Nate Prosser didn’t know what he did to get underneath Jamie McGinn’s skin, but when the Colorado Avalanche forward took the opportunity to nail the Wild defenseman with a second solid check Thursday night, Prosser didn’t hesitate.
“I straight-lined at him and I was ready to do it and he was, too,” Prosser said. “We even got down to the ice, and he was like, ‘Great fight.’ I said, ‘Dude, I finally had to say enough’s enough.’ He said, ‘Yeah, I totally respect that.’ He just said, ‘That’s the way I had to play tonight.’
“But I finally had to stick up for myself and do something about it. It was a good time. We were down 4-1 at the start of the third, so I tried to change something around.”
Prosser’s fight seemed to elevate the Wild bench. The team dominated the third period and scored three goals before falling short in its comeback during an eventual 1-1-2 road trip.
If you watch the Wild, you know few players get hit harder than Prosser. McGinn’s first run at Prosser will surely be seen on in-arena “hard hit” video packages throughout the NHL for some time. Two games earlier, San Jose defenseman Brad Stuart hit Prosser like a freight train. In Calgary, Brian McGrattan checked Prosser off his skates.
“I can take hits,” Prosser said. “That’s all part of the game, and that’s kind of the name of my game for me. If I need to be that first man back and take that hit to make a play, then I’ve got to do it.
“The McGinn one, that puck needs to get north. I’m at the blue line, I can’t turn it over there. The Stuart one, it’s my job to get to the red line and get that puck deep, whether I put myself in harm’s way or not.”
From Nov. 27 to Dec. 22, Prosser was scratched 13 consecutive games. He has now played 19 consecutive games, and in 14 games assuming injured Jared Spurgeon’s role, he is plus-7 with two game-winning goals and two assists.
Prosser, often the Wild’s seventh or eighth defenseman since signing out of Colorado College, has long wanted to play consistently for the Wild. He has gotten that chance and has brought consistent play.
“I’ve been very happy with him,” coach Mike Yeo said. “It’s not like we’re hiding him out there. We’re playing him against top lines, and we’re playing him in a very important role. He’s been a physical presence. We know what we’re going to get from him. The way he moves the puck, he’s going to make a smart play, and defendingwise, he’s a tough guy to play against.”
Spurgeon is close to returning from a broken foot, possibly as soon as Tuesday against Tampa Bay. That means a defenseman will have to come out of the lineup. It’ll either be Prosser, Clayton Stoner or Keith Ballard, and Yeo has praised them all lately.
“I don’t think it’s a sense of, ‘Uh-oh, we better amp up our game,’ ” Prosser said. “But obviously when he comes back, he’ll probably be in the lineup. We know that. So we have to play well.
“This was the opportunity I was looking for. I feel I’ve been playing well. I give a lot of credit to my partner, [Marco] Scandella. He’s made it a lot easier on me. We’re communicating and comfortable playing with each other. I’m confident with where my game is at, and I want to stay where I’m at and keep playing well.”