Boudreau saw it from his players throughout Friday’s practice.
“They were laughing a lot,” Boudreau said. “I mean, it’s like going to college and then not seeing your buddy for 10 years and getting right back in and not missing a beat. That’s what Prosser is with this group.”
The Wild always loved Prosser’s attitude. He was the 5-2 runt growing up on Elk River’s legendary Handke Pit until he hit a 12-inch growth spurt in high school. He went undrafted but signed with the Wild out of Colorado College in 2010 and developed a reputation for blocking shots and taking hits.
In 2013-14, Prosser managed two goals for the season that just happened to be game-winners to beat Edmonton and Dallas. He was the seventh defenseman who had stepped in with Jared Spurgeon injured.
Now, Spurgeon has a groin injury that will keep him out at least through next week’s West Coast road trip.
Spurgeon has been Suter’s longtime defensive partner, but Boudreau has paired Suter with Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin with Ryan Murphy and Mike Reilly with fellow greenhorn Gustav Olofsson. Boudreau kept those three pairs together at Friday’s practice, using Prosser as a sub, and the coach was vague about who would play Saturday.
“It’s not a tough decision,” Boudreau said.
Prosser is champing at the bit after playing in just one of 24 games for the Blues this season — the Oct. 25 win over Calgary. The Blues, led by former Wild coach Mike Yeo, are loaded with defensive depth and lead the Western Conference with 35 points at 17-7-1 going into Friday’s game.
“It’s a little frustrating [not playing], and a little stressful at times,” Prosser said. “Like I’ve always done, I just wanted to stay positive through it all. That’s kind of been my calling card.”
The Prossers have kept a Twin Cities home, and amid the recent chaos, they sold it, purchasing another one in a neighboring suburb.
“So on top of all this, we’re looking through MLS for a house,” Prosser said. “It was a crazy last few days. … We are so happy for this opportunity to come back home.”