Aside from the excitement and gratefulness defenseman Nick Seeler felt when he learned he’d be joining the Wild from the minors, he also sensed an objective.
To make the assignment last for the rest of the season.
“That’s been my mind-set since I came up and just need to continue to work on my game to allow that to happen,” he said.
Based on Seeler’s body of work so far, he’s certainly put himself in position to make that goal a reality — exceeding even his own expectations for how well his NHL career has started.
“Definitely the transition has been really great,” Seeler said, “and I’ve had a ton of support along the way, which has made it a little easier.”
Ever since Seeler was recalled from the American Hockey League Feb. 11 to make his debut, the 24-year-old hadn’t left the lineup until Tuesday against the Hurricanes.
He was still sore after his first career fight Sunday against Detroit’s Luke Witkowski and is considered day-to-day because of a right bicep strain, a source said. That tussle helped ignite the Wild to rally for a 4-1 win, and Seeler has brought a gritty edge to the Wild.
“His play of being physical and competing has been tremendous for us,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
And while the game continues to embrace speed and skill, there’s still value in players who can still patrol the defensive zone with a heavy presence.
“You gotta be tough to play against,” winger Zach Parise said. “We all want to play a puck possession and a skilled game. But at the same time, you need those guys that make it a little tough to get in front of your goalie and make it tough to get rebounds. That’s still an important part of the game. You need that.”
Time to heal
Forward Luke Kunin will rehab his left knee and wait for the swelling to subside before undergoing surgery to fix the anterior cruciate ligament he tore in Sunday’s game, an injury that will sideline him for the remainder of the season.
“It’s always tough to see a teammate go down, and it’s going to be for a while, for sure,” captain Mikko Koivu said. “It’s something you don’t want to see and all that, but I think, especially for the young guy, you know how excited he must be. He was playing good, and then [that] happens. But we’ve been through that, and I know his attitude and work ethic and passion for the game. He’ll be back, and he’ll be even stronger than what was before that.”
Kunin was at the arena Tuesday and chatted with Boudreau.
“Obviously, he’s not very happy,” Boudreau said. “But, hey, listen, we all sign up for this sport. We know these things are possibilities.”
Brothers Eric and Jordan Staal have faced off against each other on plenty of occasions in the NHL, but Tuesday was the first time they squared off since the infant daughter of Jordan and his wife Heather died.
The Hurricanes announced the news Feb. 25 before Jordan and Heather released a statement last Wednesday that revealed their daughter Hannah died of a terminal birth defect and was stillborn.
Eric said he’s talked to Jordan “pretty much every day” and was looking forward to catching up with him in Minnesota.
“I’m honestly impressed and proud with how he and his wife have handled everything they’ve been through over the last few months,” Eric said. “It’s extremely difficult for them and our whole family, but they’re strong people. They have a strong faith in Jesus, and that’s kind of helped them through this whole process. It’s day-by-day, but they’re doing as good as they can.”